Smithfield "largest strategic investor" in Chefd

Smithfield "largest strategic investor" in Chef'd

Smithfield Foods, the US meat processor, plans to market meal kits in the country using the company's brands through its investment in Chef'd.

The owner of brands including Armour and John Morrell has spent US$25m to become the "largest strategic investor" in Chef'd and to have a seat on the meal-kit firm's board.

Smithfield, owned by China's WH Group, said it and Chef'd would use its "portfolio of brands for meal kit solutions across a variety of occasions", although it did not disclose which brands to be used.

"Chef'd will gain access to Smithfield's product development and sourcing capabilities, and Smithfield will be able to innovate and learn using Chef'd's direct-to-consumer model by tapping into real-time consumer insights and sales data. Chef'd will be able to leverage Smithfield's national distribution network and facilities to expand its ability to serve consumers with next-day delivery services," the meat supplier said in a statement to announce its investment on Monday (14 August).

Kenneth Sullivan, Smithfield's president and CEO, added: "This strategic partnership reflects our continued commitment to innovation–both in our products and how they are delivered to consumers. We're able to expand our e-commerce capabilities and reach consumers looking for high-quality, stress-free meals."

Smithfield's investment in Chef'd emerged last week in an interview Kyle Ransford, the CEO of the meal-kit supplier, gave to CNBC. The investment was part of a financing round that included The Campbell Soup Company and online grocer FreshDirect.

Packaged food manufacturers are eyeing the US meal-kit market with interest. In June, Nestle acquired a minority stake in US online meal-kit service Freshly, one of a series of investments packaged food majors have made in the category.

Unilever, meanwhile, in May led a $9m investment in US meal-kit start-up Sun Basket.

"E-commerce and direct-to-consumer is an evolving space," Ransford, who founded Chef'd in 2013, told CNBC. "The strategics are ahead of the financial players in terms of understanding where the market is and what it's doing."