Ready-To-Eat Meal Delivery Interview with CEO Laureen Asseo – Fresh n’ Lean Meal Prep

14September 2020

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NonCnbuxWlI

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[Music] all right so you guys are thinking maybe there is a shift going growing
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around the country in terms of how consumers are shifting their diets we’re going to get a chance to talk about that
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today my name is paul barron and this is the baron report listen we are seeing a consumer
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movement across the country when it comes to food really like no other time in history if
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you look back in the history and annals and have read books around
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how the food service industry started this one year 2020 has become kind of the new
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model of how consumers are are essentially adapting with me today i’ve got the ceo and founder of a
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company called fresh and lean uh laureen aseo great to have you on the show thanks for stopping in
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thank you so much for having me all right laureen let’s just jump right to it
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i want to learn a little about fresh and lean you know i’m a meal kit user i you know i i swear by them and then i
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also swear at them sometimes but but for the most part they’re a great addition to our household tell me
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about how you got got started with fresh and lean yeah so i started freshly
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11 years ago um at the time i was 18 years old i was going to school for apparel manufacturing and business
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management so took a little bit different course when i decided to start this company but it
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really came down to family my father was struggling with a lot of health issues
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due to processed food and really the availability of good nutrition in this country which is very
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limited um it conveniently and so with that he struggled a lot
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and needed to make a change he went fully plant-based um really changed his life around and in
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six to eight months lost 85 pounds um like coupled with exercise but nutrition had such a
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large foundation in that and that really catapulted the idea to start this business because there are
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so many other people that are experiencing the same exact thing that he was experiencing at the time
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yeah it’s a you know in if you look at the united states obviously we’re probably one of the most
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unhealthy first world countries in the world if if not
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the most unhealthy especially with diabetes and obesity being a huge issue across the
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u.s and of course with the scenario of what you guys are trying to do with fresh and lean
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let’s talk a little bit about kind of the concept of delivering these kinds of meal kits
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to consumers so we have seen a bit of a shift here in the past six eight months with covid and kind of the
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the effect of how it’s kind of worked on the psyche of american consumers in terms of eating better
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what has been your uh experience around the growth of your business what have been some of the kind of consumer trends
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you guys are watching so that’s a really interesting question and i think that we’ve seen it even from
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the beginning so when i first started the company i think there was a huge
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emphasis on health on healthy eating on clean eating and a lot of emphasis also towards
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plant-based lifestyles which at the like 10 or 11 years ago there wasn’t such an emphasis on healthy
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eating and i think a lot of that comes from education and what’s available in terms of how to educate
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yourself on eating and weight loss and what’s good for you and what’s bad for you
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so what i’ve seen which has been really interesting is where at first i thought health was the
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selling point the real selling point was convenience and i think that the health aspect was a great secondary
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point and i think as we move towards a society that is a lot better educated on nutrition i think
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that we become more and more educated on nutrition and people now want to know
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what’s in their body so yes convenience is great but now i think there’s a lot more emphasis on the
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health factor of the meal plan which has not changed from the get-go
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it’s always been very centered around whole ingredients made from scratch no processed foods you can turn over the
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meal and know exactly what’s in it even if something has sub-ingredients those sub-ingredients are clean and i
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think that there’s a lot of misconception out there about what’s healthy and what’s not healthy
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and people who promote themselves as healthy but then you turn it over and it’s a little bit of a different story
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and so what’s been really great to see especially for me coming from a place where
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i want to give our consumers a good clean healthy lifestyle is that people are actually caring about what they put
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in their body and looking to food as fuel which is essentially what it is it’s fuel for our
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bodies yeah absolutely and i do think you’re you’re dead on with that we you know i
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got a chance to kind of witness the evolution of the fast casual restaurant concepts and kind of their whole mission
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to trying to shift away from qsr fast food et cetera you know in the early
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i should say early 90s when they really got a foothold and then have become to kind of become the main if not
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one of the key categories in the in the sector but when you look at where the grocery industry is
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and where meal kits kind of inserted we’ll go a la blue apron or others like them
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they kind of opened up with these gourmet meals not necessarily i mean the calorie counts i even today i
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question some of the calorie counts that are coming in my own you know uh you know meal kids so i’m kind of
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curious when you look at the scenarios around uh these meal kits that are starting to
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uh essentially become one of the key factors in terms of food consumption at american households how how much
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is in the side of caloric uh you know the caloric makeup of a kit versus
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you know making it taste great or making it super you know interesting to a consumer that
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wants to order that product for you guys so i think it’s a it’s an interesting balance because i think a lot of people
