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May 26, 2024

Letter to the Editor 3/20/23

By ARTI MALA | March 28, 2023


In response to “First Seed offers vegan, oil-free Indian food” published March 19, 2023:

I appreciate the author writing about First Seed and was delighted to hear that she found the food flavorful and convenient. She noted that she personally did not find the pricing competitive with her local grocery store offerings. I am writing to offer the following additional context:

  1. This is an early stage startup. Everything (and I mean everything!) — ingredients, production, freight, you name it — is more expensive when you’re small. I, of course, hope to get us to the scale that lowers our prices, but we’re just not there today. In the meantime, I plan to continue posting recipes of our food so folks who can’t afford to purchase the meals can make and enjoy them at home.
  2. Some startups subsidize their pricing with venture capital dollars. I chose not to raise money, which makes it critically important for me to not lose money on every order. The goal at this stage is not to price gouge  — it’s to stay alive long enough to see if we can build something that scales.
  3. The author assumed that because she, as a college student, didn’t find the pricing reasonable (which again is completely understandable) that there is no market for the product. I wish she had asked me about the time-starved parents and working professionals who enjoy our foods as a healthier and more convenient alternative, or about the folks who have health conditions and can’t enjoy the oil and preservative-filled foods found in their local grocery store.
  4. We don’t roast Apple for the price of an iPhone and expect that they match the price of the cheapest maker, but it is fair to compare them to, say, certain Samsung models with similar features and capabilities. Similarly, a more fair comparison would have been not with a grocery store product that’s been sitting on the shelf for two years — but with a company that prepares their food fresh, uses organic ingredients and delivers directly to customers. 

I hope folks who run into this article also run into this response — the piece feels incomplete without these clarifications.

I can’t wait to get to the scale that allows us to make these foods more accessible for all. In the meantime, thanks for hearing out the perspective of this tiny but ambitious small business.

Arti Mala is the founder of First Seed Foods.

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