Since exploding on the scene in 2012, My Food Bag has become a classic Kiwi success story.

Cashing in on the fame of public face Nadia Lim after she won TV reality show MasterChef, it’s gone from a small start-up to the subject of the biggest initial public offering in half a decade, which values the company at nearly half a billion dollars.

But with competitors prowling, the meal delivery market at its zenith, and vague plans for growth, how much of the company’s appeal is in its actual financial viability – and how much down to its beloved co-founder and ambassador?

Today on The Detail, Emile Donovan speaks to National Business Review senior journalist Calida Stuart-Menteath to get a 101 on what an IPO actually is; what state My Food Bag is in; and the importance of doing your investment research.

My Food Bag has humble origins.

After winning the second season of MasterChef NZ, Nadia Lim and her husband Carlos Bagrie teamed up with entrepreneurs Cecilia and James Robinson and former Telecom chief executive Theresa Gattung with an idea for a meal kit company, which delivers recipes and corresponding ingredients to homes all around the country.

With first mover advantage in a fledgling industry, the company flourished: within four years it had won a sizeable investment from private equity group Waterman Capital, which took a 70 percent stake in 2016 for nearly $36 million.

Now, just five years on, it’s been valued at $448.5 million as it prepares to go public.

“Some people have asked, ‘is that valuation right? It the company over-valued?’”, says Stuart-Menteath.

“But the IPO price is set at $1.85 – and that was set by the level of institutional demand.

“But valuation is a bit of a guessing game. It’s the sort of thing where time will tell … if it doesn’t meet financial forecasts in the next few years its share price will fall. And, if it’s been overvalued at IPO, the share price could fall immediately, in a few days after trading.”

Adding another layer of complexity is what’s happening with the existing shareholders’ stakes.

Waterman plans to sell down much of its stock – retaining just 15 percent of the company, and cashing out to the tune of nearly $400 million.

This is a common practice among private equity firms, and still marks excellent return on investment.

But Stuart-Menteath says it sends out mixed messages.

“Why are these owners selling? Where’s the vote of confidence that this company will grow, and its share price will grow?”

There are a lot of variables in this offering: the IPO happening at the height of the meal kit industry, which has enjoyed a huge boom since the advent of Covid-19.

Additionally, while My Food Bag was the first in this market, competitors are starting to circle: German giant HelloFresh has entered the market with a hiss and a roar, and supermarket chains are also getting in on the ready meal kit action.

On the other hand, the boom in online app-based investment platforms like Sharesies and Robinhood means companies with high name recognition and favourability, like My Food Bag, are well-placed to win casual investors.

Ultimately, Stuart-Menteath says the same basic principles of investing apply.

“Don’t get sucked in by the glossy marketing hype … really dig down into past performance and growth predictions.

“See how they compare, and weigh up whether you really think they can make these forecasts.

“Ultimately, ask yourself: can I afford to lose this money I’m investing?”

Want more from The Detail? Find past episodes here.

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