Andy Levitt: “Make Meaning: Lessons from a Mission-Driven E-Commerce Disruptor” | Talks at Google

Andy Levitt: “Make Meaning: Lessons from a Mission-Driven E-Commerce Disruptor” | Talks at Google


[MUSIC PLAYING] ANDY LEVITT: Thank you. Thank you so much. Appreciate the
introduction, and real happy to be here with you all today. So it’s a privilege to come
out and speak at Google and share my story,
and I look forward to giving you an overview of
what motivates me to start this company, and how I try to
make a difference in all that I do here through this
company, Purple Carrot, and I look forward
to our discussion. So I thought I’d start off today
with an image of our four kids. It’s not necessarily to ask
you to ooh and ah at how cute they are, though I do
think they’re pretty cute. I’m a little biased,
as their father. But these guys
really give me a ton of motivation and inspiration
to succeed and make a difference in the world. And I think about the
world that they’re going to inherit, and
quite frankly, the world that each of us is going to be
inheriting in the years ahead, and it’s pretty scary
to think about what’s happening right now. I see myself as an optimist. I’m usually a
half-full kind of guy. But when you look out, and
you read the news stories, and you see some
of the data, it’s enough to give you pause about
what our future looks like. And there are some
people that might say it’s even too late to make
some meaningful changes that could alter the trajectory of
the way our planet is headed, but I’d like to believe that
if we start acting together in a meaningful
and deliberate way, there’s a good chance
that we can change the course of our future. I want to think about creating
a great world for these kids to grow up in, and
so this is my story. So I’m borrowing an image that
I was reminded by from Leonardo DiCaprio when he was serving
as the host of a new film that came out a few months ago
called “Before the Flood.” I’m not sure if any
of you have seen that, but this picture really
resonated with me. I was an art history major
in college many years ago, and this is an image called
“The Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymus Bosch. It was made about 600
years ago, and it’s never been more timely to
take a look at this. So it’s a very large triptych. If we take a look at the first,
leftmost part of the painting, you see it’s a really
nice, idyllic setting. There’s plenty of light. There’s not many people. It’s not overcrowded. People seem pretty happy. It’s relaxed. It’s open. It feels pretty nice. As we shift into the middle
panel of the triptych, you start to see
things changing a bit. There’s a lot of overcrowding. There’s a ton of people. There’s some partying. There’s sex. There’s drinking. People are having a
great time, and it starts to take a shift
from the earlier stages that we saw in that
image Into something that starts to get a little
bit more like overcrowding and the situation that we
might be living in today. And then at the end, as we
head to the far right part of the image, you see it’s
really decidedly very dark. There’s death, there’s
destruction, there’s fires, there’s a lot of concerning
elements to this image. I think I can see
an image of Donald Trump in the bottom
right corner there. And it’s just a scary
view of what might be happening in our future. And for a guy that painted
this more than 600 years ago, it’s worth taking note to think
about what this could mean for all of us in our future. So as you may have
heard in the opening, I spent a lot of my life in
the pharmaceutical industry, about 20 years, promoting the
value of Western medicine. And I still strongly
believe in the value. That the drugs that are
created in this country are great and can be life
changing and life saving. But with all those medicines
that are available to us today and all the awareness that
is happening in our country, there’s still some
pretty scary statistics that are worth pointing out. For starters, 70% of us
are overweight or obese. And that’s just a
shocking stat to see the way people are
consuming food, and the way they exercise
or don’t exercise to be in that type of situation. One in three of us are going
to die of heart disease, and that actually makes heart
disease America’s number one killer. And largely driven by the
food choices that we make. And on top of
that, 50% of us are going to be diabetic or
pre-diabetic by 2030. And these are three
health conditions that are all chronic
in nature and that all can be reduced or
reversed by incorporating a plant-based diet. But I think if we
continue to eat the sugary, yummy
donuts and fried chicken and other things that are
bringing a lot of health issues upon us, things are
not going to change. Environmentally,
it’s not much better. When you look out, and you
think about 50% of our land is currently allocated
to animal agriculture. And to me, that just feels like
an incredibly inefficient use of our land. And it’s our choice
to continue to raise cattle that is only
raised for slaughter, largely raised for
slaughter, to feed our massive consumption
of meat and of dairy and these oversized,
supersized type of appetites that people have developed. Now, if you’re a
farmer, and you are fortunate to have an acre
of land to work with, and you decided,
well, what should I do with that acre of land? And you said, heck, I’m
going to raise cattle. Well, you can think
about how a farmer’s going to think
about that product, and how they could use that
animal to make a profit and sell food into
the marketplace, and the way they could
use that product. And if you’re efficient with
that cattle usage the way you raise that
cattle, you probably can get about 375 pounds
of beef that you’re able to sell in the marketplace. If you think about
that same acre of land, you can get 37,500 pounds
of plant-based food from the same space. So if you stop and think about
the amount of hunger that is pervasive across this
world and the growth of our population to be north
of 9 billion people in 2050, we ought to think about how we
can change the way we consume food, how we produce food, and
the food choices that we make that could be redeploying
some of our land and our precious resources to
feed those who are so hungry and so in need. From a water
consumption perspective, the meat and dairy
industry is associated with the use of about
one third of all the fresh water on our planet. If you just stop and think
about how much water is required to raise cattle,
to continue to move that process through
the system, it’s taking up a tremendous amount
of a very limited resource. And coming out
here to California, I think about that even
more, as this state rather has experienced a tremendous
drought over the last five years. Things seem to be getting
a little bit better, but not a whole lot. And it’s a concerning
