We’re celebrating the fifth anniversary of Just Add Cooking all week long! Over the past five years, we’ve been proud to deliver Boston’s only local meal kit and support local farmers, fishermen and artisans by delivering their ingredients to our customers. Today, we’re going back to where it all started with an interview with founder, Jan Leife.
And don’t forget to take a moment to celebrate with us in our social media contest. Simply post to our Facebook page or tag us @addcooking on Twitter or Instagram with #justaddcooking5 to be entered to win a free week of meals. We’ll be picking one winner on Friday, November 3. Leave us a review, photo or tell us why you love Just Add Cooking!
Why did you start JAC?
Back in Stockholm my family used a Swedish “matkasse” for many years and we found the service was fantastic. We saved time, had a healthy and delicious dinner every day of the week, got variety, and improved cooking skills (both me and my sons). When moving to Boston with my wife in 2012 I thought it would be a good idea to start a similar service.
What was the experience like setting up this service in the city of Boston?
It was easy and inexpensive to set up the company in Boston and there was a great enthusiasm from those around me about what I was doing. The entrepreneurial culture is amazing here and everyone thought it was fantastic that I started a company and they wanted to help. As an example, one of my neighbors started to work with me and help me out a lot.
What is special/different about JAC?
We’re the only full-service, local meal kit company in New England. We think of ourselves as a farm-to-home service. There are many benefits of being local when working with food. Fresher ingredients, fewer food miles, less packaging material, and supporting the local community. The fish is fresher than what you get in the store and we use two frozen water bottles instead of 10-15 lbs of gel packs when we package our boxes.
What are you most proud of regarding JAC?
With our “Local Scalable Business Model” we’re building a true sustainable food system for the future. We’ve started a movement that will change the way people eat locally produced food. We’re not just putting lipstick on a pig.
Tell me more about this “Local Scalable Business Model”
This is what is really unique about JAC. We are not just another meal kit company doing the same thing as everyone else, we have a completely different model for doing this kind of service. Because we are local, we cut down significantly on food miles and are conscientious about our packaging materials. Our food is being packed and shipped on the same day within the Boston area, it is not being frozen and traveling across the country. I think that a sustainable business model, an eco-friendly business model, will be necessary in the future and we have already rooted this in the core values of JAC.
Tell us about the evolution of the meal kit industry
It started in Sweden 10 years ago and is still growing there. It has grown from a 0 to a $5 billion industry here in the USA and is expected to reach $36 billion by 2025. Meal kits are expanding all over the globe, and are here to stay, definitely.
What is it like to be an entrepreneur in the city of Boston?
Exciting! Boston has a great culture for entrepreneurs with all accelerators, startup communities, and investors. We have received great support and encouragement from our partners because they believe in our business. An extra treat is that I can bike to every meeting.
Speaking of biking to work, how important is it to you to follow through on the sustainable practices you preach in your business also in your everyday life?
I think it is very important to follow through on the sustainable practices that we preach as a company. Composting and recycling are things that I do every day.
What would you say about the work environment at JAC? How do you create a positive work environment for your team?
I truly believe in teamwork and a flat organization. Information is essential, all employees should know what’s going on in the company and know how they contribute to the overall goals. I want to delegate and not hang over people’s heads. I believe that my staff will do their best to achieve the goals for the best of the company. I am there to be a supportive guide. I think as a leader it’s important to ask your employees: how do you want to solve this problem? I respect their knowledge and I want to hear what they think.
We also implement the Swedish concept “fika” — informal meetings over coffee accompanied by pastries. We enjoy eating together and trying new things. There is frequently test cooking happening and people will often bring in different foods for everyone to try.
What are some of the differences in the work culture in Sweden versus the U.S.?
There are many differences, the single one that is most obvious in day-to-day work is that Swedes will answer you more directly. Americans are excellent at marketing themselves and their ideas but tend to talk excessively while Swedes are really focused when they execute and spend less time selling or talking. This is not a question about ranking because there are different approaches in both places but if a Swede is in a room of Americans and a questions is asked, you can probably expect ten sentences from the American and one from the Swede [laughs].
Do you have a favorite recipe from JAC?
There are many delicious recipes, if I need to pick one it would be really hard, maybe the Irish Smoked Haddock Chowder or the Asparagus Risotto or the Poblano Pork and Dumpling Stew or Seafood Paella or…
What is your favorite thing about utilizing local Boston produce?
I love the fish and seafood we have here in New England. Lobster should be every man’s right ;-)