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think that they could only make good tasting food if they pile a bunch of cheese on it or butter or things like
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that and i think that it’s an easy way out you know so i think like you look at a lot of these kids and you
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look at a lot of these even like ready-to-eat meal programs who
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say that they’re healthy and you you know we do a lot of testing um just to see what’s out there to know
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the market to know our competition um and that’s one thing that i see a lot is that they
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i don’t want to say compromise on ingredients but essentially it’s a little bit what happens and i think that
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there is definitely a sweet spot um and it comes back to the american palate we are so
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used to heavier foods and processed foods and so it’s i think a big challenge that
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we face every single day too is how do we make a comfort meal right
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right if we want to call it that something that is a staple in a household that people go to to eat
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but how do we make it healthier without necessarily compromising on taste right and i think
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that’s an always kind of never-ending battle that we’re going to
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be facing i think that we do a pretty good job of it but we could always do better and that’s where we rely on
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customer feedback and the customer data because ultimately we want to know
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what do you think of this meal like what do you think of our rendition of a mac and cheese because it’s not
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going to be exactly what you’re used to but we want to make sure that it’s as good as it can be
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and not you know totally shocking to where you’re still going to enjoy it and get the benefits from it
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yeah so do you have culinary staff on your team that helps kind of create the menus themselves what’s the kind of the
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process of creating a new box menu for something at freshly absolutely yeah we have a very robust
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culinary team i’ll call it we have a head chef of product development and so his
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sole job is to analyze data from the customers um and by data i mean you know reviews
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we send out surveys we want to know what do you like what do you not like you know we’re introducing new products
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we want to get your feedback do you like that we tried to go a little bit outside the box or do you want us to
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kind of reel it back in do you want us to do a little bit more creative recipes with different
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ingredients and different techniques or would you rather us stay more simple um but still offering variety so
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he has a very very important job in terms of product development and it’s something that he’s doing every
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single day um we’re constantly trying new meals and i feel very fortunate because i get to try
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them every single day i make a joke that he’ll just come into my office and drop plates on my desk so if
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i’m in a meeting and i come back i’ll more than likely have like three meals waiting for me
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um but yeah so i mean we do a lot of that and then you know i’m really instrumental in
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the menu development because it comes down to the mission of the company and the philosophy and i want to make sure
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that we’re never deviating from that it’s really important that we stick to
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quality quality ingredients and never compromising so there’s always that balance of bringing
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that in and then also making sure that we’re staying true to who we are as well
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um and then translating it over to mass manufacturing and i think that’s where some people
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want to cut corners but it is really important that we make things that can be batched out into
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thousands and thousands of portions yeah for sure okay so international food information council
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released uh kind of their food and healthy survey here recently some of the things that were interesting
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to me is the percentage of people that are altering their food habits 85 that’s a drastic shift when you look at
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what has been kind of a an accumulated uh habit model that the american consumer
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has kind of evolved through uh especially when it if you look at the fact that just last
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year you know we had just eclipsed 51 of food away from home for the first time uh
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in 35 40 years it’s it’s a huge uh move to have over half half that food so here’s my question is
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with that kind of growing population in terms of really changing out their food habits whether they’re getting it from
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the grocery or they’re ordering through kits like what you guys are doing at freshly or they’re going into you know
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take out delivery and those kind of models where do you think this is going to
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shake out in the future as the pandemic dissipates and we see kind of a new food consumer on the other
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side where do you think this is going to end up in terms of people sticking with it
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or or staying with the the habits that they’re developing right now on into the future so i think that’s
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interesting and i think it’s a couple parts to that question i think one what this pandemic is forcing people
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to do is not necessarily like a fad diet but more like a lifestyle
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because it’s gone long enough to where it’s it’s a part of your life now and i think
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that that’s huge when it comes to perception because it’s really easy for someone to do a fad
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diet and to throw it away and your body kind of forgets about it your brain forgets about it because
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we’re always on to the next thing where when you’re talking about a lifestyle and now you’ve ingrained it
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into your everyday it’s a lot harder to dispose of so i am really hoping just for the sake of
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those people that they do stick to it i think that what’s really interesting for us and where we kind of fall into
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that is that yes we’re healthy so it’s great if people stick to um you know our diet they’re not going
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to lose their results they’re going to still be in line with what they’ve worked so hard to do
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from home during these past five six months but i think one thing that we can never
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get away from is the convenience factor and the we want it now and one of the things that we’ve noticed so much and
