At first glance, an indistinct industrial Los Angeles side street doesn’t seem like home to the future of healthy food. But to Monica Klausner and Mark Fachler, the brother and sister team behind the LA plant-based meal delivery service, Veestro, there’s no better place to start a food revolution.
“We were struggling to eat healthy,” says Fachler, whose former life was in the high-intensity finance world, “finding time to eat anything, let alone anything healthy, was a challenge.”
Klausner was experiencing her own struggles, a former marketing executive raising three children and never finding the time to sit down and properly feed herself or her husband. So in 2012, the siblings turned their commiserating into action, and Veestro was born.
Like any health-minded eaters, both Fachler and Klausner had been cruising the aisles of health food stores and Whole Foods Markets for years looking for that simple meal fix. And while they certainly didn't starve, they could never find exactly what it was they were looking for: convenient, healthy, plant-based meals.
“There are a lot of great products out there, but in order to survive in the retail world you have to cut costs and add preservatives,” says Klausner. “We didn’t want to do that.”
They looked at the traditional meal delivery kit model, too, which is taking the healthy food world by storm.
“Meal delivery kits are amazing; you can learn so much,” says Fachler, “but it’s also a lot of work.”
Veestro passed on the idea of the ingredients and recipe meal kit-based models and went back to one of our most trusted food preservation techniques: freezing.
“Freezing food is the most economical and convenient way we’ve found,” says Fachler.
But this isn’t bland microwavable frozen dinners or the unhealthy frozen junk food for pairing alongside football games or poker night.
Even Michael Pollan, the poster boy for fresh food, has touted the benefits of frozen foods; they retain their nutritional value (unlike canned), and in the case of frozen vegetables, can be far less expensive than fresh, particularly when they're out of season. And what's perhaps most beneficial about frozen foods: they don't rot in your crisper. A big downside of the fresh ingredient meal delivery kit model is that if you don't make your meals within a few days, you'll lose the whole lot of it when mold or spoiling sets in. Food waste is a massive global problem. Frozen meals, though, not only give customers space and allow for greater flexibility, but they help take a bite out of our food waste issue.
Veestro’s team of chefs prepares the meals inside the LA headquarters’ massive industrial kitchen, and everything is flash-frozen right on site.
But the difference between Veestro and virtually every other frozen food line you’d find in the supermarket is the absence of preservatives and the incredibly fresh ingredients abundant in California.
“It’s like if you make a big batch of lasagna from scratch at home and then freeze half,” says Klausner, “this is real food, made fresh.”
Everything Veestro makes is plant-based and free of genetically modified ingredients. Plant-based meals were a natural fit for Veestro's founders, and they couldn't have hit at a better time. Members of the recently created Plant Based Foods Association, Veestro has entered the market for plant-based meals just as the category is experiencing double-digit growth in all channels, and most of it coming from omnivores and flexitarians rather than vegans and vegetarians.
Because the company refuses to use preservatives, the meals have about an eight-week shelf life, far less than what supermarket frozen food brands boast. The price points are comparable to a restaurant meal with a focus on high-quality ingredients and recipes. And what about taste? I brought home several Veestro samples and was pleasantly surprised at how, well, fresh, everything tasted despite the dry ice it was encased in. When put to the toddler test, everything passed with flying colors.
With more than 8,000 customers ordering Veestro meals since it started shipping in 2013, the company just raised $1.5 million in funding, which has helped bring on additional staff to support the growth.
“We offer convenience,” says Klausner, “who doesn’t need that?”
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Photos: Jill Ettinger. All Rights Reserved.