Food-as-medicine startup Chiyo helps postpartum moms with nutrition after raising $3M | TechCrunch

One of the hardest things about being pregnant is learning what to eat for maximum digestive comfort and nutrition. Once the baby is born, the nutritional guessing game continues about which foods are ideal for postpartum and breastfeeding.

Chiyo wants to be that support system by offering nutritional advice and meals in the form of a meal delivery service to women from fertility to postpartum as part of their holistic approach to fertility care. Chiyo offers digital guides and health coaching for its users and is also working to build what it considers the first database of nutrition research for women’s health.

Irene Liu, co-founder and CEO, got the idea for Chiyo after seeing her mother send traditional Chinese medicine meals to her aunt after her aunt had a baby. Liu has always been interested in the concept of food as medicine, and wanted to draw from her background in nutritional science combined with Eastern food therapy to create stage- and symptom-specific nutrition programs for other mothers .

“My family is Taiwanese and I’ve always grown up with a more holistic approach to medicine and how you use food to prevent disease, heal and make you feel better with a more functional way of thinking,” Liu told TechCrunch. After seeing what postpartum care is like in Asia and other older cultures, I wondered why this doesn’t exist in the US. Why not use functional foods in this way for a really important lifestyle if your body continues to change?

The pilot that never finished

Liu began her career at Bain & Co., understanding the economics of food systems, and then worked for a nonprofit in South Chicago, establishing local grocery routes. Combining an interest in food as medicine with a degree in politics from Harvard and a degree in business from Wharton gave Liu food for thought about how to build a thriving local economy through economic development initiatives so that a food system can be maintained.

He met co-founder Jennifer Jolorte Doro, clinical nutritionist and postpartum private chef. They initially launched a pilot program, a five-week postpartum meal delivery service to new mothers in New York City.

As Liu says, the pilot was never finished. The company’s website was boosted organically on Google during this time, and the pair began receiving thousands of pre-orders. This was all flying by the seat of our pants, just to ship the product, Liu said.

Chiyo’s postpartum nutrition program delivers three meals a day. (Image credit: Chiyo)

So they founded Chiyo in 2020 and started shipping meals across the country from a kitchen in Kearny, New Jersey. The co-founders liked the idea of ​​a company offering the actual meals, rather than something digital-only, because selling a product would provide “richer data” about how people would use their offerings.

The company has served 100,000 meals since launching in 2021 and revenue grew 300% in the past 12 months amid a nationwide expansion, though Liu declined to specify what the actual revenue number was . In addition, Chiyo works with more than 100 women’s health professionals.

The product roadmap is also evolving, expanding from the postpartum program to ultimately serve the complete women’s health journey. This includes a menstrual cycle fertility program that sends tonics and broths based on your menstrual cycle. Then, on the postpartum side, foods will change based on your estimated due date.

And unlike other meal service providers who want you to be customers for life, Chiyos’ goal is to get you out of their program. The average user is in the program for about four weeks. The 40-day postpartum program, which includes three meals a day, starts at $69 a day.

We’ve become more prescriptive about when it affects results in your body, Liu said. For example, we started with the first 40-day postpartum program. Then we launched the framing and understanding of what happens in your body in the first six weeks postpartum, and what is really important. We have seen our clients increase, for example, even two weeks for postpartum recovery.

Next: self-guided feeding

The company now aims to build a digital platform for personalized content and self-guided nutrition programs for the customer. Finally, users will be able to rate the effectiveness of each solution and help contribute to the women’s health nutrition research database.

This is boosted by a new $3 million investment, led by early-stage investor Bread & Butter Ventures. Other participants in the round include Ingeborg, Union Heritage Ventures, Peterson Ventures, Detroit Venture Partners, Palette Ventures and The Helm.

The company has now raised a total of $3.4 million. Other sponsors include blogger and fashion designer Aimee Song, Elizabeth Chrystal, former CFO of restaurant chain Momofuku; Jing from Fly by Jing and Vanessa Dew, co-founder of Health-Ade.

The new funding also allows Chiyo to scale its distribution through clinics and its community of professionals and invest in additional foods such as medical research.

From all of this work, we want to demonstrate the return on investment in investing in nutrition and health care cost savings so that ultimately this program can be reimbursed and not have to be out-of-pocket, Liu said. We are also working with several clinics and hospital systems on how to be a nutritional supplement. If your patient has a nutritional question or wants more nutritional support, it’s a co-branded entry point into our ecosystem.

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