The weekend project of three tech-minded foodies, Comidistas helps hungry clients bring gourmet meals home.
Each month, it ships customers a box containing recipes for one quality, healthy dinner as well as the non-perishable ingredients required for execution. All recipients have to do is purchase the fresh ingredients needed and follow the step-by-step instructions provided to create restaurant-quality cuisine in the comfort of their own homes. Based in São Paulo, Comidistas has just completed its first round of shipments, having sent out 20 boxes to a handful of lucky wannabe chefs.
Last week, I sat down with Ignacio Albornoz, a member of Comidistas’ founding team. We talked about the startup, covering how it came to be and where it’s going next.
A Trifecta of Talent, Technology and Trends
The idea for Comidistas came about in April, following meetings and chats between Albornoz, who is originally from Argentina, and his partners in the venture, Maite Iturria, Uruguayan, and Caio Motta, Brazilian. The three, who were living and working in São Paulo at the time, started discussing the possibility of starting a business. Drawing upon their individual interests and strengths – Albornoz’s experience in the food industry, Iturria’s interest in cooking, and Motta’s attraction to entrepreneurship – as well as their technology knowledge, the concept for Comidistas was born.
The three recognized that Brazilians are becoming increasingly interested in gourmet and healthy eating – a trend that has largely taken hold in the rest of the world but has lagged behind in Brazil until now. As obesity is becoming increasingly problematic, more and more Brazilians are looking to change their diets and go the natural route. However, doing so is easier said than done, especially for those who don’t know where to start in terms of bringing high-quality food to their tables at home.
Kick-started by Competition
Little by little, the Comidistas team worked on the project, tackling issues of technology, logistics and set-up. When the chance to participate in the Creative Business Cup Brazil appeared, Albornoz explained, work was kicked into high-gear. And after the startup placed third in the competition despite being in the earliest of stages, the team was even more inspired to push forward.
About two weeks ago, Comidistas shipped off its first round of boxes and is now in touch with its initial customers to get feedback and work out the kinks.
From now until the end of the year, Albornoz told me that Comidistas will work to refine its product and continue to lay the groundwork in São Paulo. Over 150 customers have already signed up to receive the next round of boxes, which the team plans to create and distribute in December. As with the first round of shipments, the boxes will contain step-by-step instructions and ingredients for customers to create a meal for four to six people.
Logistics, Scalability Essential for Growth
Albornoz acknowledged that the team has a lot to take care of in terms of logistics. The production process involves numerous steps – gathering recipes, creating written and visual guides, packaging ingredients, shipping, etc. Comidistas is currently working out a scheme to outsource each step to render the service more industrialized and scalable, thus allowing them to reach the critical mass of customers sooner rather than later. The team will appeal to possible suppliers and partners as a marketing vehicle for their products and services.
Though the concept of Comidistas boasts romantic appeal indeed, in order to be a profitable business, scalability is absolutely essential. Following this year’s testing period, Comidistas will up its operations to achieve a solid number of shipments first in São Paulo and then in other Brazilian capitals. While reaching the 50,000 or 100,000 mark won’t be easy, and doing so in São Paulo alone is unlikely, establishing a solid base of 20,000 clients in its initial locale will set Comidistas up for expansion to other cities in Brazil as well as Argentina and Peru.
Albornoz said that Comidistas will need to focus on four main areas to scale the business: recipes, assembly, logistics and customer service. The team will have to devise a way to successfully set up and/or outsource each element in every locale it undertakes. Even simple questions like what fresh ingredients are available during what time of the year must be analyzed and tackled.
Signs Point to Good Things Ahead
Despite the obstacles ahead, Albornoz and his Comidistas partners are confident that they are on the right track. They have identified an opening in the market, are following an increasing trend of technology products and services related to food, and have no direct competitors in Brazil. Moreover, following their win at the Creative Business Cup, the Comidistas team has been contacted by venture capital firms and potential investors.
Another good sign for the startup? The buzz it’s generated with the step-by-step recipes it’s posted on Snapguide to accompany its first round of shipments. Though it sent out a mere 20 boxes, the visual guides it set up have been viewed by hundreds, if not thousands, of people. Its guacamole recipe guide has received nearly 1,000 likes.
Right now, Albornoz said that the Comidistas team will concentrate on figuring out how to turn interested users into paying customers and demonstrate the scalability of the idea. The team will increase marketing efforts, which have only taken place through social media for the time being, and will also work to improve and increase the platform’s technology and design. Moving forward, they’ll also have to work out the question of how to build accompanying mobile apps, where growth potential is high.
A Global Opportunity at Hand
Comidistas remains a weekend project, as all three team members maintain full-time positions in other companies. Eventually, Albornoz said, a line will have to be drawn as to when full-time work on the project will be required. They’ll eventually create themed subscriptions for users – for example, the shipment of Mediterranean gourmet meals on a bi-weekly basis over three months.
Brazil’s food market is growing, and the Comidistas team is on the right track in taking initial steps there. There are a plethora of technology startups taking aim at the sector and numerous successful food-related apps as well. Considering that the country’s packaged food industry alone is valued at over US$100 billion, the potential for economic gains in food and gastronomy cannot be underestimated.
That being said, Albornoz highlighted that the Comidistas product is a global one. Simply put, he said, everybody eats, and interest in food and gourmet experiences around the world is on the rise. Should the Comidistas team play its cards right and capitalize on the experience that is food, the sky really will be the limit.
Take a look at the video below to see a bit more about what Comidistas is about: