Since her first farmers’ market, Sarah hasn’t looked back. Having started from scratch, she now runs a successful, growing family business!
Sarah knows first-hand how hard it is to juggle work, a household, extracurricular activities and the time to squeeze in preparing healthy meals.
Real Meals was born out of the importance her family placed on eating real food with real ingredients and making meals from scratch. They know most people don’t have the time or patience to cook from scratch nowadays.
Now, Real Meals delivers healthy frozen meals directly to busy families and individuals so they can enjoy the little free time they have. Their healthy meals are made of a combination of certified organic and natural ingredients, locally sourced when available. Real Meals products are convenient; all you have to do is to thaw, reheat and eat.
Sarah is the founder and owner of Real Meals, one of Metro Vancouver’s top meal delivery services. You may have read about them in the Globe and Mail or a number other media outlets including this piece in Vancouver’s Daily Hive. She has a great entrepreneurial story and is a successful and enthusiastic farmers’ market vendor. With an eye on bringing informed readers answers and being helpful to other vendors, I called her with a few questions.
Farmers’ Markets, a Key Component of Their Marketing Success
BRAG ALERT! Sarah had some genuinely positive things to say about our markets and farmers’ markets in general. Hopefully this doesn’t come across as overly aggrandizing but rather as insightful and helpful to readers, especially those in the throws of starting their own business.
In 2014 when she was starting her business, Sarah booked Real Meal’s first farmers’ market stall. She didn’t know what to expect, what she needed, or what she didn’t need, for that matter. As she put it “I had plenty of questions, and I felt the people at the market really guided me along. It was amazing. Ron (Burnaby Market Manager) was incredibly helpful!”
Since then, Real Meals has grown, and they are planning their next steps which all fall in line with their business plan.
Tips for People Going into the Food Business
I asked Sarah what tips she has for people wanting to start food businesses. She believes “it’s important for them to do their research and know the competition, price points, distribution, and costs. Food is tough. Even gas prices make a difference for Real Meals”.
To a degree, Sarah said, they know their market because they ‘are’ their market, since their products are geared to busy families who may not even have the time to do laundry. If their kids like it, it usually hits their menu.
She advises vendors to be open to suggestions and asking for help. “Really get involved with other vendors, cross-market and use social media to get involved with the community. Really dive in!”
Sarah also says to be true to your product. True to form.
Their marketing strategy revolves around two focal points; Farmers’ Markets and Online Sales and Marketing.
Besides the Burnaby Market, you’ll also find them at the Lander and Mount Pleasant Markets. They are currently expanding their services south of the Fraser River so they will be taking part in markets there, including the Ladner Village Market.
At Farmers’ Markets, people can sample Real Meals. Sarah says consumers tend to buy what they like and it’s a great place to get feedback about the products.
They offer several vegan meals, and many of their products are gluten-free. For example, only one out of their six soup varieties contain gluten.
Online Sales Helps Evaluate, Sell Products and Attract Media Attention
They also get a lot of their orders online for delivery to people returning home from the hospital, people dealing with a family loss or with new babies. These are often ordered by people from out of province.
Sarah says a nice thing about selling online is it gives you a platform to put thoughts out there and evaluate the response, try a new photo, or introduce products. The website reports what items are being looked at and how many of those looks are turning into purchases of the product.
When she’s not preparing food, Sarah spends a significant amount of time on planning and working on her website. Like much of the meals they make, their online success is organic. She doesn’t spend money on search engine optimization or paid advertising, but she actively promotes her website at Farmers’ Markets and keenly keeps an eye on her website statistics to know what’s going on, what’s working and what’s not.
Sarah named several media outlets that have published pieces on Real Meals and, to her surprise, only two have ever contacted her. The rest she learned of when she noticed spiked increases in the Real Meals’ website traffic. When she followed the traffic patterns, she found the visitors originated from articles that national and local media had published.
Meal Delivery Business Trending
The business of meal delivery is a hot trend these days. You may have noticed Save-On-Foods offering online ordering, pickup, and delivery, and on TV you may have seen a number of online food delivery services such as SkipTheDishes.com that allow you to order food delivery from a list of local restaurants using a single mobile phone app. It seems media outlets looking into the trend have come across her website and found the website’s written content valuable enough to reference in their stories.
Building Community & Staying True to Their Vision
For Sarah and her family, it’s all about building community and staying true to their vision of operating their business from their own location with plenty of freezer space and where they hope to also have a coffee shop. She says working toward your goal doesn’t mean you’re going to get there, but you need to strive and at least you’ll hit the middle ground in between.
They are currently rolling out their seasonal menu now, which included a new beef barley soup. Sounds like a winner to me!
Stay tuned to their website at EatRealMeals.com to learn more about their menu and keep up to date on their evolving success story.