statement to think about how water is being
allocated when it could be used in a far different way. Building on that, the headline
from January of this year was that the earth hit
a temperature record for the third year in a row. And it talks about
how we’re going into this incredible
change in our environment that is considered
to be unsustainable by most scientists,
though some will tell you that it’s fake news. I would beg to disagree. Arctic sea ice hit a record low
in the North Pole just a couple of months ago. And that’s certainly
clearly driven off of the global warming issues. And just last week, there was a
massive iceberg that broke off of the coast of Antarctica. And it’s just more bad
news after more bad news. So again, I’m not trying to
paint such a miserable picture of the world and
what’s happening, but it really points to
some issues that we have. And a lot of those
problems, with respect to the environment, come
off of this incredible use of greenhouse gases, or the
emission of greenhouse gases, and about 18% of
that is associated with agricultural farming. And so that type of practice is
only causing greater problems in our environment,
and that trumps all of the
transportation emissions that people seem to associate
with global warming. But animal agriculture is the
number one culprit of that. So when you think
about all that data that I just shared with
you, it’s probably not hard to look back at this image
again of the “Garden of Earthly Delights” and think about this
image, there, on the far right, is not too far off from
where we could be headed if we don’t make some changes. And it is really for
that reason that I decided to start my own
company three years ago, called The Purple Carrot. The Purple Carrot
is the only 100% plant-based meal
kit on the market, and we provide all of the
raw, pre-measured ingredients that people need to cook
three meals every week that are exclusively plant-based. Our whole mission
is that we want to get people to eat
more plants, largely for the reasons
that I described. And we think that there’s
a bright future in that, and that we need to
help more and more people start to think
about eating more plants as a common way of life. It’s a little bit
of a weird statement to think about eating plants. I’ve never loved the
term plant-based, because I feel like most of us
don’t go out there and think about, god, I can’t wait
to have some plants today. It’s not really a crave worthy
way of thinking about it. But there’s a lot to that
that we can try to uncover. It’s awesome that here
at Google, Eric Schmidt made some predictions
and comments about some of the most important
tech trends that are out there. And the first one
that he commented on was Nerds Over Cattle, which
is the idea of using technology to drive the greater use of
plant-based foods and meat alternatives. And it’s great that he was
so far ahead of the curve to be recommending
that as a material way we can improve the environment. I just saw yesterday this
article in “Fast Company” about your quest to
develop a plant-based power dish more popular than meat. So I’m not sure if you were
even aware of this as employees, that there’s been some
adjustments in the amount of meat content in the burgers,
and it’s moving into some more mushrooms without
calling that out, to see if people still
enjoy it as much. So no matter the way
you’re approaching getting to a plant-based world,
certainly here at Google, it’s nice to see that
being so well embraced. So it’s a big misconception
that Purple Carrot is just for vegans. When I started the company
almost three years ago, I always said this was
vegan food for non-vegans. And I’m really thrilled to see
that, as our data represents, 82% of our customer
base are omnivorous. And we have welcome
surveys when people sign up to subscribe to our
service, and they tell us what their dietary choices
and preferences are. And so the fact that
four out of five of them continue to eat a
full, omnivorous diet is very encouraging,
because I think that’s where the market is. That’s where the opportunities
to change people’s habits exist. And we’re excited
to be doing our part to help move them along. We’ve created a
word to characterize who our customers are. Someone who is what we
call a balanceatarian. And this is a word we coined
back in November of last year. And the idea is
that it’s someone who still can embrace
a plant-based diet, but doesn’t totally divorce
themselves from eating meat, some dairy, and some eggs. I think it’s fair to
recognize that it’s really hard to be a vegan. I’m not a vegan. I eat a lot of
plant-based foods, but the draw for dairy
and some animal protein is pretty pronounced and sort
of deep-seated in our evolution as human beings. And for those who are vegan and
who stick with a vegan diet, I think it’s largely driven
from ethical beliefs, and I really admire people
who have the ability to let that limit
their food choices. But for the majority
of people out there, it’s really hard to stick with
a diet of any type, really, and vegan is extremely
limited in choices. There’s certainly a lot more
today than there ever has been. But our goal is to
try to move people along a continuum that
almost looks at us as sort of a gateway drug of sorts. That the more you start craving
and enjoying plant-based meals, the less and less you
are going to start to want to eat animal protein. The less you’ll want to have
dairy, and the more mindful you’ll be about the food choices
that you continue to make. So you can proudly say
you are a balanceatarian. So the trends are
certainly with us. This is a pretty cool
chart, worth sharing. It was an image I captured
from Google Trends, and all the bright
people in this company have this novel tool that allows
guys like me to log in and type in the word plant-based, and see
the trends over the last five years. And it’s pretty amazing
to look over here and see this type of spike in the last
few months around plant-based. So it gives us a lot
of hope and confidence that we’re making a difference
and getting on people’s radar screen, as the
general consciousness is increasing about the
importance and value of plant-based eating. So I thought it
might be worth just taking a moment or two talking
a bit more about that category. I’m not sure, by
a show of hands, how many people have
or use a meal kit? So you get the idea. It was started by Matt, who
launched Blue Apron back in 2012. And Nick from Plated was at
Harvard with him as well, and the two of those guys
started similar companies, Blue Apron and Plated,
right around the same time. And Blue Apron has
really run away with the dominant brand
in the meal kit category. Hello Fresh came
over from Europe, which is where the
whole concept started. And those three companies
began the process about five years ago. And it’s amazing to think
that this industry is only five years old. The idea is that consumers can
subscribe to these services, and they are shipped all of the
raw, pre-measured ingredients in little baggies or bottles
and containers that really should make it a lot
easier for people to cook at home every week. My wife and I would always
talk, and in the morning, be sitting there
having breakfast. And she might turn
to me and say, honey, what are we having
for dinner tonight? And even though I started
this company three years ago, I still get that question a lot. But it’s made a
little bit simpler thinking about maybe
the choices are, well, which Purple Carrot
meals do we have in our refrigerator this week. So the idea is that it’s
really intended to make it easier for people to cook. They all come with these
colorful recipe cards that explain step by
step instructions, with the before and
after shots of what you’re looking to create. It provides a curator
experience of meals that all tend to go together
in that particular week. They can align specific
to dietary needs or dietary preferences
that you might have. And it’s a lot of fun. It’s a nice way to
learn how to cook, and I think there’s a lot of
millennials who are also not as informed about how to cook
as some of the older generations and look for guidance,
and meal kits do a great job of
providing that training in tutorial experience. So from a business
perspective though, it’s really become a
very dynamic category. What you see here on
the screen are a couple of images about the
different meal kit delivery companies in the food
tech space and the growth, largely driven off of
this part of the country, or in Silicon Valley. The massive influx
of cash and capital into the food tech space. Food was sort of considered the
new tech from a few years ago, and a lot of money
has rushed in. A lot of it has been focused
around the immediate delivery. And I think that
those of you here can attest to the commonality
of on-demand, everything being here in 10 or 15 minutes, and
just that incredible mindset that is really dominant here in
this part of the country, that may be less pronounced in
other places that are certainly far less concentrated
with a population. And a lot of hope has been
placed on these rapid delivery options companies. But a lot of them are starting
to fail or have been failing, if they’re not
closed down already, on these VC dreams of where
and how fast there can be disruption in the marketplace. The category around food tech
has just exploded though, and you can see from this image
the incredible amount of logos and brands and players that are
all trying to pursue and make a bit of a difference
and find their spot with their own offering
somewhere around the way people consume food. As a frame of reference,
the grocery business is about an $800
billion dollar category. The meal kit category is far
smaller, at about $5 billion, with a lot of room
for growth, certainly. But the way people consume
food and how frequently they do it is a big reason for
a lot of these companies coming into play to try to
disrupt the space. From a meal kit perspective,
I’m really honored to see our name in a pretty
short list of companies that are considered
leaders in the category. What I show you here are what
I would consider the leaders. I probably would add Sunbasket,
maybe, at this point. Maybe instead of Peach Dish. But there’s a relatively
small grouping now of companies who I think
have found their niche, who are doing well, who are growing. And where I would
look at this is that Purple Carrot stands
out as the only one that offers 100% plant-based meals. The rest of them
really are focusing on pretty much the
same type of offering. That’s not to disparage those
offerings, they’re all great. But I think that it
leads to so much more competition for the same type of
consumer, who the companies are looking to acquire
as subscribers, and offering a pretty identical
offering from any of these. And given the substantial
venture capital investment that these companies
have received, they’re able to use
those dollars to offer free trials and first box
free, or 50% off these orders. And it creates a pretty
promiscuous user base, where you can game the system. You can try any one of these
companies, including ours, and shift each different
week and get discounts. Ours, we don’t discounters
much, kind of for that reason. We don’t want to play that game. But there’s a big, big
shift of the way people are thinking about how
they consume meals, and the category is growing. I think it’s a pretty
exciting space to be in, and it’s an honor to
be in this short list. Now, there is a new player in
the category that just came out a couple of weeks ago. You might have heard of this
company, they’re called Amazon. It’s a little bit scary
when, being in this space, you see a name like that
announcing that they’re entering the category. Jeff Bezos and team are a
pretty dominant force in what they want to do and disrupt. You’ve got to give them a
lot of respect and belief that they can do
whatever they really want to do, given
their infrastructure, their knowledge, their financial
capabilities, supply chain control, reach, consumer
engagement, the list goes on. So seeing that, it was
both like, oh no, great. And then, great, oh no. You know, that was sort of
happening in the same moment when I saw that news. But they’re now into the mix
with meal kits of their own. So we’ll see. I think they’re still
pretty much in a beta phase, offering it to a limited number
of people in the Seattle area through Amazon Fresh. But it probably won’t be long
before they become slightly more involved in this category. They even filed a
trademark to do meal kits. And that has been
a bit of a pain point for Blue Apron, which went
public just at the end of June, right around the same
time this is happening. So it’s pretty
current information that I’m sharing here. And it does make me wonder if
Matt Salzberg did something to piss off Jeff
Bezos, because it’s shocking to see the timing, and
I feel a little bad for him. But when they launched
their IPO at $10 a share, just at the end of June, it’s
now trading around $6.75 or so. And it’s really been
under pressure, largely from Amazon’s decision to
move into the meal kit space. They’ve really been
battered down by the news that Amazon is doing that. They’re also, of
course, further hurt by the fact that
Amazon’s also announced that they are buying Whole Foods
Market for almost $14 billion. And the timing of
those two announcements came right after the other. One before the other, actually. And that’s been a big
problem for Blue Apron, as Amazon sits out there as a
big competitor in the space. It certainly is a
competitor to me at Purple Carrot
and our business. So interesting times. I thought it was worth
sharing this image that I found that was
incredible to see. And as much as you see
