At a time when food companies disagree about the benefits of fresh vs frozen, Daily Harvest is betting on frozen. Founded by Rachel Drori, and boasting the use of exotic superfoods, whole, organic fruits and vegetables, and no use of refined sugars or preservatives, Daily Harvest is offering up pre-prepared smoothies, soups, oats and chia puddings for busy people who want to eat healthier.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Serena Williams are betting on Daily Harvest, too. Supporters of Daily Harvest argue that frozen is a practical way to ensure your produce stays nutrient-dense from the time of harvest until it hits your table. Called "farm-frozen produce," Daily Harvest picks its ingredients at its nutritional peak so it retains more nutrients. The goal is to make healthy, organic meals more accessible, and easier to prepare, to more people.

These Daily Harvest superfoods are delivered directly to your home, and are stored in the freezer, requiring only 30 seconds prep time. The fact that food purchased in the freezer aisle is usually full of salt and preservatives was something Rachel considered when deciding on the direct-to-consumer model.

Popular with busy parents, retirees who want to eat better and well, anyone looking for a healthy, but convenient lifestyle, Daily Harvest has managed to grow to 1 million smoothie sales since its national delivery launched in 2016.

I caught up with Rachel to see fresh vs frozen and the future of Daily Harvest.

LM: Let's start by giving me a snapshot of you and the company.

RD: Daily Harvest exists to solve a modern eating dilemma: the desire to eat healthy but no time to make it happen. We bring you superfoods, super fast. As a direct-to-consumer brand, we deliver tasty foods in the healthiest format right to your freezer so that eating healthy is also convenient. Flavor combinations come in smoothies, soups, chia parfaits, overnight oats and "nice cream" sundaes so that there is something for any craving, any time of day -- and there are always new flavors and products in the works. Each cup is co-created by a team of chefs and nutritionists to ensure the highest quality of organic fruits and vegetables, and we use no refined sugars or preservatives. Our produce is picked at peak nutrition and frozen on the farm, so it's just as fresh and nutritious as the farmers market.  We want to make it easy for you; all the consumer has to do is add the liquid of their choice and blend, heat or soak and in just seconds their meal prep is done.

LM: Tell me about your origin story. Why you? Why did you start this company? Where did this all begin for you?

RD: Before I started Daily Harvest, I wanted to eat well but there just wasn't enough time in the day to research, buy, prep, measure and cook every time I wanted a healthy meal. I found myself grabbing what was available for convenience sake, and it was usually something unhealthy to fulfill that mid-day hunger that comes when you realize it's 3pm and you still haven't eaten lunch. We're all balancing our jobs, families, and other daily commitments and a lot of times our diets get pushed aside. I knew there had to be a way to make superfoods accessible and easy without compromising that farm-fresh quality, which is how we arrived at developing the format and delivery convenience of Daily Harvest.

LM: What is your favorite part about starting this company.

RD: The growth we've experienced so far has been generated from consumers genuinely loving the product, and that's what keeps me loving what I do everyday. The very best part of my job though, is my team. They keep the business moving and evolving while still remaining true to our brand to provide delicious and healthy foods. When I think back to Daily Harvest's start, I was packing up ingredients in a commercial kitchen and delivering smoothies from my own car, but as the business scaled I knew I had to have people who were passionate and individually driven. I'm proud to say that is what the team is made up of today and why we've collectively grown.

LM: Talk to me about why is frozen better and what are the advantages?

RD: When we think of frozen foods, usually the first thing that comes to mind is dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets in the back of your freezer. I know most people don't think of frozen as fresh, but we're here to change all of that. Our produce is first picked at peak ripeness, which is when it contains the most nutrients, and immediately frozen on the farm within hours of harvest. This locks in all of the good stuff, including moisture and vitamins, before it's nutrient content degrades. It's like the ultimate anti-aging time capsule to deliver you superfoods that taste like they were handed to you from the farmers themselves.

LM: Tell me about the ingredients that go into making these delicious smoothies. Why superfoods?

