InterviewsStartupDIET TO GO: The Diet by Delivery Startup

Federica Galeazzi6 years ago17 min

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Diet To Go is not your average startup. This diet agency has just received €430,000 from Innogest, a venture capital firm that invests in innovative companies. Its concept is simple: you go on the site, choose your menu, sign up for a membership, and they take care of the rest. Diet To Go delivers convenient meals to your home or office, including breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Everything is perfectly portioned, balanced and quick. But that’s not all: by eating these delicious meals (because besides being healthy, the portions are also tasty and generous), you could lose up to 4kg a month! We met with the Founder and CEO, Anna Zocco. Her story begins with an Italian company that opened in La Spezia in 2005.

Anna Zocco

Anna Zocco, Ceo & Founder di Diet To Go

“I was reading a magazine about a trend among American stars at the time – home deliveries of meals made by great chefs. I thought to myself: how great would it be if that happened to me! These chefs  all followed the Zone Diet, which was the hottest diet trend in America at the time. But the part that really struck me was the idea of having fabulous meals delivered to your home that were designed by chefs, all with a good macronutrient balance, and within a certain calorie limit. I thought that the model could be replicated and adapted for the Italian market. I started to do some research, and immediately found a nutritionist, Andrea Tibaldi, who helped developed an innovative cooking method, and who I continue to work with now”.

Besides being a nutritional biologist, Andrea is also an engineer, and was able to study and develop a new model, which Diet To Go is based on. It revolves around creating appetizing dishes that follow nutritional guidelines, and that help you keep to a healthy diet. It’s consistent, but not punishing, and aimed at people who want to slim down and get in shape.

We developed a menu, and I tested it out in my city, La Spezia, with the help of a specialized catering company. Initially, I subjected a group of my friends to the trials, and after seeing their overall satisfaction and the results they achieved, I set up my business in La Spezia. The city is in a bit of economic recession, so I figured if it worked there, there was a good chance it could work in other places too. So I began a Diet To Go franchise, starting first in Milan, and then following in lots of other cities: Rome, Sassari, Bari. The business went on for a while, but it wasn’t without its problems.

A catering service needed to be found in each city that would uphold a certain standard of quality, and this happened essentially in Milan, which is still our main market. Then last year, Innogest came and invested in Diet To Go. We decided to start from scratch right in Milan, with our menus that had been optimized over the last year to meet the most divergent needs. And that’s basically our story. Diet To Go is a startup, because it effectively restarted last year, but its roots were planted over 10 years ago.

From a Diet-by-delivery startup to a tech platform enabled by a…430 thousand investment by venture capitalist firm Innogest. How do food and digital work together?

The general approach to consumers has changed. Just consider how much less frequently people read anything in print now. What used to be aimed at consumers and required an investment by companies, has now been almost entirely replaced by digital. This is due to the fact that a minimal investment is required, and that companies are really effective in achieving results.

That’s not even including social media, which is incredibly quick and efficient for spreading a brand. All of these new tools have become part of our reality, and let us interact with our users in real time. So really, digital platforms lend themselves perfectly to food. Look at the rise of food bloggers over time, or think of the foodgrammar phenomenon.

Speaking of social media, your presence on Facebook and Instagram is still pretty limited. Do you think these areas are worth investing in?

Absolutely. For the moment we haven’t invested much in social media, but our agency is still in construction, and we’ve just hired a social media person recently. We’re just at the beginning of our investments, but everything seems to indicate that we’re going in the right direction

Diet To Go spreads the message of a healthy diet. What kind of social responsibility does an agency like yours have to promote a balanced diet?

We are very, very serious about that. For starters, we choose clients who don’t have special dietary requirements, allergies or intolerances. In any case, our nutritionists are available for consultations with our clients if they have special requests.

But overall, what we’re doing now – actually we’ve been doing it for years, but now we’re able to do it more scientifically – is monitoring results so we can understand the impact of a certain menu on a certain sample of people.

The goal is to use a client’s unique characteristics to predict how much weight they will lose in how much time. There’s no guarantee that the same diet will work for everyone. We’ve found that our menus tend to get results in a certain range, but sometimes a client has a specific requirement that we can only satisfy through further tweaks to the menu.

This is why we’re working to collect data to provide a scientific base for our whole project. And that’s also the reason that we’re actively collaborating with universities – so that our results can be verified scientifically.

Given the emphasis on monitoring results, how important is your choice of ingredients used in your recipes? Do you have local producers who source your products?

Yes, we have local producers we’ve been working with for years, and they do shape our choices. We actually pay close attention to our ingredients and where they come from, and seek to ensure that they’re high quality and in season. We think these are determining factors not just from a health standpoint, but also for the return on each dish.

Let’s talk about food delivery: it’s a €400m industry in Italy alone. How does Diet To Go differentiate itself from the big names?

Since we work with pre-planned diets, we have to take orders on a Thursday so clients can begin the diet on a Monday. This doesn’t lend itself to last-minute orders. We’ve dealt with this drawback by opening a takeout-only restaurant in Milan, where you can purchase items from the menu, or order them directly from the store for same-day delivery. Everything needs to be done in advance – from planning to purchasing supplies – since every single ingredient that goes into a recipe is precise to the gram, and the portions are perfectly measured.

You talked about a project involving nutritionists and dieticians for a customized service. Any other plans for the future?

Plenty! We’ll be ready with a new project from next week, where nutritionists and dieticians will be able to prescribe a diet from our menus to their clients. It’s another way to build up a clientele who are supported by  nutritionists that recommend our recipes. Then we plan to make a personalized program available as an app for the general public. Users will be able to put enter their details in our system, and with our help, come up with a customized menu suited for them.

Anna: you’re a woman, an entrepreneur and a mother – how do you manage all 3 roles?

It’s not easy. It’s a constant balancing act, especially combining running a family and a business. Compared to men, these things can work against us, but beyond that I don’t see major obstacles for female entrepreneurs in Italy.

Federica Galeazzi

People Watcher, Marketer, Mum. La mia insaziabile curiosità nella vita chiede di essere accompagnata da altrettanto forte intensità nel lavoro. Per questo scrivo.

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