how they negatively impacted Blue Apron in their
recent IPO and their stock price, how as soon
as Amazon announced the acquisition of Whole Foods,
what it did to the grocery category, to see Walmart,
Kroger, Target, and Costco get totally pummeled. The only one that
went up, of course, was Whole Foods, through
that acquisition. I believe that also
Amazon announced they’re moving into replacing a
Geek Squad that Best Buy offers traditionally. And Best Buy had this similar
type of negative impact. So Amazon’s a really substantial
player in the category. And probably other than Google,
as a sort of dominant player out there, you have to
give them a lot of respect for what they can do. So it sort of feels like
this is the moment where I’m that little guy in
the diaper, practically, and facing up against this
really strong competitor, to think, how in God’s name am
I going to be able to compete with these huge players? And it has really
been a challenge, I think, since I
launched the company, where I wasn’t a food guy. I was not a VC. I’d come from a 20 year history
in the pharmaceutical world, and I think people
thought, you’re launching a vegan product? There’s a very small
percentage of vegans out there. Depending on which
study you believe, it’s anywhere from 2%
to 6% of the population. And people said, Andy, why
doesn’t Blue Apron just go do their own vegan line? And it was really
hard to get out there. So I’m proud of the
fact that here we are, almost three
years later, a part of the national
conversation on meal kits. But it’s only going to get
harder and more competitive. And so I’ll spend
the last couple of minutes talking
about what I see as part of our ways to succeed. So the guy on the screen here. You may know him. His name is Guy Kawasaki. Guy is an incredible thinker. He’s now a venture capitalist. He was most well known, I think,
for being the first evangelist at Apple Computers. And now, probably
30 plus years ago, guy was out there
evangelizing Apple to schools to get Apple
Computer to be known. And it was a very little
known company back then, and Guy was this very
innovative thinker. And he has evolved
into the world of VC. And he wrote a book
called “Art of the Start.” And I read that book back in
the end of 2006, actually. And it’s always stayed with
me, and some great things. So if anyone’s in here
thinking about starting their own company,
I’d highly recommend you take a look at this
book, “Art of the Start.” And the first thing
that Guy talks about in there is this idea,
that he says, make meaning. It’s different from make money. And while he is a
venture capitalist and thinks about that, he’s
probably made a ton of money in his life. And as much as I want
to make money in mine, the idea about
focusing your decisions and deciding how you want to
go about building a company is having it grounded with
the underpinning about make meaning. And that’s been really
pronounced in the way I’ve thought about
building up Purple Carrot. About providing something
that’s plant-based, that has all the benefits
that we talked about up front. That creates a
meaningful opportunity to establish ourselves
and do something that is inherently
different from a lot of the other competitors
in the category. So I really love– this
artist’s name is Hugh MacLeod, and he created something
called Gaping Void. So if you’re not familiar
with Hugh or his work, I’d encourage you to
check out gapingvoid.com. And you can sign up and get
this daily feed of his doodles. And this one I saw
several years ago, and it also stayed
with me a lot, which is this idea of living
on the edges or not at all. And seeing that, it just
felt like the whole idea was to stand out and be
different and be distinguished. And it’s scary,
and it’s exciting, but that’s how
you’ll get noticed. And I followed up on
that image recently to see a bit more about
what he wrote about. I thought I’d read this to you. He says, “just as sheep
move to the center of the flock for purely survival
reasons, so do human beings. That’s why we wear khakis
and join tennis clubs. But some of us move to the
edges for the exact same reason; survival. If we stay in the
middle, we’re just going to get creamed
like everybody else once the market moves on.” And I think Google is probably
the most innovative, edgy company out there, so I
would imagine this resonates. But I thought that was
pretty cool to see that. And again, going to that
edge of providing vegan food for non-vegans was the edge. People said, why don’t you
just offer a vegetarian option, which to me would be far more
mainstream and simplistic. But all the other big guys
have vegetarian options, none of them offer vegan. And so that was the
approach to go to the edge. So another guy who I love is a
guy by the name of Seth Godin. And he’s photographed
here for you. And Seth has been one of the
most pronounced influences in my whole life. And I think he’s
a genius of a guy. He’s written a ton of books. If you don’t know Seth,
I really encourage you to check out sethgodin.com
and sign up for his blog. You click on his bald head, and
you can get his blog every day. And every day for years, he
writes an incredible blog that you’ll get in
your inbox for free. And he’s just a
brilliant writer. He’s written a lot of books,
and he does wonderful work. So I can’t say enough
great things about him. But one of the books
that he’s written, of the 18 or 20 books
or so out there, is a book called “Purple Cow.” And “Purple Cow” is all
about being remarkable. It’s transform your
business by being remarkable is the subtext. And the storyline
with “Purple Cow” is that if you’re driving out– he was driving with
his family in France, I believe– and he was going
along, past this pasture. And there’s cows, and they stop. And at first they
think, no, that’s cool. There’s these cows. And then in a minute,
it’s not that interesting when there’s just
all these cows. And he said, imagine if
you saw a purple cow. You would stop the car. You’d get out. You’d take pictures. You’d tell all your friends. And it was this idea of creating
a purple cow or something that is remarkable that
forces you, almost, given its remarkable nature,
to tell people about it and speak to others
and spread the word. So when I think
about purple cow, that was sort of the genesis of
the name of my company, Purple Carrot. I remember thinking about
starting this company and walking down Park
Avenue South in New York City one night, and it
just kind of hit me. And I said, OK. That’s the name of my
vegan company, Purple Cow– Purple Carrot, rather. [CHUCKLING] Still slip. And so it’s been great. And it’s really about
being different. So I thought about,
well, how could we be remarkable in our space? What can we do to stand out? What you see on
the screen here is an image of me talking
about one of our meals. And this dish here
