Recently, I interviewed the creators of Paleo Meals To Go, Ty and Dawn Anderson. Paleo Meals To Go produces (Made in the USA) and sells freeze dried Paleo and Primal approved meals. For active people, especially those who are into the outdoors, most meals in this area are not Primal or Paleo friendly by a long shot. Not anymore with Paleo Meals to go, they are not only Primal and Paleo friendly, but taste incredible as well.
Gary Collins: Hey, this is Gary Collins, best selling author and creator of www.thesimplelifenow.com. I am here with Ty and Dawn of Paleo Meals to Go. Thanks for coming on today. I found out about your company in a very interesting way, through an associate in the Paleo Primal world.
After they told me, I got interviewed by someone else who had actually just tried your products like the week before. It was interesting timing. If you guys would, describe what your company is all about and what your products are to people who are unfamiliar with them.
Ty Anderson: Want to start first?
Dawn Anderson: Go ahead. It was your idea.
Ty: I started the Paleo diet in early 2013. I heard about it from an ultra running colleague of mine. He does these hundred‑mile races all the time. He has suffered from some GI disorders. He had been battling them his entire life.
He developed all kinds of problems from that, and he was like, “You got to try this Paleo diet.” Of course, I did, because he had seen tremendous improvement with that. That was in springtime.
It was pretty easy to stay on the Paleo diet. When you’re at home, and you’re in Denver, you can go down to all the natural grocers, find products here and there, and prepare things fresh.
I’m an avid outdoor person, as well. I was running marathons, camping, hiking for two years in Colorado, did multi‑day backpacking trips. That summer, I was preparing for my first three‑ or four‑day backpacking trip here in Colorado, went down to REI, and was trying to find some freeze‑dried backpacking meal to even be close to the Paleo diet.
I looked up my phone right there, and I couldn’t find anything at REI. Then, I was on Google. I googled for, probably, 10 or 15 minutes, and I didn’t see anything. I was like, “I don’t know what the rest of this Paleo community’s doing for this.”
Unfortunately, I was forced to buy what was available at the time. When you go backpacking for multi days, it’s really difficult to keep things shelf‑stable. Your backpack, it’s lightweight and all that.
I pretty much roughed it that backpacking trip. About two or three days in there, I was absolutely miserable, because I was loading up on all these things that I had completely cut out in my diet for several months. I basically made a vow to myself, “I got to figure out either to either do more research when I get home or try to understand how other Paleo people are doing that.”
Over a process of a few months there, I was doing some research on my own. I hired a consultant off of Elance to do some further market research for me. I really didn’t come across anything. I brought my mom into the picture late that fall and asked her if she could do some additional deep‑dive market research.
That’s when she went out to some Paleo blogs, backpacking blogs. It seemed pretty consistent, out there in the Paleo space, that there wasn’t an option available for Paleo there. It was freeze‑dried, shelf‑stable for all the outdoor ultra‑runners, backpackers, hikers, climbing trips.
Anything where you need something Paleo that’s going to last for as long as you’re going to be out there and it’s lightweight.
Gary: I was just very surprised by the product. Obviously, I’m an outdoorsman, too, and I’ve ran into that issue. When we’d go camping or get out there, it was hard. I usually just packed a bunch of jerky, to be honest with you. [laughs] It was jerky and water. After a couple days of that, you’ve had it. You can’t take it anymore.
You guys sent me some of the meals. I was really surprised at how big they were. I couldn’t finish the first one, it was so big. Once I got all this water in there and it steamed up, I opened it up, and I went, “Wow, that’s a lot of food.” That was really good, because a lot of the freeze‑dried meals I’ve had in the past were small.
You’d spend a bunch of money, and you’d eat one, and you go, “OK, now I’ve got to eat another one, because that wasn’t enough.” They load them with beans. Everything that is anti‑Paleo, basically, and little chunks of meat, if you’re lucky. That’s basically the premise.
That’s interesting you say that for the ultra‑runner. A lot of endurance athletes complain about GI issues. You know why? It’s because they’re carb loading nothing but processed grains and beans. That’s where a lot of their GI problems come from. I’m a practitioner, as well, and I deal with this all the time.
What did he say when he made the conversion? How was he replacing some of the carbohydrates in order for him to be able to do long‑distance endurance?
Ty: It was interesting. I’m not sure he had read Dr. Cordain’s book on “The Paleo Diet for Athletes.” I don’t know exactly what the timeline is for different people, but it takes several months for your body to transition from burning fats, from your high‑caloric demands, versus carbohydrates.
What he found is that he transitioned from eating…He would take sweet potatoes, for instance, and eat those. They’re not branded as Paleo, but there’s different GU type…I don’t know if you’re familiar with GU packets.
Gary: Oh yeah, very familiar with GU packets. [laughs]
Ty: There are different versions out there that are based on almond butter.
