Healthy Eating Delivered to Your Door
Clean Course Meals’ meal delivery and a new grab-and-go café is capitalizing on a growing trend, especially among millennials.
While TV dinners transformed a generation in the 1960s, prepared meal kits and grab-and-go meals today bear little to no resemblance to those partitioned aluminum trays of the past. Today’s prepared meals can be well balanced, carefully crafted by chefs and nutritionists and custom-made to fit an individual’s dietary preferences, from vegan to gluten-free to keto.
Two New Orleans natives, Kim Sawyers and Erika Jupiter, have embraced the prepared meals trend and transformed it to fit the unique lifestyle of busy New Orleanians looking for easy, fresh meals and a healthy alternative to fast foods.
Clean Course meal prep and delivery service, which debuted in 2016, and its new grab-and-go café, which opened in Chalmette in November 2018, employs four full-time team members, and prepares 175 to 200 meals per week for delivery and pick up.
“We hit the ground running and our sales have been truly amazing,” Sawyers said.
Clean Course was the brainchild of Sawyers, who saw a personal need for an alternative lifestyle after a college trip abroad expanded her horizons and introduced her to a new way of thinking about herself and her health.
“During my time in graduate school, I took my first trip out of the country to Taiwan. I tell anyone, it was one thing to be American in Taiwan, it was second to be African American, but it was a third to be extremely overweight,” she said. “I was about 115 pounds heavier than I am today. I felt the most uncomfortable stares. One of our last days there, we took a trip to the beach and a group of local guys came up to me because they made a bet to see who could lift me up. I had never been so broken down in my life. From that experience, I decided to make a once-and-for-all lifestyle change when I made it home. One-hundred and fifteen pounds later and with a thriving food business teaching others what I taught myself, I now know that that hurtful moment was an imperative part of our story.”
Sawyers, who attended Xavier and Tulane universities, where she received a master’s in public health, and Jupiter, a graduate of Southern University with a degree in social work, saw a need beyond themselves in the community.
“What sets Clean Course apart from the competition is our commitment to social change and our customer acquisition,” Sawyers said. “It’s as simple as our tag line- ‘We Shop, We Prep, We Deliver, We Educate.’ It’s not just about making a profit to us and healthy living is more than just a trend.”
Growing sales statistics prove that consumers are moving away from meal prep kits, where home consumers mix and prepare the food, to pre-made meals that are ready to heat and eat. Many of these meals also fit into premeasured categories for weight loss, dietary restrictions or meal plans, such as keto or paleo.
Sawyers and Jupiter’s goal with Clean Course is to reach those people looking for ready-made meals, and who also want an easy way to eat healthy and live a more active life.
“Our goal is to teach our customers how to live a healthier lifestyle by implementing healthy eating and physical activity at home,” Sawyers said. “We educate our customers on portion control, nutrition verbiage and the basics of living a healthier lifestyle. We also use our social media platform to raise awareness and engage our followers with fun educational challenges such #NoMeatMarch or #ReadYourLabel challenges. Now, more than ever, we find that people in our community are more inclined to make the healthier choice because they are being educated on what’s good for their bodies.”
Meal delivery services can also appeal to a wide variety of consumers, from busy single professionals who don’t want or need to prepare extensive meals, to individuals looking for an easy way to count calories and nutrition, to seniors who may find it easier to have access to a balanced diet for one or two people and have limited access to grocery shopping and meal prep.
Clean Course meal plans vary based on each client’s lifestyle and needs, from the basic five-meals-a-week “Lunch Time Plan” for $68, to a 15-meal-a-week “Weight Loss Plan” for $163, and a 21-meal “High Performance Plan” for $207. There’s an additional three-day “Breakfast Plan,” and individuals can select their preferred protein (all proteins, vegan or seafood-only.)
An April 2018 report by BusinessWire noted that according to “Technavio market research analysts, the global meal kit delivery service market will grow at a CAGR [compound annual growth rate] of almost 21% during the forecast period [of 2018 to 2022.] Customers looking for convenient option with the advent of faster lifestyle is a major factor driving the market’s growth.”
Statista.com also reports “The fast-growing niche market of online meal kit delivery services has continued to expand ever since its introduction in 2012. Revenue is expected to grow to over 10 billion U.S. dollars in 2020, from one billion in 2015.”
Clean Course has a built-in market of younger consumers, according to Sawyers, along with those looking to incorporate meatless meals into their regular diet.
“With plant-based eating on the rise as a new trend, we have a surefire market of millennials to advertise our products to,” she said. “Vegetarian and vegan eating is popular today among millennials; which happens to be the largest demographic in U.S. history. Data shows that there are approximately 80 million millennials in the U.S. and over 12 percent of them are ‘faithful vegetarians or vegans.’ We are going to take the ‘plant-based trend’ and make it a lifestyle.”
Additionally, Clean Course has tapped into the need for healthier catering alternatives for corporate events, a market that has received an overwhelmingly positive response.
“Under our business-to-business umbrella, we provide catering for events, corporate meetings and occasions,” said Sawyers. “We use seasonal products to increase exposure to a variety of produce offering vegetarian, vegan and/or gluten-free packages upon request. Our customers enjoy trying new, healthy dishes at their board meetings versus the same old box lunches and grocery store food trays that everyone is used to.”
While the fare may appeal to those looking for meatless alternatives or fresh and fit diets, many New Orleanians are notoriously stubborn eaters, slow to change their Popeye’s or andouille sausage gumbo habits. Sawyers said Clean Course is breaking long-held misconceptions about healthy foods.
“When we talk about meatless red beans and wild mushroom jambalaya, people often want to try it because they don’t believe it can taste as good as the original recipe,” she said. “Our products always leave them in complete shock and wanting more. The most common misconceptions are that healthy food is bland or boring and plant-based meals don’t contain enough protein. These are simply not true.”
Recent menu options included a healthy selection of locally inspired favorites such as grilled Cajun chicken with wild mushroom jambalaya, shrimp scampi, and grilled Cajun tofu steaks.
While Clean Course currently has the one walk-in café location in Chalmette, the founders’ goal is to make eating healthy and delicious food as easy and ubiquitous as a trip to the drive-through.
“Honestly, we aspire to be the next McDonald’s of healthy food,” Sawyers said. “Soon there will be Clean Course Meals across the country, with drive-through access, for your healthy meals on the go that’s accessible to every community and that fits every health goal. Similar to those larger fast-food corporations like McDonald’s and Burger King, Clean Course will mold our brand around the consumer demand by staying current with buying trends and competitive in the market.”
Clean Course Meals’ Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder Kim Sawyers and Chief Operating Officer / Co-Founder Erika Jupiter serve healthy meals-ready-to-go from their flagship café in Chalmette. The duo’s long term goal is to make Clean Course Meals as easy as visiting a fast-food drive-through across the area and the U.S.
Who is ordering meal kits and prepared meals?
1 in 4 adults purchased a meal kit delivery in 2016
70% of respondents said they will continue to purchase meal kits
46% said time management was a deciding factor in their purchase
34% noted healthy recipes as one of five top reasons for purchasing
Between 25 and 44 years old – primary demographic for meal kits
90% of subscribers recommend meal kit delivery to friends
Clean Course Meals prepares approximately 200 meals per week for customers. Locally inspired menu selections include vegetarian jambalaya and grilled Cajun-spiced chicken and vegetables
Top 5 Popular Diet Trends for 2019
Source: Men’s Health Magazine