Chiyo, the Food-as-Medicine Startup, Raises $3M to Support Postpartum Moms’ Nutrition Needs

Once the baby is born, the nutrition guessing game continues on what foods are ideal for postpartum and nursing. The product roadmap is evolving, too, extending from the postpartum program to eventually serve the full women’s health journey. The 40-days postpartum program, which includes three meals per day, starts at $69 per day. “For example, we started with the first 40-days postpartum program. Other participants in the round include Ingeborg, Union Heritage Ventures, Peterson Ventures, Detroit Venture Partners, Palette Ventures, and The Helm.

Being pregnant can be a challenging experience, especially when it comes to figuring out what foods to eat for optimal digestion and nutrition. And once the baby arrives, the guessing game continues as new mothers navigate the postpartum and nursing diet.

But now, Chiyo is here to offer support in the form of nutritional guidance and meal delivery services. With a holistic approach to fertility care, the company provides advice and meals for women from fertility through postpartum. In addition, Chiyo offers digital guides and health coaching to its users, as well as working to build a comprehensive research database on nutrition for women’s health.

Irene Liu, co-founder and CEO of Chiyo, was inspired to create the company after seeing her mother send traditional Chinese medicine meals to her aunt after she gave birth. With a background in nutritional science and Eastern food therapy, Liu wanted to use her knowledge to create stage-based and symptom-specific nutrition programs for other mothers.

“My family is Taiwanese, and I’ve always grown up with a more holistic medicine approach, and how you use food to prevent disease, heal and make you feel better — a more functional food way of thinking,” Liu told TechCrunch. “After seeing what postpartum care looks like in Asia and other more ancient cultures, I wondered why this doesn’t exist in the U.S. Why aren’t we using functional food in this way for a really important lifestyle if your body keeps changing?”

To bring her idea to life, Liu combined her knowledge of food economics from her time at Bain & Co. with her experience in setting up local grocery routes for a nonprofit in Chicago. She also holds a policy degree from Harvard and a business degree from Wharton, giving her a unique perspective on how to use food as a way to support local economies.

Together with co-founder Jennifer Jolorte Doro, a clinical nutritionist and postpartum private chef, they launched a pilot program for a five-week postpartum meal delivery service in New York City. However, as Liu puts it, “the pilot never ended.” The organic boost in Google searches and the thousands of pre-orders they received convinced them to officially launch Chiyo in 2020, and they have been shipping meals nationwide from a kitchen in Kearny, New Jersey ever since.

“All of this was flying by the seat of our pants, just to ship the product,” Liu said.

Since its launch, Chiyo has served over 100,000 meals and has seen a 300% increase in revenue in the last 12 months as it expands its reach across the country. The company also partners with over 100 women’s health practitioners.

But Chiyo’s product roadmap doesn’t stop at postpartum care. The company has plans to extend its nutrition programs to cover the full women’s health journey. This includes a menstrual cycle fertility program that sends tonics and broths based on your cycle, and a postpartum program that adjusts meals according to your estimated due date.

Unlike other meal delivery services that aim to keep customers for life, Chiyo’s goal is to help women become independent and self-sufficient in their nutrition journey. On average, users stay on the program for about four weeks, and the 40-day postpartum program starts at $69 per day and includes three meals per day.

“We’ve become more prescriptive about the timing that impacts the outcomes on your body,” Liu said. “For example, we started with the first 40-days postpartum program. Then we launched framing and understanding of what’s happening in your body within the first six weeks postpartum, and what’s really important. We’ve seen our customers increase from, for example, even two weeks for postpartum recovery.”

But Chiyo’s plans don’t just stop at meal delivery. The company recently secured $3 million in funding 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.

With this funding, Chiyo plans to scale its distribution through clinics and its practitioner community. It also plans to invest in more research on food as medicine and to build a digital platform for personalized customer self-guided content and nutrition programs. In the future, users will be able to rate the effectiveness of each program and contribute to the company’s research database on nutrition for women’s health.

“We are out to prove the ROI on investing in nutrition and health care cost savings so that eventually this program can be reimbursed and not have to be out-of-pocket,” Liu said. “We are also working with a number of clinics and hospital systems on how to be a nutrition plugin. If a patient has any nutritional questions, or wants more nutritional support, Chiyo will serve as a co-branded entry point into our ecosystem.”

Spanning across different cultures and blending traditional and modern approaches, Chiyo offers a unique solution to women’s health and nutrition. With its team of experts and dedication to research, Chiyo is on a mission to help women feel their best throughout their fertility journey and beyond.

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Kira Kim

Kira Kim is a science journalist with a background in biology and a passion for environmental issues. She is known for her clear and concise writing, as well as her ability to bring complex scientific concepts to life for a general audience.

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