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DeliverLean expands its focus to businesses

Firefighters, accountants, lawyers and office workers in South Florida are ordering prepared meals from DeliverLean to get healthier and put time back in their day.

DeliverLean founder Scott Harris once eyed national expansion for his prepared meal company, but now he’s realizing that the best opportunity for his Oakland Park-based company may be right at home.

In four years, DeliverLean has grown to $8.2 million in sales with 160 employees, through mostly home deliveries to consumers. But in recent months, it has turned its attention to the “corporate wellness” market, working with employers that are trying to encourage workers to eat healthy as well as exercise.

Harris said employers like the potential boost in productivity and a healthier workforce, which can reduce their insurance costs. Harried workers like the convenience of lunch being delivered that keeps them on track with their diets.

“The distraction of lunch takes 30 percent to 35 percent of your workday: deciding where to go, the hour you take. You have a huge lunch, and then you’re tired,” he said.

Harris also has found there’s another reason workers order DeliverLean meals at the office: convenience in feeding their families after work.

“We find employees are buying multiple meals, juice and snacks throughout the day and bringing them home to their families. We find busy professionals just don’t have time to cook. [DeliverLean] adds three hours of time back in people’s lives,” he said.

DeliverLean carved out the corporate wellness strategy as it faces increasing competition in the marketplace. But education in the workplace will be the key, Harris said. He is working with Baptist Health to do biometric screenings and provides “lunch and learn” presentations to companies about DeliverLean’s products.

The company’s prime competitor in the consumer market is Fresh Meal Plan of Boca Raton, a $10.8 million business that delivers prepared meals in Florida’s top cities and is expanding into northeastern states. Prepared-meal services also have competition from local restaurant delivery services, such as Delivery Dudes and Cravy, which are expanding in South Florida.

Fresh Meal Plan only dabbles in the corporate wellness business, said co-founder Marc Elkman, saying he sees the market as “hit or miss.”

But Elkman said he believes that as Fresh Meal Plan adds kitchens in new locations nationwide, that will enable the company to attract bigger-ticket corporate wellness business — from large companies and health insurers.

Both local businesses were listed this year in the Inc. 500 “fastest-growing businesses in America.” They offer choices of healthy, Paleo diet, vegan and vegetarian meals through their online sites. DeliverLean’s meals cost from $8.95 to $11.95 apiece, depending on the consumer’s selection. Fresh Meal Plan meals come in packages of $95 to $217 for five days, including two to three meals a day and a snack, depending on the chosen plan. Meals from both companies are generally 450 to 500 calories or less.

Employer or group delivery arrangements often can negotiate a further discount to the consumer price, which saves workers money, participating companies said.

DeliverLean customizes its website, DeliverLean.com, for employers so workers can easily order the food they want prepared for lunch or dinner. The meals are then delivered to the company refrigerator with the employee’s name on it.

Employers currently signed up for the program include the Broward Sheriff’s Office, Broward College, Lennar Homes in Miami, University of Miami Medical School and the Daszkal Bolton accounting firm in Boca Raton.

Chief Todd Leduc at Broward Sheriff Office’s Department of Fire Rescue said some firefighters have been ordering Deliver Lean meals to help them with their efforts to lose weight. Sixty percent of the 750 firefighters are participating in the Sheriff Office’s corporate wellness program, which gives options including Weight Watchers guidance and DeliverLean meals.

The local firefighters, who as a group have lost 2,600 pounds, are recognizing that being overweight leads to hypertension and heart disease, one of the leading causes of death, Leduc said.

“DeliverLean had come out to the stations to educate them how they prepare their meals,” he said. “Many of our folks found [DeliverLean] easy to fit into their lifestyle. When they get off duty, they’re tired. DeliverLean is an easy to way to select nutritional food and have it delivered to the doorstep.”

Miami-based builder Lennar has about 80 employees who are ordering lunch from DeliverLean and plans to soon roll out the program to workers in Broward and Palm Beach counties, said Carl Garraffo, chief human resource officer for Lennar.

“We want to make our associates happy and give them opportunites to have fresh foods and promote wellness,” he said. DeliverLean “is a perfect fit.”

Brenda Bordogna, employee wellness manager for Broward College, said DeliverLean is a time- and money-saver for workers like herself, whose work schedules are in constant flux. She orders DeliverLean to keep herself from making a bad choice, such as high-calorie fast food, when she’s particularly rushed.

She thinks the DeliverLean lunches help her and other employees stay on track with healthier eating.

“We’re surrounded by restaurants. Workers are going to pay double and they’re are not many healthy choices. If you have [DeliverLean] in the fridge ready to go, that puts them back on their goals,” Bordogna said.

Harris said some employers even pick up full or partial cost of the meals for their workers, which can result in a tax savings.

Meals bought by employers for their on-site workers can be fully tax deductible, said Michelle Shulman, senior manager for Daszkal Bolton accounting firm in Boca Raton. But the employer has to have a reason that is not related to the employee’s wages. One example would be that the nature of the business limits the time a worker can take for lunch, she said.

As for eating healthier, consumers should take a look at prepared meals’ caloric content, but that is not enough information for some.

Michael Cheng, director of the food and beverage program for Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality, said he has visited DeliverLean’s kitchen and is impressed with its clean operation.

But prepared food delivery wouldn’t be his choice.

“I’m not a big fan of prepared food coming to me. I’d rather have the ingredients coming to me because I have control over how it’s prepared,” Cheng said.

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