Ex-CEO of Lululemon makes her new pitch: high-end frozen food
From the Globe and Mail
Vancouver’s Yaletown Urban Fare is the sort of up-to-the-minute supermarket where, directly inside the doors, you’re greeted by a produce section — a big one, with an emphasis on freshness and organics. On the right, a deli section dominates, with dozens, if not hundreds, of salads and entrées made fresh daily. And on the very back wall, a full 90 paces from the front door, is what might be the quietest place in all of Yaletown—the freezer section.
And here, on a lower shelf, behind the big glass doors, reside eight spots reserved for the entrées produced by a Vancouver-based start-up called Luvo that dares to think frozen food can be healthy and delicious. Only six of the spots are stocked today, which could be regarded as good or bad, much like the prospects of the company itself.
Luvo is a company with a rock-star CEO and a corporate creation myth for the ages, but it is also a very deliberate construct, and Yaletown and its Urban Fare are exactly the kinds of places that it was concocted for. The company says it’s doubling its revenues annually (as a private company, however, it won’t say what those revenues are). Meanwhile, its entrées—offerings such as red wine braised beef with polenta, and orange mango chicken with whole grains, kale and broccoli—are increasingly available in Canadian supermarkets.
The challenge faced by CEO Christine Day — well, one of the challenges — is that grocery shoppers like these make up precisely the demographic that is turning most rapidly away from frozen foods, a category where American unit sales have been dropping by up to 3% annually in recent years. Meanwhile, the company has taken the seemingly counterintuitive approach of targeting its products, not at one of Urban Fare’s ever-fragmenting food tribes, but at a broader public that is beginning to read ingredients lists but is otherwise open to anything that’s tasty and nutritious.