Target is working with a Dallas startup that wants to save you money by helping you cook with what's already in your refrigerator and pantry.
Cooklist has been in beta testing since October and kicks off with Target's 47 Dallas-Fort Worth stores and its delivery service Shipt.
A shopper using the app can search more than a million recipes to find a dish. When one is found, a list of ingredients is displayed and any not on hand can be ordered with same-day delivery through Target.com. Cooklist can retrieve and store items from 77 national grocery chains, but delivery is only set up with Target.
Target accelerator partner Techstars has invested $120,000 in the company, founded by Daniel Vitiello and Brandon Warman, both 27, and friends since their days at Rockwall Heath High School, where they played lacrosse.
Last summer, Cooklist was one of 10 retail startups selected to be part of a 13-week mentorship and training program that Target has held the last three years. Target accepts less than 2 percent of applicants, which Vitiello likes to say "is tougher than Harvard's 5.4 percent acceptance rate."
Only six of the 10 in the 2018 class received formal agreements to work with Target.
"We look forward to seeing how guests in the Dallas-Fort Worth area respond to the service," Target said in a statement.
Last year, Target's online sales increased 36 percent, the fifth consecutive year of more than 25 percent growth. Under CEO Brian Cornell, Target has invested more in its delivery service after buying Shipt in late 2017, and the chain has also been remodeling stores and raising wages. Stores fulfilled nearly three-fourths of Target's digital sales in the fourth quarter.
"We had access to their executive team, including CEO Brian Cornell, and learned how Target thinks." Vitiello said. "It was so valuable for accomplishing our goal."
The concept of a digital pantry came to Warman and Vitiello five years ago, when Warman tried to get all their purchases from Safeway. He received a stack of papers and was told there was no way to access the data digitally. That's changed the past couple of years as most grocers have created apps for shopping.
Users of the Cooklist app, which is available on Apple and Google, can link with the grocery stores where they shop to create their digital pantry. New food purchases are linked automatically if the supermarket chain has a loyalty program, such as Kroger Plus and Tom Thumb and Albertsons Reward cards. Otherwise, shoppers can manually scan new purchases with the app to keep the pantry up to date.
Cooklist attracted 2,000 customers for its beta test. On average, those customers were connected to three stores, downloaded $400 worth of purchases in a month and used Cooklist four times a week.
Vitiello and Warman went to customers' homes to observe how people were using the program. "We've been able to catch some of the early bugs," Vitiello said. "Seeing people trying to use it taught us a lot."
Dallas-based RevTech Ventures has invested $100,000 in Cooklist.
"Cooking at home has lost market share as dining out and delivery services have proliferated in recent years," said David Matthews, RevTech managing partner. "We're betting that cooking at home will resurge and that a platform which simplifies the meal-preparation process will be well-positioned to grow."
Cooklist's mission statement talks about helping people to "eat intelligently." The co-founders quote from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other sources about annual food waste, which is estimated to be $450 per person or $1,800 for a family of four. That includes both cooking at home and restaurant meals.
The Target connection was a plus, and so was the fact that Vitiello and Warman have worked together before, Matthews said.
This is the second company the friends have created. They were living in California after Warman graduated in 2013 from Southern Methodist University.
They raised funds on Kickstarter to create Handground coffee grinder, which they started selling in November 2016. They've sold 40,000 so far.
"We're still having trouble keeping them in stock," Vitiello said.