Roots for a healthier diet
Passionate about healthy lifestyles, Kevin’s Natural Foods is dedicated to providing great-tasting meals that support clean eating using one of the hottest diets
The Kevin’s Natural Food journey began when an autoimmune disease quickly took over Kevin McCray’s life in his early 20’s. His terminal illness led to frequent hospitalizations for about five years. “It all revolved around trying to mitigate these flare-ups that I was having and it became quite disruptive to my daily routine,” begins Kevin. That’s when he discovered the Paleo diet. Also known as the Paleolithic diet, the trendy lifestyle diet is structured based on research that encourages eating the types of foods thought to have been consumed by early humans. The diet consists primarily of meat, fish, vegetables and fruit and excludes dairy, grains and processed foods. “Once I started the diet, I didn’t have to go to the hospital anymore, I was able to stop all the medications I was taking, and in general my quality of life improved drastically,” he says.
A decade or so later, Kevin was finding it difficult to balance marriage, parenting and a demanding career while sticking to his diet to avoid those nasty flare-ups. “Eating a certain way was important to me, but I still found it difficult to pull it off. I realized that just eating clean and adopting good eating habits is incredibly difficult for people who don’t have much reason to change their diet,” he says. According to Kevin, this difficulty is not due to a lack of information. We all know that living a healthy lifestyle can reduce your chances of developing chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. The problem is taking time off despite the demands of daily life to ensure a nutritious diet is being followed. That’s why Kevin’s Natural Foods is dedicated to making their customers’ journeys easier.
“From the start we wanted to refine the middle of the record. As we were developing the brand and products, we held focus groups and found that one of the biggest problems customers faced was deciding what to cook and how. Once you know what your main protein is, subsequent additions to the plate will revolve around that. We felt like we had to figure out the main ingredient because it makes the whole dinner,” he says.
Through thorough research, the company then assembled a product menu full of healthy, delicious foods that customers could easily prepare at home. “We explored many different ways to prepare our items and finally found sous vide, a process where the protein is vacuum sealed and heated in water at a very precise temperature. It’s the only cooking method we’ve been able to find that fully cooks the food for the consumer while improving quality.
“This was a major breakthrough for us and fueled the launch of our protein-based entrees, starting with chicken breast. At the same time, we have established the strict trim standards that Kevin’s is known for. Our internal motto became “no based bites”. It was important to us that our appetizers did not contain gristle. Thanks to these processes, the chicken breast essentially served as the perfect canvas for the wonderful sauces we later created.
“Ultimately, we developed a range of dinner kits that consisted of sous vide meat paired with sachets of sauce. At home, the consumer would have the option of pan searing the protein and simmering it in a sauce (deglazing the pan with the sauce) resulting in a nice browning of this wonderfully tender sous vide chicken. That’s how our whole cooking method was born,” shares Kevin.
The company then expanded this sauce menu to include cuisines from around the world; Thai coconut, Korean barbecue, tikka masala, and peppercorns are just examples of the melting pot that Kevin’s Natural Foods has to offer. “We formulated it to exclude refined sugar, soy and dairy, and then we continued to expand that list. We’ve added more sauces, more proteins, and we’ve even been able to introduce veggies,” he shares.
To make the menu possible, the company has invested significantly in a state-of-the-art production facility and onboarded a dedicated team of experts who work closely with customer trends. The combination of these two factors allowed Kevin’s Natural Foods to differentiate itself from other names in the industry. “Right from the start, our goal was to create a broad change in diet. In order to achieve this, we had to deliver our products at a certain value. With this in mind, we decided early on that we needed to produce the food and source the ingredients ourselves, not only for quality and transparency in the supply chain, but also to ensure we were keeping track of every penny of our costs. This would make our products more affordable and accessible for consumers to incorporate healthier choices into their busy lives. So we opened a beautiful spot, a warehouse, out here in Stockton, California, about an hour from San Francisco. We’re surrounded by farmland and have a fantastic workforce who are eager and motivated to drive the company’s success,” Kevin informs us.
We then talk about corporate culture, a topic that is very close to Kevin’s heart. Kevin’s Natural Foods was founded on the mantra “humble and hungry” because no matter how fast the company continues to grow, Kevin wants to make sure the reason it exists in the first place is never forgotten. “We help change lives. We are looking for people who get involved and are there for the right reasons. We try to remain very approachable and are a relatively flat company because we don’t like having levels of management where those who are actually doing the work can’t get to the leadership team for additional support. So either I or our CEO, Dan Costa, is at the factory every day. We also work to get to know our employees and take the time to actively show them our appreciation. For example, we recently celebrated Cinco De Maya and Dan spent all day cooking fajitas for 175 employees.
“That’s why we’ve worked to ensure that the people who are physically involved in the process are recognized and celebrated within our organization. In addition, every shareholder is here, which I think gives everyone an additional incentive to participate in the growth of the company,” he shares.
Our conversation ends with the subject of the future. Looking ahead, Kevin is excited about the opportunities the company will take and he shares that these range from launching the new Paleo-certified pasta to expanding into broader markets. Each new venture will serve as an attempt to improve the overall health of people living in the United States, plate by plate. “We’re about to launch the world’s first paleo-certified pasta appetizers here, which is very exciting. They’re also gluten-free and accompanied by a range of Paleo-certified pasta sauces. This is our first foray into pasta which we find very exciting as it is a complete meal and excellent value for money. Therefore, we are concentrating on expanding our menu.
“In the long term, we want to make a name for ourselves in the area of culinary short cuts; the country’s sous chef, if you will. For anyone trying to improve their lifestyle and the way they prepare their meals, we want to be the brand of choice. I believe to achieve that, we need to keep innovating in our wheelhouse to find creative ways that simplify the planning process for dinner prep. If we just stick with this game plan, I think we will quickly become a resource for the majority of people in the country and hopefully beyond,” he concludes.