Food startups are actively changing what and how we eat. It was great to see our Grilling Station process tapped into those...
Chicago, IL (PRWEB) August 13, 2015
The Association for Corporate Growth in Chicago is pleased to announce the winner of the first annual Grilling Station, a growth stage food company pitch competition. The firm that created the winning recipe for growth and investment is Meez Meals, the nation’s only certified DIY Meal Kits Green Restaurant. Farmheads, NGB Markets and Simple Meals also served up delicious options on July 29th to over 80 professionals at Howells & Hood in Chicago. This group mushroomed to over 200 during a later networking session where the finalist and semi-finalists met with leading middle market investors and advisors.
Building on six years of middle market Food Industry Growth Conferences, ACG Chicago, Inc. launched this competition to continue building the food community of executives, their investors and key advisors.
“We’re excited about providing continuing ways for key executives in the food industry to connect on a regular basis and have a little fun along the way,” noted Craig Miller, ACG Chicago CEO.
Dozens of firms submitted applications to participate. The annual ACG conference committee paired those down to 9 semi-finalists and then a panel of food company executives entertained a day of pitches to pare this group down to the four finalists.
Moderator Rachel Cheatham highlighted, "Food startups are actively changing what and how we eat. It was great to see our Grilling Station process tapped into those change leaders as we ended up with a strong mix of food-centric firms representing technology, restaurants, meal prep and delivery and consumer packaged goods in the finals."
Industry experts John Geocaris, Michael Schopin, and Laura Shulman joined Cheatham to quiz the firms. These judges are also the prize. Each will provide a half-day of consulting with Meez to help launch the firm to the next level of growth. Geocaris currently is Founder & Managing Director of New Food Strategies LLC. He is an accomplished food industry executive and led his own food company, Little Lady Foods, as it grew from startup to over $200m in sales, a staff of 1,000 and three production facilities. Michael Schopin, Partner at Zenfinity Capital challenges the numbers with decades of investment experience in which he has completed over 40 private transactions during his career across a variety of industries. Laura Shulman provides expert marketing input as SVP & Food and Nutrition Practice Group Leader at FleishmanHillard including more than 15 years helping global food and nutrition brands, commodity groups and associations. Cheatham also spices up the mix with a strong technical background from her doctorate in nutritional biochemistry from Tufts University, and her role as Founder and CEO of the Foodscape Group LLC, a nutrition strategy consultancy.
Their selection was Meez Meals. Meez is a dinner meal kit provider that differentiates itself from others by providing a wide variety of recipes, personalization to avoid allergens and taste preferences, plus chopped, prepped and measured ingredients. Meez ordering system allows the customer to choose their favorites and focus on the fun final stages of home cooking without the time-consuming preparation tasks. This prize-winning strategy has allowed Meez to reach over 16,000 deliveries and $1.3 million in sales. They will expand to an additional market over the next year or two and ramp that growth to a couple dozen markets by 2020 with adequate investment.
Geocaris who spearheaded this inaugural launch with Cheatham notes, “The food industry has always been strong in the Midwest with great middle market and large firms. It is great to see these rising stars and help them reach their next stage of growth.”
Updates on Meez and the others will be available later in the year as this community discusses transactions and investments at Harvest M&A and again at the 2016 Food Industry Growth Conference slated for early April. Look for them in the local, regional and national markets as the industry develops a taste for these delicious firms.