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Friday, May 24, 2024

Fresh N Lean Goes National

Ready-to-eat meal delivery service Fresh N Lean has been one of Orange County’s breakout businesses the past few years.

Boosted by pandemic-driven interest in food delivery services, and an increased focus on healthy eating, the Anaheim-based company—which offers a variety of breakfast, lunch and dinner meals that are designed to be heated up in a matter of minutes—saw revenue surge to about $119 million last year, up 35% from roughly $88 million in 2020, and nearly triple the $40 million it earned in 2019.

The company ranked No. 2 among the fastest-growing private large businesses in OC last year, based on two-year revenue growth, according to Business Journal data.

More’s in store for the privately held company, founded in 2010 by Laureen Asseo when she was 18 years old.

Company executives—Laureen Asseo serves as co-CEO alongside her brother, Thomas Asseo—tell the Business Journal they forecast a nearly 40% bump in business this year, with projections for $170 million in revenue for 2022.

Part of that growth is due to a sizeable new production facility scheduled to come online this summer in Las Vegas, which will more than double the company’s headcount to over 1,000, and eventually allow for a quadrupling in output.

National Push

Fresh N Lean has its eyes on expanding beyond the Western U.S., with an aim to become a household name across the country.

It’s a “very lofty” goal, but achievable, according to Thomas Asseo.

“We’re in a space that’s objectively underpenetrated and the players in it are spending lots of marketing dollars and giving lots and lots of discounts to a narrow audience,” he said of the company’s competitors, which include Batavia, Ill.-based Factor and New York City-based Freshly.

Food giant Nestlé in 2020 bought Freshly in a nearly $1.5 billion deal, factoring in over $500 million in potential earnouts.

Fresh N Lean is currently privately funded, and officials have declined to comment on future plans for raising additional capital, or potentially going public.

Brand Builder Hire

When asked if the company is currently hiring, Laureen Asseo said, “always.”

“We’re always trying to find good people for our creative and manufacturing teams,” she said.

As part of their plan to take the company to the next level, the Asseos recently made a notable hire: naming Lee Meyers as its first chief marketing officer.

Meyers counts over 18 years of marketing experience at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. and has worked with megabrands such as Neutrogena, Listerine, Splenda, Aveeno and Coach.

During the company’s search for a CMO who could help build its brand, Meyers—with his marketing experience and passion for healthy living—emerged as the perfect fit, according to the Asseos.

“Lee has a background in brand management, a real understanding of audiences and market research and a lot of classic marketing training that we perhaps lacked and needed,” Thomas Asseo said.

Meyers, who joined the team last November, is eager to help people live “healthier, better lives” by drawing on his experience in developing markets to further grow the meal delivery service.

“The chance to take all I’ve learned from working on some of the world’s most well-known health brands to help build Fresh N Lean into a megabrand is an exciting one,” Meyers said.

Centering Consumers

In his first step to help elevate the Fresh N Lean brand and grow the ready-to-eat meal delivery market, Meyers is prioritizing market research.

While at Johnson & Johnson, “one of the things I learned was really putting the consumer in the center,” he said.

“Once we understand what consumers are looking for and how we can help them, the better we can design our brand, product and service around that.”

The company is currently working with Jump Rope Innovation, a Hillsdale, N.J.-based marketing consulting firm whose clients include Nature’s Bounty Inc., Lipton and Aramark Corp. (NYSE: ARMK) among others.

The ready-to-eat meal delivery market totaled $3.7 billion in 2020. With a projected compound annual growth rate of 17.15% that market is expected to reach $11.3 billion by 2027, according to BrandEssence research.

Compared to brands like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, which cater to the meal prep delivery service market, Fresh N Lean is “one step up the convenience chain,” since their meals arrive at customer doorsteps with no-prep necessary, Thomas Asseo said.

Eclectic Sponsorships

The company counts its share of local and notable sponsorships. It’s a partner of the Anaheim Ducks and has its name on one of the Zambonis at Honda Center.

The company’s initial brand ambassadors include Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, race car driver Danica Patrick and pro skateboarder Elliot Sloan.

Other partnerships include Robert Vargas, a Los Angeles-based muralist, and Nikki Sixx, bassist for rock band Mötley Crüe, and professional cellist Mikala Schmitz.

“Putting quality food in your body helps you be the best version of you. And that applies to such a broad group of people,” not just athletes, Thomas Asseo said.

“It’s important for us that we partner with a really eclectic group of exceptional people,” Thomas Asseo told the Business Journal. Not just athletes but also artists and musicians because “the idea of human potential goes far beyond just athletics, although it’s certainly a part of it.”

Corporate Focus

With Meyers onboard, Fresh N Lean is looking to partner with corporations as part of its plan to grow the ready-to-eat category.

“We’re talking with HR and health and wellness departments of corporations big and small to offer their employees ready-to-eat meals delivered to their doors,” Meyers said. “It’s an added benefit as employers are fighting the war on talent to both attract and retain employees.”

Fresh N Lean’s corporate partnerships are still in the works, but Meyers expects the company to announce them by the end of March or early April.

Under the company’s typical subscription service, customers get a delivery of food to their home once a week, with a variety of options in menus, including offerings for those focused on low-carb, keto, plant-based and high protein diets, among other options.

A 10-entrée Whole 30 menu runs around $130, while a seven-day Mediterranean offering that includes three meals a day runs around $210.

Vegas Opening

Fresh N Lean’s new 170,000-square-foot Las Vegas facility expects to become fully operational this summer. It will nearly increase the company’s current production capacity nearly fourfold, from 800,000 meals a week to over 3 million meals a week.

The Nevada project will ultimately create 650 new jobs, the company said.

Fresh N Lean currently counts 550 employees in the 55,000-square-foot Anaheim facility.

While Fresh N Lean does not plan on moving its base from Anaheim, the company is looking to open more factories near the East Coast and Midwest to reach consumers across the country, officials said. 

‘West Coast, Best Coast’

New Fresh N Lean CMO Lee Meyers grew up in Philadelphia, but his roots in marketing counts ties to Orange County.

The summer after his freshman year at Pennsylvania State University, Meyers landed a marketing internship at the former corporate headquarters of Johnny Rockets in Aliso Viejo after he spent the summer prior flipping burgers and serving shakes at its now-defunct Laguna Beach location.

“Guess my marketing journey has come full circle,” he said with a laugh.

Meyers’ stint at Johnson & Johnson took him across the country and overseas: from working as part of a customer marketing co-op in Skillman, N.J. in his last year in college to being a senior brand manager in Dubai for markets in the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan back in 2013.

Out of all the places he’s worked at Johnson & Johnson, Meyers said he enjoys SoCal the most because of his family’s active lifestyle and the proximity to his parents, who live in San Diego.

“‘West Coast, best coast’ might have some truth to it. The weather can’t be beat.”

He lives in Santa Monica with his wife and two young boys, who all enjoy hiking, mountain biking and skiing in their free time.

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