Gary: Yeah, they’ve gotten a lot better. They used to be just garbage. They used to be just highly‑processed sugar. Just gelled sugar, that’s all they were, but they’ve gotten a lot better now. They’re starting to catch on that it can’t be pure glucose. It has to be something else. I was curious, because I have a lot of followers.
I’m athletic myself, and I’m always curious. I talk about transitioning and how to eat properly as an athlete. If you’re not active, the transition of going from your standard American diet to Paleo is different than if you’re athletic, is far different. If you’re a competitive athlete, that’s even a whole other deal.
The diet has to be tweaked depending on what you’re doing. I get on the Paleo community for not understanding a lot of that, but that’s a story for another time. With that, like I said, I really liked your product. What did you start with? What was your first one that you came up with in order to create…?
You have several of them now, so what was the first genesis? What was the one you started with?
Dawn: We started with the Beef Mountain Stew. It was actually based off my mother’s recipe that she would cook on the stove top, because it’s basically just beef and vegetables with some spices in it. It’s just a process of sourcing the ingredients all in freeze‑dried form, experimenting, and tweaking.
I think that might be our most popular meal, actually. I think it sells the most still.
Gary: It’s a heck of a lot better than the beef stew MREs I used to eat in the military…
Gary: …and overseas. Trust me, those are god‑awful. I still have nightmares over MREs. Some of them were so bad. From that, did you find a viable market? Like I said, I never had seen it before until someone introduced me, and I had just given up hope, at that point. How hard was it to do that, and how accepting were stores that you’re getting into like REI and some of the camping stores?
Were they receptive to a Paleo, freeze‑dried meal?
Dawn: We actually just sold on our website direct to the consumer for several months in the beginning. Until we got our USDA certification and started co‑packing in a facility that was under inspection, we weren’t really able to sell in stores. We’re just at that point now, where we’re making the conversion and hopefully going to be in stores pretty soon.
Gary: Obviously, you started in the Colorado area, and that’s something I don’t think people understand. If you don’t have that USDA certification, you can only sell within that state. You can’t go outside state lines, depending on the state. It depends on county. There are so many rules and so many regulations out there. I can’t even imagine what you guys went through just to get that.
That was probably the hardest part of the business, I would imagine.
Dawn: That’s exactly right. It took weeks to sort through and figure out who was going to inspect us. There was a lot of discussion whether because we were selling online it was direct to the consumer but it was outside of the state. We went round and round and had different answers from all the different entities. It took forever to get that worked out.
Gary: You mean the government couldn’t give you a straight answer? Imagine that. You’re looking at a guy that worked in it. Last part of my career was with the FDA. Trust me, I know. When the people who work for the agency don’t know the rules, you know it’s confusing. Literally, we would sit there, and I would look up through regulations and manuals.
One regulation would conflict with this one. I’d have to try to answer someone’s question, and I’d go, “I honestly don’t know.” Then, I’d have to kick it to a legal team in Washington DC, and it would take them three months to get me an answer back. Then, you’d read their answer, and you’d go, “Huh.”
As a business owner now, I look at it, I go, “Gosh, how do people navigate some of this stuff?” Honestly, you just do the best you can. That’s what it boils down to. If you’re doing your due diligence, and you’re not trying to cut corners, usually, they’re OK.
They won’t come down and put the hammer down on you and go, “Hey, I didn’t know. I called everyone. Here’s my list, and these are the answers I got.” That’s about the best you can do. But, that’s really exciting. I’m glad you guys were able to get this product going. So, how long has it been out now?
Dawn: I think we sold our first bundle in December 2013. So…
Gary: So a year and a half, basically, still in that start up mode, trying to get everything going. Are you in major chains now? You said you’re now in distribution.
Ty: We’re still doing, mostly, direct to consumer. We’re on Amazon and, of course, our website. We’re just starting to get some traction here, with different outlets.
Ty: There’s some interest in farmer’s markets here, around Denver.
Gary: Oh, yeah.
Ty: But our big push was to get our online system, all the online based, all the kinks worked out of that, with our fulfillment center. We are getting all of that process optimized, so that we could let that go on autopilot and focus on our retail distribution system.
Gary: Yeah, I know. I have quite a bit of experience in not only doing investigations, but I’ve worked for companies as well, in distribution. I always tell people, not that I’m the all knowing expert, but from what I’ve seen, people who jump into online distribution too early, it’s an easy way to ruin your business and go bankrupt.
Because people not understanding how the distribution chain works. There are a lot of refills in the beginning, which means you have to give away a lot of free product in the beginning. You have to greatly discount it. You have to have the margins in. It gets really, really tricky. I’ve seen a lot of companies go under, who jump into distribution way, way too early.
I think you guys are doing it right, focusing on your online customer, because that’s your core. You’re in the right area. Heck, you’re in Colorado, for God’s sakes. That’s the perfect place for this product. You couldn’t have picked any better, with all that outdoor enthusiasts. There’s a ton of farmer’s markets. I’ve spent quite a bit of time. I lived in New Mexico. I used to go to Colorado quite a bit.
