Start-Up City: Nourish

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Written by Jen Barnett

One of the hottest tech business models right now is food delivery. Birmingham’s own Shipt delivers groceries from area supermarkets. Online services such as Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Plated offer “meal kits” that include all the ingredients you need to prepare a selection of menus, along with recipe cards and cooking instructions.

But there’s one thing these services won’t do for you, and that’s cook you dinner.

Home cooking is at an all-time low, especially among young adults. Fewer than half of them report being “good” or “somewhat good” at cooking. Nonetheless, they want to eat healthier, and 80 percent agree that home-cooked meals are better for you than dining out.

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Nourish founders Tiffany Vickers Davis and Mary Drennen.  Photo by Beau Gustafson

Also cooking less are time-starved families. Parents of young children often feel as though they have to choose
between foods that are healthy and those that are kid-friendly, while parents of tweens and teens are happy to see the insides of their homes, much less their kitchens.

These are the opportunities that founders Mary Drennen and Tiffany Vickers Davis are seizing with Nourish, which delivers fully cooked handmade meals made from fresh ingredients that require no more preparation than opening a package and reheating.

Drennen and Davis met in the test kitchen at Cooking Light magazine, where they learned to create healthful meals that tasted delicious, but also realized they weren’t cut out for a nine-to-five corporate environment.

In 2012, they began delivering prepared meals to members at area Iron Tribe gyms. These meals were strictly Paleo—the whole foods diet that forbids grains, sugar, white potatoes, and dairy—and offered as a complement to gym membership. It was a perfect fit for the new diet because few people knew how to prepare Paleo meals, while others relied on boring repeats of lean meat, steamed veggies, and sweet potatoes. Having a variety of meals that taste great is an important component of keeping dieters on track longer.

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Soon, more people began to request the service, including people who weren’t on the Paleo program but still wanted to eat “clean.” Four years later, Nourish ships a variety of meal plans across the U.S., with ambitious plans for 1,000 percent growth over the next five years.

Menu items range from traditional to esoteric, including Scrambled Eggs over Wilted Spinach and Tomatoes with Bacon; Herb Roasted Chicken over Squash Noodles; and Stuffed Sweet Potato with Braised Beef, Grilled Onions, and Horseradish Sauce.

To learn more about Nourish, we talked with Drennen and Davis about their business model.

How Nourish Works:

• Customers can choose between an individual plan and a family plan, which includes the choice of two fresh dinners or two frozen dinners per week.

• Individual meals are all fresh, and include your choice of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all with calories per serving ranging from 350 to 550.

• Customers can choose a Paleo plan or a general clean eating plan, and Nourish can accommodate most common food allergies and gluten-
free diets.

• Birmingham-area meals are couriered on Sundays; other meals are shipping on Mondays.

• Customers can put their subscription on hold or cancel anytime.

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1. What’s your elevator pitch? 

A critical problem in the U.S. today is finding healthy meals that are both convenient and affordable. Nourish solves that problem for both individuals and families. The process is simple. You order healthy meals online; we deliver; you reheat at home or work. It’s convenient, healthy, and affordable.

2. What’s your value proposition? 

Since we started in 2012, we have consistently heard from clients that our program brings added value to their home and work life. Whether you need more time to spend with family, to eat healthier at work or home, or to provide healthy meals for your family, Nourish meals brings that to your life.

3. Tell me about your founders and their experience. How many employees do you have? 

Both of us went to culinary school before returning to work in the test kitchen at Cooking Light magazine. There we honed our skills for developing healthy recipes that people love. Currently, Nourish employs seven people in production, logistics, and marketing functions.

4. How has Nourish grown since
its start? 

Beginning in 2012 with Iron Tribe, our team figured out, logistically, how to get meals from our kitchen in downtown Birmingham across the Southeast. But more and more people wanted meals that didn’t belong to the gym. The demand was there, and Nourish was launched in 2014. Today we ship meals each week around the country. In fact, 80 percent of our business ships outside of Birmingham.

5. Why is now the right time for Nourish? Why did you launch it here?

People are increasingly reliant on the convenience of home delivery for most products. The food tech space is no different and growing rapidly. Birmingham is home! This city and the South in general has a great food story to tell. We hope Nourish will be a big part of that narrative for the future.

6. What are your competitive advantages? 

Our story sets us apart. We were both chefs first. The quality and creativity of our product speaks to that, and our clients connect with our products because of our story. We are both working mothers who lead busy lives just like our clients. Our direct competitors feel story-less and faceless.

7. Where do you want the company to be in five years

We hope to grow 10 times bigger than we are now by 2021.

8. Who would you most like to connect with right now? 

This fall we are raising our first round of capital from outside investors. We are looking for sharp investors who can help our business grow, not just write a check.

Jen Barnett is an entrepreneur and marketing consultant at Redhawk Consulting, redhawkresults.com.

Nourish

Type of business: Prepared meal delivery

Location: Lakeview neighborhood

Founders: Mary Drennen and Tiffany Vickers Davis

In business since: 2012

Number of employees: 7

Site: nourishmeals.com

Email: info@nourish-foods.com