Carrie explains it all.
What was the inspiration behind starting Just FreshDirect?
We were inspired by our customers, who told us that they were tired of being manipulated by food companies that mislead them with inauthentic marketing tactics. They felt duped. They’d lost trust in food manufacturers. Our customers didn’t want bursts or buzzwords, they just wanted to know where their food was from and what ingredients were used to make it. As passionate food people, we believed we were positioned to help by launching a line of products we could stand behind—made from simple ingredients and often with the name or source right on the packaging.
What was the first ever Just FreshDirect item?
The first Just FreshDirect item we launched was our line of olive oils made by master blender Manfredi Barbera. Fraud in the olive oil industry is a known problem, so it’s critical to buy from a source you can trust to make sure you aren’t getting ripped off. Many olive oils labeled as extra-virgin olive oil are adulterated, mislabeled, or flat-out rancid. As we embarked on our journey to launch a line of authentic products the stakes were high to find a trustworthy partner. Thankfully, we met Manfredi Barbera, a fourth-generation producer in Sicily, who sources hand-harvested olives grown from regions we select and blends them to the ideal flavor profile. We adjust the flavor profile every year depending on the crop.
What’s the fundamental ethos behind Just FreshDirect?
We created Just FreshDirect to better connect our customers with where their food comes from, what ingredients are used, and how it’s made. There is so much complexity in the food industry; our goal with the Just FreshDirect brand is to make it easy for customers to understand what they are buying and who they are buying it from. We believe in being completely transparent —even if it’s unheard of to shout to your competition who we’re partnering with on our labels! We only source food that has no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. We also prohibit a number of other ingredients, like nitrites and nitrates, BHA and BHT, partially hydrogenated oils and high-fructose corn syrup—because we believe in real food. And, we think it’s vitally important to completely trust the partners you work with, which is why we partner with family farms and dairies, sustainable fisheries, and artisans.
What new items can customers look forward to over the next few months?
We have lots of special programs coming down the pipeline. I’m especially excited about our local raw honey program and our pasture-raised eggs, which we are sourcing from two small farms in Pennsylvania. Be on the lookout!
How important is the sourcing aspect of what you do?
Sourcing is fundamental to our brand. We are constantly searching for partners that can provide the quality our customers demand in an ethical and responsible way. In many cases, we go straight to the farmer or artisan that makes the product and work backwards. While most customers don’t think of shelf-stable products, like canned tuna for example, as fresh—they all start from an agricultural product or farm or fishing operation. The key to making better products is to trace your food all the way back to where it’s from.
And what about sustainability?
Sustainability is something we are thinking about more and more. For example, we initially launched a standard bottled water program in 2014. While sales were strong, we just didn’t feel responsible supporting a program that contributed so heavily to plastic waste. So, in 2018, we found a new partner—Ice River Springs —who manufactures plastic water bottles from 100% recycled plastic. These bottles are recyclable, and if our customers recycle their bottles this means there is zero waste! We are always looking at ways to make our existing programs better; we want to feel good about the products we have in the market.
What’s your personal favorite Just product?
This is tough! It’s so hard to pick just one—I feel like I’m picking between my children. If I have to pick just one, I’d probably say our canned tuna program. Canned tuna was a passion project of mine because it’s such a staple in most households, and I knew we could introduce our customers to a better product than what was in the market. So, I started researching, and found a fisherman named Shawn Ryan. Shawn educated me on how he sustainably pole-catches his fish and reels them in by hand. He also taught me about the various types of processing techniques, like filleting the tuna by hand, that have a major impact on product quality. We formed a partnership with him and now every can of tuna is caught by Shawn (or his stepson Thayer) on his boat the San Pablo.
Shop for Just FreshDirect products here.