By Carlo Versano
Sweetgreen, the fast-casual salad chain with the cult millennial following, is officially a unicorn.
After a $200 million funding round led by Fidelity, Sweetgreen's total equity has been raised to $365 million and the value of the 11-year-old operation now sits at more than $1 billion. Nicolas Jammet, Sweetgreen's co-founder and chief concept officer, says it's the first step in a mission to "democratize healthy food."
Jammet told Cheddar Monday in an interview that the chain, which counts restaurateur Danny Meyer as an investor and Momofuku's David Chang as a collaborator, is trying to "remove the friction" from healthy eating. "Our goal as been to re-define fast food," he said.
Jammet cited a change in consumer behavior ー a move, especially among younger consumers ー to eat organic, non-processed meals, even when they're on the go. Sweetgreen has achieved success by re-inventing salad, that rote lunch option, as a "craveable and accessible" meal by featuring seasonal menus, partnerships with high-profile chefs like Chang, and a devotion to sourcing vegetables grown in "healthy soil."
"This isn't just about one menu," Jammet said. "It's about this broader change in how people eat."
Sweetgreen also helped pioneer the "cashless" model and mobile ordering in its highly-trafficked, urban locations, which have become a staple of busy workers in cities like New York. Jammet said the new funding will help his company expand that platform ー and its physical footprint in cities outside the coasts, where it is still relatively unknown. But he said the company will tinker with the formula, store concept, and supply chain, depending on the city. Among those efforts is an experiment using blockchain technology to track ingredients from the seed to plate that Jammet said helps Sweetgreen "understand the full journey of the food" and presumably lead to operational efficiencies.
The funding will also go to new food initiatives ー beyond the meal that made Sweetgreen famous.
"We want to create relevance beyond just salad," he said.
For full interview click here.