Brazilian healthy food startup Liv Up has been delivering around 300,000 meals every month. From the start, it saw sales at least triple each year. And growth expectation did not change with the pandemic – but it brought the responsibility to share gains with those who had losses.
The company was born in 2016 with the proposal to deliver healthy meals and foster sustainable donations. Liv Up’s brand is based on healthy, deep-frozen foods, with organic ingredients provided by partnerships with 25 families of small producers.
Stella Brant, a new partner and CMO at the startup, told LABS that this relationship with small farmers brings value to producers, not only because it guarantees demand but also for a fair and competitive price, which is paid even before the company collects the vegetables. According to the businesswoman, since Liv Up started buying from small producers their income increased by more than 50%.
“It brings tranquility and a relationship that is so healthy. They see the security and it makes them want to invest more in the next harvest and count on the company even at a critical moment like this”, she said, stressing that some farmers used to provide meals for schools, which were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Thus, small farmers had no way to dispose vegetables that would otherwise spoil. Within two weeks Liv Up put a new product on sale on its website: a basket of organic products.
More than that, the company encouraged producers to plant more to help fight hunger. “This privilege that we have, to be growing, gives the size of our responsibility to also be part of this solution”, she said. The company is donating more than a ton of food a week to families in socially vulnerable situations in São Paulo. The startup donated more than 5 tons until now, but the goal is to reach 100 by the end of the year through NGOs that help to make this organic food reach poor communities, like Gerando Falcões.
The average ticket for each Liv Up customer order is around BRL 240 and the average ticket for each meal is around BRL 24. According to Brant, 86% of the vegetables supplied by producers are organic. What is not organic, it is produced organically but doesn’t have a certification yet. “We give a lot of support to farmers, whether with the possibility of advancing credit or even technical assistance in agronomy to provide support so that they can have this certification”, she said.
The pandemic burden that fell upon many businesses missed the startup
Liv Up is a vertical company that works the whole food chain, from contact with the producer to delivery to the consumer’s home. Founders came up with the idea to sell healthy food, which could be complex to make at home, frozen and by planned order. “The company has been growing a lot year after year showing that the business works, in the sense of bringing value to the chain as a whole, which was a premise of the startup when it was created,” she says.
Currently, the planned purchase of frozen meals model is operated from the company’s distribution centers in 40 cities in Brazil, and depending on the region it can be delivered on the same day or in up to two days.
At the end of last year, the foodtech launched delivery through a cloud kitchen in São Paulo. In other words, a delivery-only restaurant for ready-to-eat food. The company also launched Salad Stories, which is a restaurant focused on protein salads as meals rather than side dishes. “It is a project that makes us so proud to tell stories of these producers through food that is made with disruptive recipes in terms of combinations. For instance, the parma ham in the salad is made by seven women from the interior of São Paulo. Each salad has a story”. In the coming days, Liv Up will also launch a soup special.
At the cloud kitchen, there is no lounge to receive people, only the delivery team. For this reason, the pandemic didn’t impact Liv Up’s cash flow as much, as there is no physical restaurant. Also, the demand for healthy food has grown in the pandemic, according to Brant. Either because people are concerned with maintaining good health or to make up for the lack of exercise. “We didn’t suffer from the pandemic, on the contrary, we grew. And we continue to grow a lot, not only because of the pandemic”, she says, complementing the COVID-19 accelerated some trends that were already clear to the consumer, such as healthy eating, digitization, and knowledge of the source of what is being consumed.
In a time of quarantines, the startup managed to make the brand relevant, reporting emotional messages from people who are isolated from the family, but who place orders for delivery to family members in the knowledge that they are eating well. “Liv Up has only two kind of customers: no connoisseurs or lovers. We hardly ever see anyone halfway,” she said.
Liv Up plans growth in the aftermath
Liv Up expected to triple its revenue, with or without a pandemic. The growth motivated the company to launch an app recently, which, according to the CMO, is increasingly gaining proportion in relation to the impact of the business, which previously only used to sell through its website. Liv Up saw sales grow by 32% through the app last month.
The startup has already gone through four investment rounds, and the total raised to date was BRL 100 million. In the most recent one, in September 2019, it raised BRL 90 million. It may have new capital infusions soon, since, according to Brant, a lot of people are being attracted by the business. The foodtech recently entered the list of 100 most remembered brands in Brazil.
Today the company has just over 500 employees and continues to hire, even for remote work. However, Brant points out that the startup tightened its belts and analyzed the costs that could be saved without losing the ability to continue growing. “We are very aware of the cash flow because it’s a huge concern for everyone and even more for startups. The savings were made where they could be made and where they would not be critical for the development of the business. At the same time we have a mentality of what we want for the next years and that has to be built now”.