is Okonomiyaki, which most people probably don’t
even know how to pronounce. It took me a little while to
get that right for the video. But the idea is that
it came from a moment that my wife and I had
a few months earlier, where the last meal we
had at home that week was called Tofu Halloumi. And it was one of our
meals from Purple Carrot. And I didn’t know
what Halloumi was, and I wasn’t that
excited about what that seemed like it was going to be. And we ended up
making it, and it was one of my favorite
Purple Carrot meals I’ve had in three years. And I thought,
god, people really need to understand
what our meals are. Because we do have some
unique and not common names to our products or
to our recipes each week, and it’s part of the adventure
of trying plant-based meals. Okonomiyaki is no different as
far as not a commonplace name. And so I felt like if I can get
out there and talk about one of the three meals every
week through video, post that to social as well as share that
over email to our database, there might be another
reason for someone who has all those choices from
the number of companies that I shared with you. That instead of looking
at something and saying, I’ve never heard
of that, I’m not going to take the
risk of spending money on a product that’s going to
make me look foolish at home, but hearing from me– or someone at my company. I was the one that they
nominated to do it. So I said OK. Unfortunately,
these have converted at about six times the rate
of our typical e-mails. So it’s been really cool to
see video and the connectivity we are building with
our customer base to create a real, emotional
connection with them, so that they feel
connected to our product. And they feel a reason
to stick with us and continue to
subscribe and not maybe choose other options that
they have on the marketplace. Something else that feels very
probably Google-esque that maybe has already
been developed here is something that we are looking
about releasing in a Purple Carrot app that will
soon to be developed that will allow people
to track their impact and to create a game-ification
system of sorts. That as you use
Purple Carrot, you can track and see how
much water you’ve saved, how much carbon
emissions you’ve reduced through your choice
of meals, and create a competitive
game-ified experience from you and your friends. This idea of a network
effect that your product has. How can you make your
product better when your friends are using it also? Right? So the famous example
is the first guy who bought a fax machine. I don’t know what
he was thinking, to think who he was going
to send a fax to if nobody else had the machine. But how can you
make Purple Carrot better, or more interesting,
more sticky to our customer base, so that if you can create
this game-ified approach, make you feel like you’re
a part of something larger than yourself
by tracking your impact and seeing how this month,
by eating these meals, as compared to more traditional
meals that would be similar, you’ve saved thousands and
thousands of gallons of water. It’s like leaving your
shower on for three months. Instead, you’ve
eaten these meals. And so ways to do that. We’re excited about what
that will look like for us. We’ve also partnered with a guy
that some of you may have seen. His name is Tom Brady. We partnered with Tom
and his colleagues at TB12 back in
March of this year, so we’re about four or five
months into that partnership. It’s a three-year engagement
that we have with him. And Tom is about an
80% plant-based eater, and he represents, to
me, the absolute pinnacle of success for a human being, to
achieve all that he’s achieved. He turns 40 next week, and he’s
playing at the top of his game. And he assigns a lot
of value to the foods that he eats as a key component
to his long-term success. So TB12 is all about sleep
and muscle pliability and nutrition and mental
energy and hydration. And so as five of those key
components exist for them, Purple Carrot fit
in really nicely. And when we went out and spoke
with those guys last fall, we talked to them about Purple
Carrot and the potential to create a
long-term partnership and develop the TB12
performance meals. And so we were really
thrilled with that Tom is a partner with us and has
allowed us to create a new line extension from Purple Carrot. So we have our core meals
that feed two people. We have a family plan. And then now we offer these
TB12 performance meals, which are gluten-free as well as
plant-based and slightly higher in protein. And so it’s another way to
differentiate and distinguish ourselves. And through our
partnership, we’ve tried to take that
a level deeper by offering exclusive
content that takes us beyond a meal kit. But now you’re really a
part of the TB12 line. A lot of people have signed up
because they love Tom Brady. I’m one of them. But there’s also a
whole desire for health. And so what created through
these TB12 newsletters is exclusive content
that you can only get by being a subscriber. And so every other month, we
put out these newsletters. They’re eight pages. They are all designed in-house. This is an example of
one of the spreads that shows various summer
produce, different sauces that Tom might enjoy, and things
that are consistent with that. We’ve featured “24
hours with Tom.” We’ve got “Questions with Tom.” We’ve got
behind-the-scenes content that you’re just not going
to get anywhere else. And again, that’s
an exclusive piece of the way we can
merchandise and make the most of this partnership. We also have the
nice opportunity to send our subscribers
a letter from Tom. You see that in
the far left side, with a little bit of
a creepy guy who’s there holding the image of Tom. And then on the
right, it’s actually a real autographed binder. Tom signed 12 of these. Everything he does
is in the 12 number, as you can imagine,
with the number 12. And so what we did is when
you order our product, after your 12th
box has arrived– after three months–
you’ll get a wooden binder that’s got this TB12 etching in
it with the performance meals, and it’s a three-ring
binder where you can retain and organize
the recipe cards that we ship, that are also
three-hole punched. And so 12 lucky people received
an autographed Tom Brady binder. And people post it on social. And it just allows
us to do things that really no other
meal kit can do. So we feel pretty good about
where we’re headed there. And it comes down to this image. When I think about the sea of
choices and what’s out there, how can we stand out, and how
can we take all these choices and say, I’m the guy that
they’re going to pick. And so that’s what drives
me to try to do that. I’ll leave you with this last
image from Hugh that I love, and it just really spoke to me. And a lot of the
words that he shared when he posted this image
about you try so hard, and you’re scared. You wake up in the
