- Tyson Foods announced Tuesday that it is investing in Tovala, a startup that makes steam ovens and ready-to-cook food, according to a company press release. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
- Tyson is working through its investment branch, Tyson Ventures, to fund Tovala. The meat giant is part of a group of investors — including Origin Ventures, the Pritzker Group, startup incubator Y Combinator, Morningstar Inc. founder Joe Mansueto, and restaurant entrepreneur Larry Levy — that recently closed a series A round of funding.
- According to Tovala's website, the oven bakes and broils like a conventional oven, but can also steam products to make proteins juicier. The oven also allows users to experiment with multi-step cooking, moving between periods of steaming, baking and broiling to perfect a dish.
Tyson Foods is keeping an eye on changing consumer demands, and investing in companies that appear to fit their evolving needs.
Just last week, Tyson's VC arm purchased a minority interest in Memphis Meats, a cell-cultured meat startup developing animal-free beef and poultry. In 2016, Tyson invested in meat-alternative brand Beyond Meat, and recently hiked that initial 5% stake by participating in another financing round to support the plant-based protein company.
Now, Tyson Ventures is supporting the development of Tovala's countertop steam oven and corresponding ready-to-heat meals.
Rather than buy better-for-you startups outright, Tyson has been investing small amounts in a wide range of companies that cater to growing consumer demand for healthy meals. Tyson's investment in Tovala continues this trend, and also pushes the company further into the convenience space, another segment that is top of mind for today's time-strapped shopper. The partnership seems to be a natural fit, as some of Tyson's fresh, frozen and ready-to-eat chicken products could work with Tovala's oven.
Tyson is also well-positioned to reap the rewards as an early investor if Tovala’s concept takes off. If steam ovens become the new microwave, this relatively small investment could pay off in a huge way. However, if consumers pass on this new technology, Tyson won't feel the pinch in the same way it would if it acquired the business.