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the increase in demand is yeah people can eat at home and they can cook and i think that
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it’s all it’s great i am a huge like i think that so much of the values of food is when
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people enjoy it together as a family food brings people together in ways that a lot of things don’t
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i love to cook but i also am extremely busy you know i’m working a lot and i know
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that a lot of people they’re either still working from home or eventually they’re going to go back
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to the office they have their kids at home there’s so many things so i think that
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convenience will always be there and so it’s great that hopefully
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you know the numbers and the survey that i was looking at they’re staggering and it’s extremely extremely interesting
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as i was flipping through it before i came on with you i was just blown away by the numbers in
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such a positive way so i do hope that it starts to trend this way um and that there are people
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like fresh and lean to help them along the way because it is really daunting also to be
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doing that yourself every single day yeah for sure let’s talk a little bit about kind of the the
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shifting tides here because with 85 percent kind of moving into a little different
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diet but also and i and i do appreciate what you’re saying about the habits now are kind of sticking i
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just got through with a lot of research on habit forming for this very purpose
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and many of the authors phds scientists all talk about if something sticks around for about three
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you know three months and you’re consistent with it it is a lifestyle change
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and can definitely have long term and sometimes decades of effect on someone so let’s go into um so i would agree
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with that 100 uh the questions i have in terms of the meal kits because we are seeing a
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lot of movement in the space we see restaurants building out meal kits now for delivery
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we see the grocery chain starting to do some meal kits and then we see the traditional products
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like yourself that are uh you know blending in meal kits for delivery i’m i’m a user of that
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here’s my question is with that you’ve got the issue of packaging so i get a box every friday
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you know it’s a nice well-designed box very eco-friendly but it is a carbon footprint monster on my front
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porch um and the the issue i’m always concerned with is the freshness
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of the products because i do often i won’t mention the meal kit’s name but i do often get
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vegetables that come in that are not fully ripened or they’re over ripened and i i’m assuming that’s just a supply
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chain mismanagement but how can companies like yourself kind of address those two big issues in terms of
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freshness and then also packaging so i’ll start with packaging
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i know that at least for us it’s something that we work on all the time it is a big
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feedback that we get from our customers is how can we be more green can you please explain to us
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you know how green your packaging is the recycling aspect is huge so i will say every day what we do is we look at you
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know how can we be more green and that comes from the meal lining that we absolutely need to keep the meals
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fresh it comes from our trays our film the labels like you name it
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there’s so many components of that that we look at so we look at not only how you can recycle
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it but how can we move to biodegradable and that’s something that we hope to launch very very soon is
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biodegradable packaging to just take it one step further and not only to put our consumers mind at ease um but also
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our own because at the end of the day i want that more than anything as well to help support
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you know our planet and the well-being um the one thing that’s super important though is i think that the technology of
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maybe products that aren’t there that are excuse me completely green um they don’t really hold up when it
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comes to like the temperature tracking so unfortunately that’s something that the
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technology has to catch up with because our number one priority is providing our customers with a safe
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experience and i think that goes with all mean kits and so you mentioned vegetables arriving that might be over
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ripened or not enough um it yes is a supply chain issue but i think it’s also
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a delivery issue i think that it’s very important to find the optimal optimal sorry time to ship
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and then also what you’re shipping with if you’re shipping in something that doesn’t hold temp
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it’s going to have adverse effects on your product so there has to be a balance between being
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eco-friendly and finding products that are good for our planet
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and make us feel good also as we’re receiving it but also that are safe for consumption
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and so we really heavily look at both of those um and that’s huge and then as far as
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the carbon footprint i you know i think that there’s a lot of uh things that we could speak to in
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terms of how the carbon footprint of let’s say using like a fedex
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affects things in terms of getting your box to you but then when you think about i’m gonna drive my car
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unless you have a tesla which not everybody does um you know to the grocery store to go pick up my goods and
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then i’m gonna come home and then i’m gonna go here so you know it’s interesting to kind of
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look at the balance between the two um also the fact that fedex if you think about it yeah they’re driving around all
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the time but they have multiple boxes in their truck sure that they’re dropping off so how
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does that affect it as well so again i think we look at so many factors when it comes to
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being green the carbon footprint and there are some things that are a little bit out of our control but
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necessary and then there are things that are 100 in our control that we will continue to better and i
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think that everybody um is going to do that because they’re going to have no choice to
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i think the consumers are really dictating what they want and it is very clear that they want
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things that are more green and eco-friendly yeah for sure well it’s interesting