middle of the night. You’ve got a pain in
your side, and you just do it because you love it,
and you believe in the future. And so this idea of I love
this, and it’s terrifying. And I can tell you,
it is terrifying. It’s a thrill. It’s an honor to do what I do. And I’m just looking
to make a difference, and hopefully we’re succeeding. So thank you so
much for listening. You can get in touch with me
with that information there. And I’m happy to take
any questions from anyone here or remotely. Thank you so much. AUDIENCE: I was curious
about big food lobbying. And I’m sure– I mean, obviously lobbyists
have a big influence on policies that
encourage meat consumption and how much meat we sell
in our grocery stores and advertisements for
cool steaks on the grill and all of that stuff. So do you– is there
a way to combat that? Because I would like to see
more companies like this advertised, and senators
fighting for plant-based meals in public schools. Stuff like that. Are there any things we could
do to scale this quickly, or? ANDY LEVITT: Thank you. I love the support. We just watched a documentary
about two weeks ago called “What the Health.” I’m not sure if
you’ve seen it yet, but it’s really
worth checking out. It really highlights
the inherent conflict that exists between big
food and our government and the presentation of
meals and the recommendations that are made. And also with health
advocacy groups within the pharmaceutical world. It was really concerning to see
this misalignment of incentives where the American Diabetes
Association or the American Heart Association, which one
would think as a consumer, you could rely upon
for good guidance, and then you start to
see the amount of money and the funding that comes
in from big industry. So whether that’s the
pharmaceutical companies or the large food manufacturers,
candy companies, meat companies, dairy
companies, the works. They’re all part of that. And their goal is to
further perpetuate the consumption of the
foods and the products that they create and
provide, and there’s that inherent misalignment. So I think it’s a big task
to fight big government. I think documentaries
like “What the Health” do a really nice job of
shining that bright light. And I think it’s– there’s a bumper sticker that
says, when the people lead, the leaders will follow. Something like that. It’s that idea that I think we
have to start acting together. It talks about what I said
at the beginning of this. Our world is on pretty
precarious ground. And I think as more people
start to make those changes, it doesn’t seem weird anymore to
think about eating plant-based. And I’m amazed out
here in California how much choice there is
and how aware that is. And it’s not
everywhere like that. And so I think the more it
becomes more mainstream, the more you see the growth
of plant-based searches, the more leaders get involved.
and I think the more change that comes through a younger
generation of millennials who are the very large cohort,
who also are the ones that are most interested
in transparency, in meat and dairy replacements. That that’s going to
start shifting policies that will enable more of
us to succeed through this. So. AUDIENCE: Thank you. ANDY LEVITT: Yeah, thank you. AUDIENCE: Thank you so much. So my question is about
how you source recipes. I have been preparing
plant-based meals probably for about a year and a half, and
I’ve done several Purple Carrot recipes, and I find that
they are very unique compared to a lot of the things that
you find on the internet, in terms of the ways
that you can create really interesting things. For example, there was a recipe
where you made scallops out of mushrooms, which was really
awesome and tasted great. So I’m just wondering where
are these ideas come from, and who’s working on
the recipes themselves. ANDY LEVITT: Sure. So by and large, all the recipes
that we make at Purple Carrot come from our own
chefs we have on staff. So back in– we’re based
in the Boston area. We’ve got about 30 employees
on staff full-time. Two of those are
chefs, and we’ve got a couple other sous
chefs and assistants to help order products for
them to be testing in our test kitchen back in Boston. We do outsource our
fulfillment, and we have that happening in three
centers in New York, LA, and Ohio. So our corporate
offices, if you will– they’re not that corporate–
but the corporate office has these 30 folks, and
we have a test kitchen. And so are our chefs are just
singularly focused on creating incredible plant-based meals. We have parameters
by which they need to stay, from both the cost
of the meals, and the cost of ingredients,
the time it’s going to take to make a
dish, some of the– we try not to have more
than one of the three meals every week require
a food processor, just to find the balance. Not make them too complex. Which we tend to be a little
bit more chef-y than maybe I would like, but it
is that experience. But the flavors– I really have to just applaud
the work that our chefs do to create incredible things. The mushroom dish that
you mentioned though comes from a couple
of friends of mine who run a company called
Wicked Healthy, Derek and Chad Sarno, who are really
incredible vegan chefs. And they take these
king oyster mushrooms, and they taste and
feel like scallops. They’re incredible. So you’d never know
that for someone who wants to make this
transition from eating a more traditional diet to
one that’s more plant-based, how far things have
come with innovation using oyster mushrooms that
you slice and you saute a bit. It looks, it tastes, it
feels like a scallop. So it’s cool. But I think there’s a– what we try to do is make
our meals taste so good that you don’t miss the meat. You don’t miss those flavors. And again, we’re trying to get
someone to do that three nights a week. We’re not saying be vegan. As I said, I’m not vegan. I don’t preach veganism
through our company. And I think that’s gotta be
someone’s personal choice. For the majority of people
that aren’t choosing that, I think if you start
eating this three nights a week, you might say, wow,
that’s actually really good. And you almost become
more inclined to watch the documentaries, to
start seeing things. And not so much in terms of
the shocking, horrible animal treatment that exists
that I think a lot of us stick our head in the sand and
don’t want to pay attention to that animal suffering. And we don’t ever talk about
that within our company. I think that’s a hard
thing to trade upon. But I think for
those people that start to get curious
about it and learn more, it starts to seep in. And once the genie
is out of the bottle, it’s hard to put it back in. And so if we can just
get people to make some gentle shifts over
time without saying, hey, everybody’s
got to go be vegan. I think that’s unsustainable. But if we can all make some
