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Food-as-medicine startup Chiyo provides nutritional help to postpartum moms after raising $3M

One of the most difficult things during pregnancy is learning what to eat for maximum digestive comfort and nutrition. After baby is born, the nutritional guessing game continues about which foods are best for postpartum and breastfeeding.

Chiyo hopes to be part of this support system, providing women with nutritional advice and meals from birth to postpartum as a meal delivery service as part of its holistic approach to maternity care. Chiyo provides digital guides and wellness coaching to its users and is working to build what it believes is the “first of its kind” database of women’s health nutrition research.

Co-founder and CEO Irene Liu came up with the idea for Chiyo after seeing her mother deliver Chinese medicine meals to her aunt after she gave birth. Ms. Liu has always been interested in the concept of food and medicine. She wants to use her background in nutritional science, combined with Eastern dietary therapy, to develop phased, symptom-specific nutrition plans for other mothers.

“My family is Taiwanese, and I grew up embracing a more holistic approach to medicine and how to use food to prevent disease, heal disease and make yourself feel better — a more functional way of thinking about food,” Liu told TechCrunch . “After seeing what postpartum care was like in Asia and other older cultures, I wondered why this didn’t exist in the United States. If your body is constantly changing, why don’t we use functional foods to do it this way? What about the lifestyle that really matters?”

The pilot that never ended

Liu began her career at Bain & Company, learning about the economics of food systems, then worked for a nonprofit on Chicago’s South Side building local grocery routes. Combining an interest in food as medicine with a policy degree from Harvard and a business degree from Wharton gave Liu some food for thought – if you will – about how to build a thriving local economy through economic development initiatives, Thus enabling the food system to support itself.

She met co-founder Jennifer Jolorte Doro, a clinical nutritionist and postpartum personal chef. They initially launched a pilot program to provide five weeks of postpartum meal delivery to new moms in New York City.

As Liu puts it, the pilot never ended. During that time, the company’s website received an organic boost on Google, and the pair began receiving thousands of pre-orders. “All of this was done intuitively, just to get product shipped,” Liu said.

Chiyo, postpartum, nutrition

Chiyo’s postpartum nutrition plan comes with three meals a day. (Image source: Chiyo)

So they founded Chiyo in 2020 and began shipping meals across the country from a kitchen in Kearny, New Jersey. The co-founders like the idea of ​​the company providing actual meals, rather than just something digital, because selling products can provide “richer data” about how people use its products.

The company has served 100,000 meals since launching in 2021 and has seen revenue grow 300% in the past 12 months as it expands across the country, but Liu declined to disclose what actual revenue figures are. In addition, Chiyo works with more than 100 women’s health practitioners.

The product roadmap is also constantly evolving, extending from postpartum programs to ultimately serving the entire women’s health journey. This includes the Menstrual Cycle Fertility Program, which sends supplements and broths based on your menstrual cycle. Then in terms of postpartum, foods change based on your estimated due date.

Unlike other catering providers who want you to be a lifelong customer, Chiyo’s goal is to get you out of their program. The average user stays in the program for about four weeks. The 40-day postpartum plan includes three meals per day and starts at $69 per day.

“We’re becoming more disciplined about the timing of effects on physical outcomes,” Liu said. “For example, we start with the first 40 days of postpartum planning. Then we start to build and understand what’s going on in the body during the first six weeks postpartum and what’s really important. For example, we see our clients in the two weeks of recovery from postpartum It starts to increase.”

Next Step: Self-Directed Nutrition

Now, the company aims to build a digital platform for personalized customer self-help content and nutrition plans. Ultimately, users will be able to rate the efficacy of each solution and help contribute to the Women’s Health Nutrition Research Database.

This is fueled by $3 million in new 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 raised a total of $3.4 million so far. Other backers include fashion blogger and designer Aimee Song, former CFO of Momofuku restaurant chain Elizabeth Chrystal; Jing of Fly by Jing and Health-Ade co-founder Vanessa Dew.

The new funding also allows Chiyo to expand its distribution reach through clinics and its practitioner community and invest in additional food-as-drug research.

“Through all of this work, we work to demonstrate the ROI of investing in nutrition and health care cost savings so that ultimately the program can be repaid without having to pay out of pocket,” Liu said. “We’re also working with a number of clinics and hospital systems on how to become nutritional plug-ins. If their patients have any nutritional concerns, or need more nutritional support, that’s a co-branded entry point into our ecosystem.”

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