Calo: Pioneering Personalized Nutrition and Wellness in MENA

Calo: Pioneering Personalized Nutrition and Wellness in MENA

By Pierrick Ribes, 05 June 2024

In the last few decades, the global battle against obesity has become more daunting, with rates nearly tripling since 1975.

Saudi Arabia’s struggle is particularly pronounced, with a staggering 70% of its adult population grappling with weight issues, including over 20% facing obesity. This public health crisis is not just a matter of personal health but also a significant economic concern. A 2022 PLOS Medicine report shed light on the direct healthcare costs linked to obesity in Saudi Arabia, which reached US $3.8 billion in 2019, marking 4.3% of the nation’s total healthcare expenditures. Vision 2030’s ambitious targets to reduce obesity and diabetes prevalence highlight the urgent need for effective solutions.

Proportion of the Population Who are Overweight Across GCC Markets vs World Average

Infobyte: Proportion of the Population Who are Overweight Across GCC Markets vs World Average

A Comprehensive Strategy for a Healthier Tomorrow and the Genesis of Calo

Addressing this challenge necessitates a multifaceted approach, emphasizing the importance of dietary modifications— particularly reducing the consumption of ultra-processed foods and sugar sweetened beverages, which represent a significant portion of the Saudi diet. Promoting a balanced diet rich in unprocessed foods alongside regular physical activity emerges as a pivotal strategy. It is within this context that Calo, a Bahraini startup that has grown to be a major player in Saudi Arabia, offers a beacon of hope. By providing accessible, healthy meal options tailored to individual dietary goals, Calo stands at the forefront of the fight against obesity, merging innovative entrepreneurship with the rising demand for wellness services.

The inception of Calo is a story of innovation, perseverance, and a fortuitous partnership between Ahmed Al Rawi and Moayed Almoayed. Ahmed’s entrepreneurial spirit was ignited early in his career, following a successful venture in interactive solutions for events and the creation of Malaeb, a sports venue booking platform that expanded across the GCC. His journey is marked by a passion for innovation and a desire to create scalable, impactful solutions. Ahmed embarked on a year-long exploration, launching several experimental startups. This period was crucial in honing his understanding of market demands and the importance of solving universally resonant problems. This led him to identify a gap in the market for personalized nutrition, culminating in the inception of Calo—a venture inspired by his personal quest for a convenient, healthy eating solution.

Moayed, initially a super user of Calo, was drawn to the platform’s mission out of personal need. His background, rich in investment insight and professional acumen, perfectly complemented Ahmed’s technical expertise and entrepreneurial drive. Moayed’s decision to join Calo as a co-founder was fueled by a shared vision to make healthy living accessible, highlighting the natural synergy between the founders. Their partnership has not only navigated Calo through its initial challenges but also positioned it as a pioneering force in personalized nutrition and wellness in the MENA region, promising a healthier future for its users.

“Through a year of trials and numerous startups, I found Calo—a project that not only scratched my own itch but unexpectedly solved a problem for many, turning my passion into our mission.” – Ahmed Al Rawi, CEO of CALO

Innovating Nutrition: Calo’s Technological Edge

Calo stands out in the meal subscription market by prioritizing technology over traditional foodservice models. Its innovative app employs advanced algorithms to create personalized meal plans based on individual biometrics like age, weight, height, gender, and activity level. This tech-first approach not only differentiates Calo from competitors but also ensures meals are tailored to meet each user’s unique health and fitness goals. The platform’s ability to manage the entire value chain—from ingredient selection to delivery—further underscores its commitment to quality and customization, offering a dynamic menu that adapts to dietary preferences and restrictions.

Initiating its journey with a soft launch in November 2019, Calo tested its concept with a close circle of seven users, adopting the lean startup method of trial, error, and rapid iteration. This cautious yet strategic approach paid off when Calo officially launched in February 2020, quickly resonating with a broader audience. As the startup expanded, particularly into Saudi Arabia in early 2021, it navigated challenges related to hyper-growth by prioritizing operational excellence and customer satisfaction, cementing its position as not just a meal delivery service but a comprehensive nutritional platform.“I was already a believer in Calo’s mission, using it out of sheer need for convenience. Meeting Ahmed and seeing our visions align transformed my interest into a commitment.” – Moayed Almoayed, Co-Founder at CALO

Calo’s Rapid Expansion: Funding and Growth Trajectory

In December 2021, Calo secured US $13.5 million in seed funding, led by Nuwa Capital and STV, acknowledging its role in blending convenience with health in a region battling obesity and diabetes. This vote of confidence was further bolstered by an additional US $13 million in pre-Series A funding, bringing total investment to US $26.5 million. This capital infusion is aimed at expanding Calo’s presence in the GCC, diversifying offerings, and paving the way for broader regional and international reach. A year before the pre-Series A funding round, Calo experienced exponential growth, expanding into new markets and cities including Dammam, Jeddah, the UAE, and Kuwait. Calo’s commitment to customer-centric innovation in foodtech was highlighted by Nuwa Capital’s Nitin Reen, who praised the team’s focus and vision.

“The team at Calo has mastered the ability to hone the fundamentals while continuing to innovate within the realm of foodtech... We are very excited to partner with Calo in their next chapter of growth.” –Nitin Reen, Partner at Nuwa Capital

Watch the Perfect Pitch podcast with Khaled Talhouni, Managing Partner of Nuwa Capital

Future Directions: Expanding the Vision for Healthy Living

With its launch in Qatar and the introduction of Calo Kids, the company is setting its sights on addressing the nutritional needs of a broader demographic. The founders envision a future where convenience and health converge, potentially transforming residential living spaces and further integrating food, wellness, and technology.

Calo’s vision extends beyond meal delivery to encompass a holistic health and wellness platform, bridging the gap between diet, fitness, and wellness monitoring. This ambitious approach aims to revolutionize the consumer health industry, making healthy living not just accessible but seamlessly integrated into everyday life.

Next Read: The Future of Food Delivery in Saudi Arabia: A Transformative Market on the Rise

Read more in the Special Report, ‘The Future of Food Delivery in Saudi Arabia’.

Related Report

Saudi Food Delivery Special Report

The Future of Food Delivery in Saudi Arabia

The KSA food delivery market, worth US $10 billion in 2023, is expected to hit $14.9 billion by 2028, with food-delivery startups playing a central role in driving that growth, capitalizing on shifting consumer needs. These startups snagged 45% of the $600 million raised by KSA's Foodtech sector, marking a transformative shift in dining experiences and highlighting their pivotal role in Saudi Arabia's evolving food landscape.