Boston-based Nomsly is redefining meal delivery for kids. While many grocery and meal kit delivery services include options for kids’ meals, Nomsly is the first focused entirely on childhood nutrition from start to finish. Business has been great for the community, too: Ingredients are sourced in part from the urban farm at reVision House family shelter, which is the recipient of 10% of Nomsly’s profits.
Nomsly co-founders Chris Buck and Andrew Macauley just launched their service in New York City. In the hustle and bustle of city life, this healthy helping hand — which runs about $30 per week per child — may be just what the nutritionist ordered. We spoke with Chris Buck about the company (and left with a few ideas for what to make for lunch tomorrow).
What’s a typical day in the kitchen look like for you?
We start pretty early because we want to hit the early afternoon mail service, the Postal Service has to meet its deadlines. My co-founder Andrew, a few other people and myself are on our kitchen team. At 7 a.m. we start by boiling huge stockpots of water to cook pasta and blanch vegetables, then the whole team jumps into what at this point is a well-established routine: cutting fruit and vegetables and packing up for the day until 1-2pm. Then we’re packing boxes, getting them out the door to the post office. There’s a lot of running around. I usually hit my step goal [on the pedometer] by 10 a.m.
What’s your prep facility like?
We work out of a food business incubator in downtown Boston — Commonwealth Kitchen, which supports new food business. It’s our storage, kitchen facility and office space.
Kids famously hate the look and texture of oxidized fruit slices and dry, ashy vegetable sticks. How do you keep these elements looking fresh and appetizing?
We use a totally natural organic fruit and veggie wash that’s just vitamin C and calcium. That helps prevent apples from browning and carrots from getting that dried-out appearance. It’s totally natural and organic, you can’t taste it, and that’s our big secret. It works very similarly to how lemon juice in your fruit salad prevents things from browning, but without the lemon flavor.
I also notice that everything is cut very small, like sliced grapes and tomatoes. Is that a safety thing, or is it preference?
It’s generally a safety thing — we serve a pretty wide range of kids of varying ages. The food goes to people’s homes, so we recommend parents take a look and make sure everything is safe for them. It’s also preference, though. We heard feedback that halved cherry tomatoes are nice and people appreciate that if their kids are on the younger side.
Which meal has surprised you with its popularity?
We do a meal called We Be Jammin, which is jerk chicken with pineapple. That has been surprisingly popular. My kids can’t stand even the tiniest bit of spicy food and yet that’s one people seem to opt in pretty regularly. We’ve ended up serving more and more of those, and I was just always impressed. I’m impressed with how wide-ranging kids’ palates can be.
Who were your test subjects during research and development?
My two kids. My kids are probably like most kids: not only do they have preferences, but those preferences are very streaky. I think a lot of parents can relate to that. There are meals I’ve brought home week after week that they devour, then they’ll decide “I don’t like carrots today.” The thing they always loved, that they never ever said “no” to, they just won’t eat it for a week. Then they’ll love it again. We try to get a lot of customer feedback on meals, asking what kids liked or didn’t like, so we’ve nixed a handful of meals. We used to do a mango tofu. I really thought it was pretty decent, but it turned out that very few kids liked grilled tofu in mango sauce.
You see a lot of items on the menu like dried fruit with a slightly exotic flavor, like apricots and papaya, or fresh mango. You’re using tortillas that are brown instead of white. Are kids generally down with that?
A lot of our menu is driven directly by our customers. Seasonally, it’s January right now so the fruit and veggie options are a little more limited. In the summer we do peaches and apricots, for a window of two or three weeks we did fresh cherries — our customers love that stuff. I think kids are more adventure than we give them credit for. The very first iteration of our menu was just what my wife and I were feeding our kids. We did a trial with a dozen families we knew before Nomsley launched, which drove us towards using whole wheat bread and wraps. I think parents appreciate it because they want their kids to be eating more whole grains and fewer refined products. And kids seem to like it.
Who answers the pop-up chat box on the site?
We put together specifically to be accessible to our customers. That’s something we did very quickly after the site launched. We wanted to make sure if anyone had questions we hadn’t thought of that we were available. The message goes directly to Andrew and me, we field 100% of them. We get them sometimes at 7 a.m. or 10 p.m. and do our best to answer quickly. One customer and her son chatted with us to give us great feedback and new meal suggestions. We did end up incorporating one of them and we’re working to incorporate other requests.
And not everyone who sends a message is a customer — we had students from a local university researching healthy food projects who asked us to speak with them.
What was one kid-sourced suggestion you tried out and just couldn’t make happen?
One we had to turn down was a Vietnamese summer roll. We tried to make it work but they’re really hard to wrap, and we just couldn’t do it efficiently.
How does this particular line of work make you feel?
It is hugely, hugely rewarding, which is probably the best thing about this whole endeavor. I particularly love when a parent messages us out of the blue, unsolicited, “This is amazing, thank you so much.” One of our customers is trying to help her son eat better food and learn portion control, she said “Nomsley makes my life so much easier and better, because I can get him involved in what the food choices are.” We have a small number of testimonials of the site, and they’re all real comments. people write us messages and say the nicest things.
I’d eat just about any of these meals.
Thanks! A percentage of our customers actually consists of adults who just like our meals as snacks.