subtle changes in our diet, the impact we can
make collectively is really quite pronounced. AUDIENCE: Hi. Thank you so much. My name is Alex. I work on Google
Express, and we try to connect people to their local
stores, like Target and Costco. And in doing so, we notice that
when competing with Amazon, these local stores
struggle on the operation side and the shipping. How does Purple
Carrot deal with that? ANDY LEVITT: Take it
a little bit deeper from the operations of just
shipping to our customers, or– AUDIENCE: Shipping to
customers and getting things within the two days
or fast delivery that other meal kit companies
have also struggled with. ANDY LEVITT: Sure. OK. Thank you for the question. So when I first
launched the company, we were– it started in my
garage for the first month. And then we moved into a
slightly more proper facility, but it was not so proper. And we had no heat
through that winter. We launched in October,
so in November, we were in this facility. By December, it was
starting to snow in Boston, and it was just bloody
cold for the next 90 days. And a lot of snow that winter. And we were in this
warehouse with no heat, and our product was– we weren’t so worried
about it losing freshness, but we were limiting it to one
and two day ground shipping with a FedEx truck. We use insulation and gel packs. And the produce would hold up. We were learning that
basil might wilt. It almost gets too cold,
and it would turn black, and it would perish. As we moved into the summer,
with no air conditioning either, and we’re
in this warehouse that was just like 90 degrees. It was miserable. Those products would also
start to wilt in the heat. So that wasn’t– we quickly
got ourselves out of that because we realized that
was not working so well. Where in the box,
there would still be a lot of– four gel
packs and thick insulation, and again, limiting
it to one or two day ground shipping
was key for us. That in our tests, that
we never wanted to go longer than that in the box. By November of 2015, about
one year after I launched, we opened up a West Coast
distribution center, and we moved out
of our facilities into also a more
proper place that was a cold room that we were
packing our product in cold. And so from both distribution
centers in Boston and LA, they were always
packed in cold rooms and then packed into boxes
with insulation and gel packs, limiting it to one and
two day ground shipping. We then moved our Boston
facility to New York for broader reach and
a bit more efficiency. We’ve just opened up a third
distribution center in Ohio. And so now we have 100% coverage
in the continental US with one or two day ground shipping. There are some
customers that we need to do a two-day air, which
we don’t want to be doing, and we’re moving to
move that third facility to have the capacity to get
everyone meals within one or two days from when
they ship with a truck, rather than using an airplane. The downside to that is the
requirement on insulation. We have had some learnings
and experiences where we had a certain
thickness to our boxes, and just this summer, we
went through a problem where we had some
insulation that was– we needed to add more
gel packs to keep it cold because the insulation
was failing. So that was a whole separate
story with our supplier that caused me some
gray hair in my head to add to what’s there already. And putting more
gel packs in then started compromising the
integrity of the box. And so people would get
boxes that were beat up, and the box would compress under
the weight of the added gel packs, and the gel packs were
melting faster because there wasn’t the insulation. So it becomes a snowball effect. And we were able to quickly
shift to a thicker box, and that issue has gone away,
and we changed the liners. But it’s a really– the amount of complexity that
I think happens in the meal kit space is really pronounced. And to get incredibly fresh
and incredibly fragile produce, a lot of times, especially
in a plant-based meal kit, where we’re not relying on
chicken or beef or other animal protein as the
source, we’re really having to bulk up on great
vegetables and grains that some of that stuff
is really fragile and also hard to source. So it can be complex if you are
sourcing a watermelon radish. Well, we had issues where the
watermelon radish was too big. And it was supposed
to meet spec, but the suppliers couldn’t
get us the smaller watermelon radishes. Now you have a big
watermelon radish, it’s going to throw the flavors. Then you have to go and cut
the watermelon radish in half, and that worked because there
was stability to that product. An onion wouldn’t hold up
nearly as well, if at all. So there’s decisions
that we have to make every single
week, throughout the week, based on what the supply
chain enables us to access. And I think what
Blue Apron’s done to control a lot of the
supply chain is brilliant. Because they should
have the best pick of the produce,
and suppliers are growing things
just for them. So that should enable them to
avoid some of those challenges that we face as a
smaller company. But getting it to someone
in a really fresh manner is certainly the
most important piece. And when our suppliers, like
a FedEx or OnTrac deliver, sometimes they miss,
but we have to own that. So we can’t go back to
the customer and say, sorry OnTrac messed
up this week. We have to then take that, we
need to refund them or give them credit. So it’s challenging. But I love it. [CHUCKLES] AUDIENCE: Thank you. ANDY LEVITT: Thank you. AUDIENCE: So I have
somewhat of a related question on packaging. So one of the common
criticisms of meal kits is that it involves
a lot of packaging. And that’s one of the
things that’s given me pause about trying it out. So I’m just curious,
how do you think about environmental
sustainability in your packaging? And I work in
finance, I’m always curious about the numbers. Do you know how much the impact
of packaging and transport, how does that offset the
environmental benefits accrued from actually eating
a plant-based diet? ANDY LEVITT: Sure. Yeah. We’re actually starting
to study that exact issue. What I can tell you is we’re
very aware of the challenge with insulation. I’d say by and large, it is
the single largest complaint against meal kits is how much
packaging and insulation goes in to get the customer
their relatively small amount of food, as
compared to the size of the box that is being shipped. We have moved, over time,
from standard insulation to recyclable insulation. Through the spring we
were using the first 100% curbside recyclable insulation. And we’re now into– we now use
a recycled insulation that’s made from water bottles,
that’s been recycled down from that, that is then
further recyclable. All of our boxes are recyclable. The baggies, the bottles,
everything can be recycled. So we do our best to
