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How often does this happen: It’s past lunchtime when you finally make it back to your desk, but you only have a tiny bit of time before your next meeting/call/event, and there’s tons you need to accomplish before then, and you really don’t want to snack on candy or chips, but you know you have to eat something or you’ll be useless, and…
Yeah. It happened to me last Tuesday. But then I remembered I was lucky.
Chef Jared Cannon, who I knew from his time running kitchens at Honeygrow, Iron Hill, Di Bruno Bros. and Tria, had sent me a couple samples from his new venture, Simply Good Jars.
I ran to the fridge, pulled out a 10-inch-high cylinder full of colorfully layered ingredients, tossed it all around with the dressing on the bottom, and dug in. Ten energizing minutes of crunchy, savory chomping (yes, I eat fast) left me full, happy and satisfied. The rest of the day went great. True story.
If this sounds like a solution you could use and you’re in Center City, you’re also in luck. Simply Good Jars’ website has been live since October. Just log on, choose a single jar or a weekly subscription, and get easy, healthy lunches or breakfast snacks delivered. The concept is similar to other meal delivery services; if you choose multiple lunches per week, they’ll arrive packed together on Monday.
If you’re not in Center City, don’t worry. The next phase of the project will expand the footprint to the Greater Philadelphia region — including the western suburbs, South Jersey, Central Pa., Northern Delaware — via a partnership with the United States Postal Service, which is providing free boxes.
Shipping the fresh meals will be possible thanks to what Cannon refers to as a “trade secret” he developed, “to allow our salads and jars to ship in the mail without any loss of product integrity.”
Lunch options include combos that are vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian and omnivorous. Each is made using organic produce from local farms, plus whole grains and sustainable proteins, all tied together with a custom dressing. Any food allergies can be taken into account if noted when placing an order, Cannon said.
Cost of a single loaded jar ranges from $11 to $13, which is on par with the cost of bowls at Honeygrow, Sweetgreen, Just Salad, etc. — minus the time and effort to go there and pick up your order or the extra cost to have Caviar deliver.
But the real deal comes with the subscription plan: $26 gets you three lunch jars a week, dropping the price to around $8.50 each.
That same amount, $26, can also go toward two lunch jars and two breakfast/snack jars, which are smaller and contain combinations like oats, fruit and Greek yogurt or fresh mango puree and almond chia pudding. (I tried two of those — again as a stop-gap when I was in a rush and trying to avoid getting hangry — and they were both delicious.)
Extra bonus: There’s an environmentally friendly component that’s also socially conscious.
The jars themselves are recyclable, reusable or better yet, returnable. For each container a customer gives back (when their next order arrives), Simply Good donates a freshly made, family-style meal to help feed hungry people in the local community. Working with Philabundance and the Salvation Army at 55th and Market, Cannon said, his company is on track to donate more than 10,000 meals by the second quarter of 2018.
Cannon, now 32, has been working on this concept for the past three and a half years. “It’s changed 15 times along the way,” he said, “at least.”
He didn’t have the time to focus fully on the jars when he held his various full-time executive chef jobs, he explained, but a hiccup in timing — he was laid off at Tria during a company reorganization due to the sale of Tria Fitler Square and subsequent delay in the launch of Tria Wine Garden — turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Now that he’s all in on Simply Good, and has proof of concept (590 jars successfully delivered so far), Cannon is working on a round of venture capital financing.
The plan is to get the jars into various retail venues and also set up vending machines “everywhere healthy food options are craved,” such as hospitals, office buildings, schools and airports. Simply Good is already available at Penn’s Bon Appetit cafe, and will be sold at Replica Creative in West Philly in the new year. The savory options will soon go beyond leafy green-based salads and encompass dishes like Korean noodles and curried chickpea grain jars.
Overall, Canon describes his goal as “making healthy food faster in a fast-paced world.”
Said the chef: “Think of it like the milkman of the modern age.”