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How a Plant-Based Frozen Meal Company Grew at Yale SOM

Zöe Lloyd SOM/FES ’17 and Nilofer Ahmed ’16 found support, guidance, and inspiration for their startup in the Yale School of Management entrepreneurial community.

In the spring semester of 2016, my co-founder, Nilofer Ahmed ’16, and I founded Zoni Foods (known previously as Kitchen Table Inc.) to make it easy for everyone to eat healthy, plant-based food. Zoni Foods was born from a struggle I witnessed in my own busy life and those of my peers: I found that we all had fridges full of fresh ingredients that were regularly thrown away due to unpredictable schedules and lack of time, energy, or the knowledge of how to plan and cook meals from scratch, even when we had every intention to do so.

Zoni Foods creates frozen plant-based meal kits that go from freezer to plate in just 10 minutes on the stove. Our plant-based meal kits are the perfect solution for that mid-week time crunch, so we no longer have to sacrifice health for convenience when we’re busiest.

Over the past 16 months, the Yale School of Management has provided a myriad of entrepreneurial resources that have played a huge role in fostering Zoni Foods in its early stages. I took part in a number of entrepreneurial courses including Founders’ Studies and the Startup Founder Practicum, which were immensely valuable in providing me the time, resources, and mentorship to continue developing the venture. Nilofer and I also participated in a number of pitch competitions including the PE / VC Symposium pitch competition, the SOM Alumni Weekend Pitch Competition, and the Honest Tea pitch competition. Pitching allowed us to refine our value proposition, points of difference, and go-to-market strategy, and to receive valuable feedback on our idea.

One of the most valuable resources SOM provided me was access to Yale alumni with experience in the food and retail industries— from the founders of Honest Tea, OCHO Candy, and Birch Benders to many others. Their wealth of knowledge in entrepreneurship, food manufacturing, and retail, as well as their ongoing support and encouragement, has taught me so much about the industry, informed our lean entrepreneurial process, and helped guide our fundraising strategy. We are grateful to the School of Management and the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute for the support they have provided us and the entrepreneurial community they have helped foster.

After many product iterations and tests over the past year, I am excited to announce our frozen plant-based meal kits will be launching in stores in New Haven on August 14. Our meal kits will be available at Elm City Market, Thyme & Season, P&Ms Orange Street Market, and Edge of the Woods. We will be expanding to sell to more stores in Connecticut (and beyond) over the next year, so look out for our meals in grocery stores.

To learn more about Zoni Foods and to sign up for their newsletter, please visit our website and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @ZoniFoods.