Chino Hills-based organic food company riding high on consumer trends
Demands for fresh, organic produce and sustainable fish and meat are fueling on-going double-digit growth in the organic food industry. Nutrition Corporation, operating out of Chino Hills, is securing its niche portion in an industry that hit over $43 billion dollars in total organic product sales in 2015, according to the Organic Trade Association (OTA). That was the best year ever and marked four consecutive years of 10 percent annual growth.
Led by 24-year-old CEO Laureen Asseo, Nutrition Corporation has delivered more than one million meals with two flagship brands and private label operations. “Everyone has to eat,” says Laureen. She saw demand for a sustainable business after her father switched to eating organic produce and meals she prepared at age 17 to improve his life-threatening health conditions.
Customers order online and can choose between Fresh n’ Lean for vegans or IONutrition for those who choose a Paleo-type diet. Buyers cover a range of demographics from busy professionals and athletes who use food as fuel to housewives and college students. Their backgrounds are different, but Laureen says there’s a common reason they purchase weekly diet plans and remain loyal for years. “I thought health would be the main reason but the convenience is a driving factor.”
Seamlessly handling the flow of fresh, organic produce and sustainable meat and fish to use in creating 32 to 38 different recipes a week requires careful planning. Farms in California are vetted for proper certifications as are the suppliers of meats like beef and bison. Chicken is range-free and the fish like salmon are caught wild. After it’s caught, the fish is processed, prepared, and sent to the customer within four days.
Nutrition Corporation’s growth has created a nomadic existence for the company. Its Chino Hills location is the fifth facility since Laureen started packaging meals from her Redondo Beach apartment several years ago. The integrity of the meals means value for consumers and the company is benefiting the economic health of the Inland Empire.
There are currently 25 employees with a plan to double that number during the second half of 2016. Laureen says the cities of Chino and Chino Hills along with the San Bernardino County health department have been welcoming and helpful. “They’ve been real business friendly and the county will work with you because they know you’re creating jobs. In LA, if they found something they didn’t like they would try to shut you down.”
The latest equipment used for packaging and processing is Nutrition Corporation’s commitment to growth. “Our meals are packaged fresh and not frozen and that’s never going to change,” says Laureen who has personally handled every job during the company’s existence.
Nutrition Corporation has never raised capital to start or expand operations. As Laureen looks ahead she projects the company will reach $500 million dollars in sales in the coming five years. That may sound ambitious but surveys from the OTA reveal why there’s room for growth as an e-commerce model.
About 78 percent of organic shoppers say they typically buy their organic foods at conventional food stores and supermarkets and over half also shop organic at the “big box” stores. What’s considered “organic” at the large retailers could be questioned as Laureen says corners are often cut to keep up with demand.
It’s normal for Nutrition Corporation to ship up to 25,000 meals in a day. The time may be just right for ordering online meals to take off. Delivery and takeout meals for pizza and companies like GrubHub account for about $70 billion as noted in a 2015 TechCrunch article. However, only $9 billion is being ordered via online and smartphones.
Analysts expect a major shift to occur with online food sales taking off. When it does, Nutrition Corporation will be positioned to face another wave of growth.
Originally published at www.examiner.com on June 1, 2016.