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because we’ve been looking at quite a bit of research around this very issue of when you look at
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just the scenario of people going out to eat let’s say for instance you’ve got a
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family of three or four and you’re doing three takeout meals a week you’re going you know obviously
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you’re going to the restaurant unless you’re a smart takeout person you’re ordering two meals
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at a time right but most of the time they’re ordering a meal at a time from
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each individual restaurant so that’s a trip there that’s another packaging scenario
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there’s a lot there when you look at that especially when you look at the volume of people that are doing that
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right now so that’s that’s one of the reasons i think meal kits are actually have an
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advantage here because when i get a meal kit i get four meals uh in my kit and that’s basically four
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nights of of uh you know food for family and you know we we also
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augment that with grocery and so much but we’ve reduced a lot of our uh our takeout product uh quite a bit
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and some of it has been just because of the you know the issue and the hassle of
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having to go pick it up and deal with that and that’s a great and that’s a great
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point too because i was just having this conversation with somebody else where if you
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look at let’s say take out and you look at meal kit right you have you know different containers you have
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the styrofoam you have the bag and all of this stuff in it it gets messy you just have a lot of
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different tupperwares and things like that if you get just a meal delivery you have your
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dinner that’s one tray you know and then it like you said it comes in a box you may have
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lunch for five days you may have lunch for seven days you may have lunch and dinner so
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it really depends on what you’re doing but yes i think that getting it all at once and then
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minimizing the amount you’re using for that meal also helps a lot when talking about sustainability
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yeah for sure um laureen so when you look at some of the trends that are now kind of hidden in the industry as a last
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question here what are some of the things that you think you’re watching out for
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you guys get a lot of consumer feedback you’re getting a ton of food feedback as well so you know kind of what
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what’s hot what’s not is there anything that’s kind of sticking out in your mind right now that’s saying wow we really
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need to be whether it’s plant-based or other elements has anybody really reached out to you guys and started
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asking for alternative proteins that are a little bit more exotic yet yes and that’s actually a really
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interesting point that you bring up i think that what we’re seeing right now is a trending more to plant based which
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i think is great personally i think that it just oh it forces us sorry to be a lot more
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creative um and using alternative um like plant-based meats but
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those are one of those things though that you have to be very careful of there’s a lot of alternative meats out
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there that are heavily processed so when we go out and look for them we’re extremely picky
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about what we’re what we’re using um we do use beyond meat uh
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in terms of you know doing that with some of the meals um but we’re always on the lookout for
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another uh meat substitute and that is a big trend that we’re seeing right now is there’s a huge
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want to be plant-based and to order plant-based meals so i think that we have a really fun
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um and exciting time ahead of us to create more plant-based meals that are going to
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be appealing to a meat eater and i think that that is like my biggest challenge and joy at the same time
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is when we are indeed a completely vegan meal and i give it to someone who i know if i
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said it was vegan would absolutely not try it and then they try it and they’re like oh
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wow this isn’t chicken and it’s like blows them away so that’s kind of what we’re
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really focusing on right now as well as we always look out for um different trends and diets that
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people want to try because if they’re going to do it we want them to do it safely um but i say that
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looking at it it definitely plant-based is coming back full force yeah i’m kind of curious you guys how
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far into the country do you ship since you’re on the west coast uh where where’s the furthest east point
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of delivery for you so we ship nationwide um and to alaska and hawaii so we
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reach all parts of the country have you seen any specific region that has shown
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greater growth in meal kits from what you you know basically from your customer base
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so we have a lot of people i think east coast west coast when you look at like the states that are along the east and
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west coast um those are always huge markets for us the midwest is actually expanding though
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and texas is a huge state for us and what i will say is when i started the company
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10 years ago i did customer service and i was the chef and everything and i would take customer service calls
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from people from the midwest and they had no idea like what quinoa was or it was just it was always kind of funny
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um and now they’re you know everybody is really on the same page about food
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which is great so we’re seeing an increase in demand in all of these products really around the country
00:22:39
very cool lorena sayo ceo at freshman great to have you on the show thank you for stopping in thank you so much
00:22:45
thank you absolutely all right so you guys of course are listening in over on the podcast
00:22:50
right now maybe you’re on itunes or on spotify just drop us a review that’s a great way
00:22:56
for us to get feedback from you on what you want to hear about here on the baron report if you’re
00:23:00
over on youtube make sure and subscribe that’s how you’re going to get notified
00:23:05
notified of new content but it’s also a great way for you to see other content here on footable network
00:23:11
and of course if you want to reach me hit me up on paul barron on twitter and lastly if you
00:23:16
have a great idea and you want to email it to us just send it to producer foodabletv.com we’ll catch you next time

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Fresh n’ Lean website āžœ https://t2m.io/FreshnLean

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