Originally published by Fierce Healthcare on April 5, 2022
Season Health, a digital food pharmacy that combines meal prescriptions and delivery logistics to get meals on the table, scored $34 million to scale up its business.
The Austin, Texas-based company plans to use the funding to rapidly expand payer and provider collaborations, grow its team and ramp up national retail integrations, company executives said in a press release.
The company launched out of stealth mode in February and works with dietitians to develop meal plans aimed at helping patients manage chronic conditions, such as diabetes and kidney issues.
The series A round was led by major investor Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) with participation from LRV Health, Company Ventures, Toyin Ajayi, the CEO of Cityblock, along with the founders of Shef, Instacart and MasterClass executives, among others.
“Unhealthy diets are a core reason for nearly 85% of U.S. healthcare costs. While there have been decades of investment in the consumer food world to entirely digitize that industry, it is time to marry that work with the healthcare world to drive a total rehaul of nutrition in this country,” said Josh Hix, CEO of Season, in a statement.
Season is among a number of startups focused on a "food as medicine" approach to better support the management of chronic disease, and the company claims its programs enable better health outcomes for patients and reduces the cost of care for insurers.
In February, Season Health announced anchor partnerships with Geisinger, CommonSpirit Health and Cricket Health.
"In many ways, our healthcare system is still in the 'read-only' era of food-as-medicine—we can readily shop and receive advice for better dietary choices from our doctors, dieticians, health coaches, and even the NYTimes Cooking app, but translating that advice into actual healthy food showing up on our dining tables is still a disjunct, highly manual, and costly process," Julie Yoo, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, wrote in a blog post about the investment in Season Health.
"This is true despite the fact that the consumer food delivery market has doubled during the last two years, with a proliferation of on-demand delivery and pick-up options," she said.
Even traditional providers and payers that offer food-as-medicine benefits have experienced surprisingly low rates of utilization due to lack of attractive food options, or difficulties in enrollment, reimbursement, or fulfillment, she wrote, noting that most patients fail to follow through on the nutritional coaching they receive with any regularity.
"Season Health solves this conundrum by bringing together meal prescriptions, diverse food choices, delivery logistics, and reimbursement in its comprehensive food-as-medicine platform. We're excited to be backing Season Health to help every patient get access to healthy foods that are medically tailored, tasty, and affordable," Yoo wrote.
Season is currently available to patients in Arizona, California, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.
The company was founded by Hix, the former CEO of consumer meal kit and delivery business Plated. Hix decided to bring his know-how of the consumer food delivery market to work with payers and providers on personalized nutrition planning to help get healthy food to patients living with chronic conditions. He told Fast Company in February the company would start with a focus on diabetes and kidney disease and would eventually expand into maternity health, heart health and cancer.
Season equips health systems and insurance providers with the tools to implement scalable food-based benefits programs by providing access to registered dietitians and evidence-based food prescriptions for multiple clinical conditions. The company says it supports patients directly by addressing challenges to eating well by providing affordable and convenient access to healthy foods delivered right to their door, condition-specific educational content to drive sustainable behavior change and consumer technology that accounts for personal and dietary preferences of the whole household.
Working with insurers, Season enables members to have access to registered dietitian care, an array of tailored food options across recipes and a network of prepared food vendors, and a dedicated fulfillment team that ensures food arrives directly at members' doorsteps.
Season also works with leading health systems to support providers in writing evidence-based food prescriptions across a spectrum of clinical conditions and socioeconomic statuses. The company coordinates food delivery through its partnerships with grocery and food delivery companies.
Season is currently working with CommonSpirit Health on a clinical trial of its program, according to Fast Company.
A number of health systems have initiated food programs as a way to improve health outcomes among patients with chronic conditions. Geisinger Health System launched a program called "Fresh Food Farmacy" to help diabetic patients better control their disease.
Other startups in the "food-as-medicine" space include Connecticut-based Project Well, an online marketplace that delivers personalized meals to consumers with diet-sensitive chronic disease and food insecurity and Medicare Advantage members. The company has raised $2 million to date.