Financing from Claridge fund focused on supporting Québec food processing firms.
Dorval, Québec-based WeCook Meals, which makes and delivers “ready-to-eat” meals, has secured a $40 million CAD strategic equity investment from Claridge Food Group.
Claridge Food Group is a new investment vehicle designed to aid the growth of Québec-based food processing companies. Launched in January, Claridge Food Group was created by Montréal-based Claridge—Stephen Bronfman’s family office and private equity firm—with support from Investissement Québec and the Fonds de solidarité FTQ.
WeCook CEO Étienne Plourde told BetaKit that WeCook secured this capital because “markets will be dry for the next two years.”
The deal represents Claridge Food Group’s first investment. As part of this $40 million total, Investissement Québec has provided $13 million, while Desjardins Capital, which previously participated in two prior WeCook funding rounds in 2020 and 2021, has invested $3 million in WeCook and joined the Claridge Food Group investment vehicle.
WeCook founder and CEO Étienne Plourde said in the press release that the funding “marks a new step in WeCook Meals’ development plan.” However, Plourde also told BetaKit that WeCook raised this capital because “[fundraising] markets will be dry for the next two years,” adding that it was WeCook’s job “to load up the bank even if we are already in full control of our expenses and built a long-lasting, profitable business.”
WeCook, formerly known as Nutrition Fit Plus, was founded in 2013 by Plourde and Jonathan Roy. The home meal delivery company targets customers who “want to eat well but don’t have time to cook” with healthy meals curated by an in-house chef using ingredients from local suppliers. WeCook currently has two production facilities, which deliver more than four million meals a year throughout Ontario and Québec. The financing brings WeCook’s total funding to $53 million.
“We have experienced strong growth over the past few years, and this capital injection combined with Claridge Food Group’s industrial expertise will allow us to strengthen our position as the leading ready-to-eat delivery company in Québec and Ontario and accelerate our growth across Canada,” said Plourde. “We want to be clearly recognized as the benchmark ready-to-eat meal brand for all Canadians.”
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The Bronfmans have a history in food and drink: in the 1990s, they built Seagram into one of the world’s largest liquor empires. Over the past 20 years, Bronfman-backed Claridge has also invested more than $400 million in a dozen food processing companies across Canada and the United States.
Claridge President and CEO Pierre Boivin said the WeCook financing demonstrates investors’ “deep confidence” in the company’s vision and business plan.
The popularity of meal delivery services grew significantly during the pandemic, which led many to stay in and avoid unnecessary grocery trips. These conditions have benefitted meal kit players like fellow Québec firm Goodfood, Vancouver-based Fresh Prep, and Berlin’s HelloFresh. But it remains unclear whether this demand will last as restaurants have reopened and food costs continue to rise.
Amid this environment—which features increasing inflation as well as supply chain issues and labour shortages—The Logic reported last month that Goodfood has undergone another round of staff cuts, the company’s third since October 2021.
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Unlike meal kit delivery firms, which sell pre-packaged and portioned ingredients that must then be assembled and cooked, WeCook offers ready-to-eat meals.
According to Plourde, WeCook’s “nimble business model” allows the company to “manage the impact of inflation on food prices, as well as adapt the choice of ingredients offered in [WeCook’s] weekly menu.”
Plourde told BetaKit that WeCook plans to use the capital to hire new C-suite talent, invest in marketing—including beyond the web “for the first time”—and expand the firm’s research and development department.
In addition to WeCook, the ready-to-eat or pre-cooked segment of the meal delivery sector also features upstarts like Toronto-based Spatula Foods and Yumba. Meanwhile, grocery delivery companies like Instacart have moved into the ready-to-eat space as well.
Feature image courtesy WeCook.