For many, healthy eating is out of budget, overwhelming or too time-consuming, but East Lansing resident Rueben Hewitt is making healthy eating easy and accessible through his local prepared-meal delivery service. His company MenuBubble uses natural, high-quality ingredients to create a range of fully-cooked chilled meals delivered to customers’ doorstep.
Hewitt, MenuBubble’s founder and chief operating officer, spoke about his company’s beginnings.
After moving to Lansing from New York, Hewitt realized he was spending a huge chunk of his time dining out for nearly all of his meals. Despite choosing healthy options, Hewitt wasn’t satisfied with the amount of time ‘wasted’ from leaving work, walking to his car, driving to a restaurant, waiting to be seated, placing an order, checking out, and driving back to work.
“I was wasting a lot of time,” Hewitt, who lives in East Lansing, said. “This was seven years ago before meal prep or meal delivery services were ubiquitous. What I decided to do was pay one of my friends to cook huge quantities of healthy food – a week’s worth of food for me, and every Sunday, I would swing by and collect that from her.”
“After a few years, I realized no one was doing anything about that problem in the greater Lansing area. I decided I would take a stab at actually bringing that convenience to more people besides myself. That really became the genesis of MenuBubble,” he said.
That same lean, clean pre-order food model is now in place, and today, MenuBubble offers several versions of their meal plans, which focus on dietary restrictions.
“Right now, we have two dedicated meal plans,” Hewitt said. “The first one is general health. All of our meals are macro [nutrient]-balanced and on the lean side. The range of the general health menu ranges from 300 calories to the highest of 560 calories. We also have a dedicated weight loss plan as well.”
MenuBubble is focused on dietary restrictions and creating convenient options for people with hypertension and diabetes.
According to Hewitt, this is in contrast to competitors who are focusing on fad diets like paleo, Atkins, keto, and carnivore,
“Right now, we are cultivating those meals on the backend, and once we have enough to put forth our own dedicated menus, that’s what we’re going to be doing,” he said.
The subscription-based meal delivery service offers customers the chance to try their rotating weekly menus at no-risk. Meal plan delivery options range from 5 meals per week to 3 meals a day, for a total of 21 meals per week. “We make it so people have the opportunity to try us, without being locked into anything. If they don’t like it, they can cancel after the week,” Hewitt said.
MenuBubble operates on a pre-order model, so customers have until Wednesday by midnight to choose their meals for the week. Every week, the MenuBubble team builds new menus, and by Thursday morning, they are busy in the kitchen, prepping and preparing the fresh food orders.
“Frederick High is the chef, he is a James Beard-nominated chef,” Hewitt said. “He has experience cooking for celebrities and high profile clients in Indianapolis, which is where he lived before he moved to Lansing. I am a bit of a health nut, and the two of us work together to really make sure the meals we’re putting forth are macro-balanced, nutritious, and keeping up with the latest science.”
Previous menu items feature locally-grown ingredients from farmers’ markets and local grocers, producing dishes like lemon pepper chicken, beef bulgogi, sweet chili taco bowls, marinated tofu with vegan ‘egg’ fried rice, chicken shawarma, and more.
As for the packaging, the labels include ingredients, information on macro nutrients, and instructions for reheating, usually in the microwave. Hewitt knows how important it is to make healthy eating convenient so people are more likely to reach for their MenuBubble entrees over something else.
“That’s how I got here – it was the convenience,” he said. “I had the disposable income, but I did not have the time. If I had to spend half an hour figuring out how to reheat my meal, or to prep it, because there are different models where you still have to cook your food for an hour, I would not be using a service like that.”
Hewitt says MenuBubble also values affordability.
The cost of healthy eating also deters people from adapting a dietary lifestyle change, but Hewitt said the lowest cost per meal is about $9, and according to customer surveys, that’s actually a money-saver for many customers. The start-up is in the process of getting approved to accept food stamps as payment, since accessibility is at the forefront of their company.
“We would like to make healthy eating available to everyone,” Hewitt said. “We have our Pay It Forward/Feed the Hungry program, where if you order your meal, you can donate $1 or $2, or whatever it is, and for every donation you make, we match it. Every time we get $10, we cook extra meals, and go out, and find hungry people who can use a warm and nutritious meal.”
There’s also a “Food Assistance” program, allowing lower-income individuals and those severely impacted by Covid-19 to receive reoccurring discounts on their orders.
MenuBubble has taken a hit during the pandemic.
When the pandemic first hit, MenuBubble staff were curious to see if the change in people’s everyday life and the extra focus on health would positively impact the company. Unfortunately, that has not been the case.
“It seems as though with the pandemic, people are more shifting to comfort foods,” Hewitt said. Other long term customers cut the service, to save money after losing their jobs. Student subscriptions were canceled as students moved off-campus, back to their homes away from East Lansing.
“Initially, we lost 60% of our revenue within 2-3 weeks, and we’ve been steadily climbing back, but we still have not returned to the levels of revenue we had before Covid,” Hewitt said.
“We were hoping it would be a blessing – people wanting to increase their immunity, eat cleaner to make sure they stay healthy,” Hewitt said. “I also thought it was a chance our business would benefit because now more so than ever, people need to be eating right, making sure they have the right micronutrients in all of their meals, and to give them some level of buffer against Covid-19.”
Although their revenue has sharply decreased, MenuBubble does still have some customers who have been dedicated to a healthy lifestyle since the start-up launched in August 2018. Local drivers arrange drop-off times on Sundays, with contactless front porch deliveries. This past week, they were present at East Lansing Downtown Underground Market, as a vendor. They’ve also added a pick-up option at Allen Neighborhood Center in Lansing.
Regardless if you’re needing to lose weight, need a strict diet due to allergies or intolerances, or just looking to have healthy meals ready-to-eat dropped off at your convenience, MenuBubble has something for you.
“We really try to cater to everyone, regardless of their income level,” Hewitt said. “To that end, once we stabilize the new platform we’re moving the service to, we’re working on putting forth content full of healthy eating hacks and tips, so those that can’t even afford our lowest price meal services, still can come to our service, and learn ways in which they can still improve their health through their eating practices.”
To learn more about MenuBubble meal plans, menu items, and delivery options, visit their website or call 517-698-8535.