Scouting Report-Season Health:Food As Medicine
Season Health recently raised $34 million in a series A funding led by Andreessen Horowitz and joined by LRV Health, Company Ventures, Toyin Ajayi, (CEO of Cityblock), along with the founders of Shef, Instacart and MasterClass executives. The company which emerged out of stealth mode earlier this year, developed a platform where it pitched itself as a “digital food pharmacy” where it offers personalized nutrition to patients based on their health needs and has it delivered to their homes. The HIPAA-compliant platform also pairs patients with dietitians where disease management can be discussed based on patients’ preferences of food. Currently, Season Health is available in 7 states and the new funding will be used to build its business development and operations teams, and to support integration and partnerships with food retailers.
Diabetes cost the U.S. $327B according to a study entitled “Economic Costs of Diabetes in the U.S. in 2017” by the American Diabetes Association
Season Health’s dietitians develop meal plans aimed at helping patients manage chronic conditions, such as diabetes and kidney issues
A 2010 study found that antioxidant rich diets contributed to improved cell function in heart and blood vessels but only when the antioxidants came from diet (not supplements)
The company claims its programs enable better health outcomes for patients and reduce the cost of care for insurers
CEO Josh Hix, co-founded Season’s Health in 2019 in Austin, Texas along with Mustafa Shabib, his co-founder and CTO. Hix was the former CEO of consumer meal kit and delivery business, Plated, and stated that his initial idea on starting this new company stemmed from his belief that “Unhealthy diets are a core reason for nearly 85% of U.S. healthcare costs”. The company is among a number of startups focused on a "food as medicine" approach to better support the management of chronic disease. Under programs like Season’s, given clients receive a more nutrient rich, higher quality, more tailored meal they believe patients receive better health outcomes and lower total healthcare costs. With over 50 employees now, Season also claims to work with leading health systems to support providers in writing evidence-based food prescriptions across a spectrum of clinical conditions and socioeconomic statuses. Currently, Season operates on a self-pay model; patients pay $75 per month as a subscription fee, which includes access to a dedicated registered dietitian, personalized meal recommendations, and concierge ordering.
One of the main differentiators is the tailored nutrition-based meals based on disease status or a desire to improve one’s health. While other meal delivery platforms such as Hello Fresh and Home chef deliver meals, Season Health has dietitians that prepare meals based on individual chronic disease management versus those just based on taste or dietary preference. Along with dietitians, the company also works alongside doctors and nutritionists to meet the proper requirements to help improve disease outcomes. While Season Health competes with companies like Soda Health, Soda’s programs provide debit cards to purchase healthy food and medications as well as transportation and it is not focused on meal planning or matching meals to medical conditions. Along those lines, tailoring meals could be important as according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), nearly half of adults in the United States (about 47% or 116 million) have Hypertension and almost 11% (34 million) suffer from diabetes. With platforms such as Season Health, the goal is to adjust meal planning and realign it with healthcare with a focus on the nutritional content of meals to reduce disease prevalence and improve outcomes.
Season Health and programs like it could potentially help underserved communities reduce the healthcare burden given the higher incidence of chronic disease and the large number of food deserts in those communities. The company is working to have its service covered by most health insurance providers, which would not only provide a reliable source of revenue but would also be beneficial for patients by broadening its reach to those who cannot afford it as a self-pay product. Season is currently working with Geisinger, CommonSpirit Health, and kidney-focused telehealth provider Cricket Health, (which recently merged with Fresenius Health Partners and InterWell Health). They are said to be partnering with Season in order to reach even more patients. The company claims that their focus will be on diabetes and kidney disease while working its way to eventually expand into cancer, and maternity and heart health.
The Big Picture:
Season Health’s mission is to bring the benefits of food as medicine and improve the lives of millions of people who are struggling with nutrition sensitive conditions. By creating a platform that offers cost effective food all while managing health conditions, Season is combining the convenience of home delivery with better health. Season Health is taking the first step in trying to properly manage health conditions by treating nutrition as the medication for its patients. Given prevention and wellness is generally a better, less expensive way to treat chronic conditions than treating disease after the fact, Season Health may be on the right path to having meaningful impact and ROI in treating disease. Moreover, with the current prevalence of food deserts in underserved communities they may make it possible to address health outcomes on a broad scale as patients adopt a healthier lifestyle. We believe Julie Yoo of Andreessen Horowitz was right on point in a statement accompanying the fundraising when she noted that while “we can readily shop and receive advice for better dietary choices from our doctors, dieticians, health coaches, and even the NYTimes Cooking app...translating that advice into actual healthy food showing up on our dining tables is still a disjunct, highly manual, and costly process."
Season Health raises $34 million in Series A funding, Food-as-medicine startup Season Health nabs $34M backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Cityblock's Toyin Ajayi