Sprig is closing, showing just how hard it is to be a farm-to-doorstep food startup

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Sprig raised $45 million two years ago for its vision of providing healthy meals delivered quickly. The money made the San Francisco-based startup one of the biggest entrants into the burgeoning farm-to-doorstep food market.

On Friday, the company announced that it is shutting down.

“The demand for Sprigs convenient, high-quality food was always incredibly high, but the complexity of owning meal production through delivery at scale was a challenge,” wrote Sprig CEO Gagan Biyani in an email sent to customers.

Biyani also warned the press against drawing too straight a line between Sprig’s failure and the broader food space.

“To the press and public: No question, Im sad that the Sprig model did not work out but the food delivery space on the whole is growing,” he wrote.

The “food delivery space” might be growing, but it hasn’t been kind to companies like Sprig, which tried to own the entire process from food preparation to delivery.

Sprig isn’t the only recent failure to pursue that model. Maple, a similar idea backed by celebrity chef David Chang, shut down at the beginning of May. Munchery cut staff and replaced its leadership in January. A year ago, SpoonRocket closed and gave its customers a discount to use on Sprig.

The model for these companies sounds good. People love getting food delivered and they want to eat healthy, so why not own the entire process? Turns out, it’s very difficult and very expensive.

Food delivery is also an almost-comically crowded market, dominated by platforms like Grubhub and Uber Eats, which offer more options and only serve to connect customers with restaurants.

And then there’s the Blue Aprons of the world. As well as calling Domino’s.

Don’t forget Soylent.

This image from CB Insights shows just how many food startups have come (and gone) since 2011.

There will be more food startups. There will be more ideas for streamlining the process. There will be more venture capitalists willing to bet on those ideas.

But there might not be too many more farm-to-doorstep companies.

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