minimize that impact. And I think broadly speaking,
the industry is aware of that, and more and more companies
are helping consumers get comfortable with that idea
that you can at least recycle the product that is being
shipped to you from what’s required to get you
those fresh items. But as a plant-based
company, which has a big connection to
environmental sustainability, it’s incumbent upon us,
I believe, as a company, to have the words
match our actions, or the actions match
our words, so that we’re continuing to innovate. I’m pleased with what we’ve
accomplished in a relatively short period of time. I think the gel packs
is a piece that– like, we were looking about
taking frozen water bottles and using that. So you put frozen water
bottles into the packing, and let that cool the
produce that is in there. Then you can drink
the water bottles. Recycle the water bottle, and
you’ve got really zero impact, as compared to the gel
packs that many people have a little discomfort about
having to either squeeze those out or throw them away. It feels like a lot,
especially if you order on a regular basis. They build up. You feel like, oh my god, what
am I doing with all these? So it’s no doubt a challenge. I think if people
factor in the gas that they’re using to
drive to the grocery store, and also you think about
the amount of impact that grocers have, with
respect to receiving truckloads of groceries that come in. There’s a massive amount
of sort of violation, if you will, that happens
at the grocery level, that I think people forget
about and assign all of that to the meal kit. And so it’s– I think it’s the reality that we
have about the impact we make. But I think that there’s also
a relative falsehood that it’s the carbon emission that
happens from transportation that is so big, when in fact, it’s
the animal agriculture that’s even bigger than that. So hopefully we can move
people in that direction. Yeah. AUDIENCE: So do you have any
advice for young entrepreneurs? And how did your time at
NYU Stern and in sales impact your career? ANDY LEVITT: Yeah. Thanks for the question. So if you’re a
young entrepreneur, I would build on what I said
already about following Seth Godin, reading his teachings. I would drink up every single
thing that you can on that. And Guy Kawasaki is a
great resource as well. Gary V is a pretty– he’s out there
with what he says. He’s got a particular style. But he’s all about
entrepreneurship as well. I think more than
anything though, it’s having the courage and
confidence to take the leap and not wait for
the perfect moment, because there’s never a
better time than right now to start your company. What people have, the resources
that are available today than was available last year or five
years ago or 15 or 20 years ago certainly is incredible. And you don’t need
permission to start, you just have to have
the guts to do it. And access to capital
is so much easier today than it’s ever been before. You can publish on your own. You don’t need
permission to do that. And the economy is
supportive of startups. And so I think the idea of
being able to create a business and using tools like Slack that
enables you to be disconnected from your people from
a proximity perspective but stay connected. The tools that are
available to build websites in rapid fashion. That the opportunities
are right in front of you. And it feels great to
try to make a difference and to test yourself
every day with that and give yourself
a challenge that is so different than working
in corporate America, with all due respect
to corporate America, where I spent a fair
bit of my career. But it’s great. And once you get the bug,
you’ll never go back. And I don’t think I could ever
work again in corporate America and never plan to. And I think for those
young entrepreneurs that are thinking about
that, to do it and to just play the
long game and know when you’ve got to quit
that if it’s not working, so that you have
the chance to try the next thing and the next
thing and the next thing, and hopefully you make
some money along the way, and you can then roll that
into your next approach. You know, NYU was– it was five years
of a lot of pain. It cost me a lot of money. It cost me a lot of my time. The fact that I have an MBA, I
don’t think it really mattered. I have to say. I wish I could think
differently about it. I think those who
go full-time have a much different experience. I went part-time and went from
7:00 to 10:00 PM for classes most nights for five years,
and that was really draining. And I don’t think I had the
best teachers at those hours. So I think someone
thinking about an MBA should do it full-time
and go all in instead of doing like me, which was
squeezing it in while I worked. And sales is just a great tool
to be able to know how to sell. And whether you’re
selling a product, or you’re selling an
idea, whether you’re trying to convince your
spouse where to go on vacation or tell your kids
what food to eat, it’s all sales at
the end of the day. And so being able to sell ice to
Eskimos or anywhere in between is a really important
tool and a skill that I encourage for anybody. AUDIENCE: And on a related note,
aside from meal kit delivery services, what
other opportunities for entrepreneurship do you
see in the plant-based space? ANDY LEVITT: So the
plant-based space is growing by leaps
and bounds, and it’s projected to go from
about a $13 billion industry to a $25 billion
industry in the next five years. So there’s a lot
of growth there. I think product development
is a huge area of innovation, to think about educating
people with different types of products that
are plant-based. I think the area of education
is a great opportunity, whether it’s teaching people
how to cook plant-based, or even providing services
to help people become more plant-based
and be someone’s chaperone through a process. There’s probably interesting
innovation opportunities there. But I would also not
encourage– it doesn’t– you don’t have to be
an entrepreneur just in the plant-based space. I mean, the plant-based
space thing is really cool, and I love what I’m
doing and the difference that I make by being
in a plant-based space versus selling or trying
to promote other things. But I would say if someone’s
interested in plant-based, a great thing is go to
Expo East or Expo West. Expo West is in Anaheim,
Expo East is in Baltimore. Those conferences
happen twice a year. It will open your eyes up
to the incredible growth of the category and
the number of products that are servicing
those people who care about health and wellness
through the foods and choices that they make. So that will be worth going to. AUDIENCE: All right. Thank you. ANDY LEVITT: You have
another question? Oh, no. OK. AUDIENCE: All right. ANDY LEVITT: All right. Thanks so much. [APPLAUSE]

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