RD: We choose our ingredients to be complex in both flavor and nutrient profile, not chemicals. Superfoods are nature's most nutritionally dense foods. Freezing them on the farm ensures they actually stay this way when you eat them.  Our team of chefs and nutritionists work together to develop recipes that unlock the health benefits of superfoods and also make sure that they taste great. Often times consumers feel their options are limited because convenient, accessible, good tasting, healthy foods are far and few between. When you add the desire for superfoods into the mix you first have to find them, then figure out what to do with them and they don't always taste so great on their own.  We develop flavor combinations you may never have thought of, like Dragon Fruit and Mulberry Oats  or Sweet Potato Nice Cream, to develop nutrient-dense recipes that taste amazing.

LM: How did you think of the concept and what/who was your inspiration?

RD: I sourced a lot of inspiration from my own daily life and other people experiencing the same push and pull of eating healthy with limited time to prep. I'd hear others voicing my same frustration and I knew there had to be an easier way to take care of our nutrition. After getting tired of throwing away wilted kale and spoiled veggies every week, I started to bag up ingredients on Sunday nights to meal prep instant smoothies for the week. It totally changed my mornings from spending 30 minutes on breakfast to spending 30 seconds with a blender and my pre-prepped ingredients. They kept me energized, saved me massive amount of time, and even left some extra cash in my wallet, which is when I knew I had to share!

LM: Who is your target audience?

RD: Daily Harvest is for anyone who wants to eat better without compromising the convenience of readily available foods. It works for the busy-bee or if you're just looking for more nutrients in your diet but are unsure where to start. The best part about Daily Harvest is that all of your superfoods are already selected, paired and prepared for you. Our customer wants to eat the way he/shes knows he/she should, but struggles with the challenge of making it happen. Our most common piece of customer feedback is that we've filled a need in the health food space that wasn't previously being met.

LM: Talk to us a little bit about why you think this has been so successful?

RD: There are two principle sources of success for any startup: having passion and perseverance. Accomplished companies are good at making it look easy, but there is always a story behind the journey of getting to that point. Staying true to the end vision of your brand is crucial. There will be people that may not understand your idea, but keeping true to what you want for the company, and making that happen, is how you can navigate past those obstacles. Since Daily Harvest's inception, the focus has been on building a team of stellar talent to frame the infrastructure for a true, customer-centric business.

LM: Discuss the aesthetic/branding of the company.

RD: I wanted to create a brand that customers could relate to with an aesthetic that represents what we stand for - clean, uncomplicated and transparent, with a bit of fun. When I first started meal-prepping my smoothies for the week, it was because I wanted something nutritious that tasted great... especially when scrolling through instagram... we eat with our eyes first. From our photography to our packaging - we're clean, uncluttered and drool-worthy.

LM: How can emerging brands in the space be successful?

RD: There are a few pieces of advice that have stuck with me throughout the years:

  • Take chances: Just because something hasn't been done or invented yet doesn't mean it can't be.
  • Learn as much as you can: Ask questions, source for information, but most importantly listen and be observant. There is a ton you can learn just from being receptive of your surroundings.
  • Aspire to always grow in a positive direction: There will always be learning curves but so long as you keep building from there, better things will always come as a result.

LM: What is your take on the future of superfoods?

RD: There is so much innovation in the food space happening right now. More and more people are seeking out foods to compile a nutrient-dense, sustainable diet. As this movement evolves, consumers are getting more educated on what is in the foods they are eating and what the best way to access them are. I only see these innovations continuing to evolve and spark more accessible options in the superfood space, just like how Daily Harvest was a direct response to a need not being met in the market, as people adapt to healthier food options.

LM: What's next for Daily Harvest?

RD: We're constantly cooking up new recipes and collections with the same goal in mind: superfoods, super fast.  We are working constantly to change the perceptions around frozen food. Freezers have been dominated by unhealthy products that are hyper-refined and preserved for too long -- it's time to take our freezers back. As we build this vision, we're working on reimagining the frozen food aisle one category at a time. Our customers know to always keep an eye out for exciting additions!

LM: What other brands/companies are you currently into?

RD: Glossier, Everlane and Outdoor Voices are three brands that I think do an amazing job of bringing consumers what they want and need, all while remaining authentic. They are filling needs in the market, but in their own way, which has clearly worked, as they each have an enormously loyal customer base.

It seems like Daily Harvest has a growing loyal customer base, as well and we can't wait to see what new recipes you come up with in the future!

Published on: Dec 19, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.