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Author Chené Murphy
Chené Murphy
Created on Nov 22nd, 2022
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RealEats Interview 2023: Real Food In Real Time With RealEats

RealEats is a ready-to-eat meal delivery service that uses innovative packaging for meals that can be heated in minutes. That means providing healthy, farm-to-table meals making real food easy for consumers. In this interview we learn more about the process from Erik Battes, President of RealEats. Erik has over 17 years in New York City Michelin Star restaurants and was drawn to RealEats by the unique packaging method after he had seen its benefits in fine dining kitchens.

What was the motivation for starting RealEats?

RealEats was started by Dan Wise, our Founder and CEO, in October 2017. He was a single parent, struggling to feed his kids healthy food, and like a lot of people, he was very busy. The “Dinner Dilemma,” as he calls it, was a constant challenge, forcing him to choose between healthy or easy, as you do not often get both. Unhealthy food, as we see it, leads to a negative outcome for so many people. We see this crippling our healthcare system. 

Dan came across the sous-vide method from a friend using this for a catering business. He saw that this was a great technique where you essentially remove the oxygen from the food packaging to naturally preserve freshness, extending its shelf life. 

Basically, you take the food in a package, drop it in a pot of boiling water and it is ready to serve after 6 minutes. Essentially, while Dan solved his own “Dinner Dilemma,” he saw the business opportunity, too, thinking that if he was having this problem, others may be having the same problem. 

Today, our facility is located in the Finger Lakes agricultural community, allowing us to support local farmers and use local products, and it’s become our mission to make it easier for people to eat real food. Our food is prepared by real chefs using local ingredients, we have a clean sourcing standard. Our kitchen is commercially laid out, we cook our food fresh, chill it and vacuum seal it in the packaging to remove air from the bag allowing for natural preservation. Our meals stay naturally fresh in the fridge for a week. 

What makes RealEats unique in the meal delivery service space?

Our meals come fully prepared so there is no prep or clean up required. More convenient than we would consider from a meal kit option. We appreciate that, although people have the best intentions of cooking, not everyone has an hour a day to dedicate to this. Not only that, you often end up with a situation of food waste. As a society, we waste 40% of the food that we buy which really inflates the real cost of food. This of course has a detrimental impact to the environment as well. 

Our packaging format allows for a better taste experience, it is not microwaved and the food is cooked evenly throughout the entire product. RealEats is dedicated to enhancing the experience of eating at home by making it quick, easy and delicious for people to enjoy the nutritional benefits of real food.

Could you tell us a bit more about the range of products available?

In our current range of products, we offer dinners and lunches which are fully composed meals, usually a protein and two sides that are rotated on a regular basis. We also have breakfasts and a range of curated products in our Market Place which consists of two categories: Items that we sell a la carte, if somebody wants to buy the protein or side dishes separately we allow for it in that format, and the add-on section, offering snacks and beverages that make it simple for people to enjoy the nutritional benefits of food sourced from local manufacturers and small business in the region.

What goes into the planning process of creating a new meal?

It all starts from insights, firstly from our customers gained through feedback and sales trends and secondly from our suppliers, who are local farmers, on what will be in season locally during the particular period that we are planning, what is the market basket that we can give our R&D chefs to highlight. 

Essentially, we start with what is available and what the consumer wants. We then have an ideation session bringing in people from across the organization and also people from the outside for different perspectives of what could work. Asking the question how can we deliver a better customer experience through our food and products. 

Our director of culinary innovation in our test kitchen starts the development planning process, produces a bench sample, with a range of testing around it to make sure the item tastes good, meets our clean score scene and nutritional parameters. Then we go through a process to ensure that the meal can scale into our production kitchen to ensure all of our meals are consistent and high-quality products.

The COVID19 pandemic has negatively impacted a number of restaurants in the past few months. With this in mind have you seen an increase in people turning towards meal delivery services?

Coming from 17 years in the restaurant industry it has been tragic to see how hard the restaurant industry has been hit by the pandemic. There has been a heavy impact on those working in the industry. Many close friends and colleagues of mine are struggling through this. I think that the food industry in general is in a transition period and this era will be written about as the great restructuring of the food industry. Everyone is trying to figure out what the future of food is going to look like right now. We have seen a massive surge in the amount of meals that we are delivering to people’s homes in general. The restaurant industry has always struggled but I think that COVID19 has accelerated some of those effects. 

We are seeing a lot more people cooking, more people ordering delivery and we think that this is a lasting situation.  People are now more focused on health and hygiene, which our packaging method is all about. When you remove the air from the package you are essentially preserving the food and locking out all the bad stuff – germs, viruses and bacteria - and locking in all the good - the freshness, flavor and nutrients of real food. 

Do you think that meal delivery popularity will last beyond the pandemic?

I certainly think that the meal delivery popularity will continue to increase even past this pandemic. The industry is shifting and we are providing something that a lot of consumers want which is convenience, high-quality product in a safe and hygienic way which I think is going to be the new normal for society.

Are there any new products or exciting developments coming up that RealEats is working on? 

We are constantly working on new recipes and our R&D chefs are always hard at work developing, trying to push the envelope forward from a food and taste perspective. I can’t share too much on the bigger scale just yet, but a lot of what we will be doing will fall into the category of personalized innovation and customization in a way that no other meal delivery business has done before.

How does the process work of becoming a RealEats customer?

We are subscription based business, you can find us on www.realeats.com, where there are a variety of options for plans depending on how many meals you want per week. There is the option to pair those with breakfasts and also add-on items from the a la carte section. With no minimum subscription period you can adjust your subscription at any time.

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