So, yeah. That’s outstanding. What are some other flavors you have right now that are available?
Dawn: We have the Summit Savory Chicken. I’m not sure if I sent that one to you or not.
Gary: I got the chicken, beef stew. I got one of the breakfast ones.
Dawn: We have two breakfasts that are pretty much the same. The base is almond meal, flaxseed meal, and coconut. Then, we have one, the Palisade Pineapple Mango, has pineapple, mango, and banana. The other one has strawberries and blueberries.
Gary: Yeah. Those are the four I got.
Dawn: We’re going to be releasing some new meals. I don’t know, within the next month, I hope. Another breakfast that does not have coconut in it, because we noticed a lot of people order just the meat dishes. So, we think they don’t like coconut. That’s a Butte Banana Cacao Breakfast.
Gary: That will be fantastic. Sounds really good.
Dawn: Yeah. It’s a good one.
Gary: You’re making me hungry.
Dawn: You like it the best?
Ty: Yeah. That’s my favorite meal, so far.
Dawn: Right now, we only source our meat in freeze‑dried form, beef and chicken. So, pretty much everything is going to be a beef or chicken dish. We have a Bedrock Beef Chili coming out. So, that’s a beef chili. Then, a White Chicken Chili and a Pineapple Chicken Curry dish.
Gary: Those sound really, really good. Has the Paleo community been very accepting so far? I would expect they would be. These are great.
Dawn: Well, yeah. Our webmaster put a coming soon, “Bedrock Beef Chili coming soon” on our website. So we have lots of inquiries lately, “When are the chili recipes going to be available?” That’s a top priority for us to get those on the market. Yeah. I think they’re very accepting. We get great reviews. People seem very positive, eager to have more flavors.
Gary: With the Paleo menu, it gets a little tough in the beginning, to create the variety. But, once you get your system in place, you experiment more. The dehydrated foods, it opens up a whole other box of ideas, because, once you dehydrate something…
I’ve learned over the years, you can dehydrate any food, pretty much. It doesn’t matter, but, to get it to the Paleo side, makes it a little more trickier. People think Paleo is so strict. You guys, obviously, proving that it’s a misconception. That’s the first thing I deal with clients. They go, “What am I going to eat?” I go, “Everything, except for grains, legumes, and dairy.”
Pretty simple. I’m a primal guy. I do allow people to do dairy, as long as it’s raw, organic. That’s where primal and Paleo are different. Primal is about the lifestyle, all encompassing. That’s what I teach. It’s a whole life evolution is what I call it. From downsizing, changing your diet, changing your attitude. I tell people that too.
Don’t be a jackass in life. If you stay that way and you act the fool, but you clean up your diet. That doesn’t help anything. I’m a kind of all encompassing guy. Not to say that I haven’t been called that at certain times, but…
That’s how I embody it. That’s why I like products like yours, because, obviously, that speaks to a lifestyle. If you’re making dehydrated meals for packers, people that are athletic, hunters, that’s my world. That’s what I like. It is a huge benefit, because I’m waiting for you guys to come out with a couple of other flavors. I’m out in the sticks.
I live out in Northeast Washington. I went out for a four‑, five‑hour trip, trying to find a little stream for fishing holes. I was like, “Man, I’m hungry.” I got nothing with me. I thought, “That would have been perfect, just to throw in my CamelBak.” I have one of those…Because what I did with your breakfast one is ‑‑ I’ll be honest with you ‑‑ one of them, I didn’t even put water in it. I just ate it. [laughs]
I just stuck my hand in there, and I was eating it like a snack. It was just as good dry ‑‑ is what I really liked ‑‑ as it was when I put the water in it. For me, that was perfect, because I said, “Oh, gosh, not only can I pack this, I don’t have to put water in it, if I don’t want. I can eat it.”
Then, actually, I tried the beef one that way too, before I put water in it. I start snacking on it. I know. You’re looking at a guy who used to eat dog biscuits, just to test them out before he gave them to his dog. I’m a goofy guy. It was fine. That’s one thing I thought too is, “Hey, in a pinch, if you don’t have any water with you, these are totally fine to eat dry.”
There’s nothing wrong with them. So, yeah, there might be some recipe ideas that might hit me out of these that I might use. I’ll have to figure something out. Have you had very many people tell you that they eat the breakfast ones without water in them, or am I the goofball?
Dawn: You’re the third person that has said that. They just shake it up and tip it up, kind of like granola or something.
Gary: That’s exactly what I did with it, yeah. I actually gave the mango one to a friend. Loved it. Absolutely loved it. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t hogging them all, so I gave them out. He’s not a Paleo guy, and that’s why I did it. I made sure and had him try it. He’s an outdoor guy, too, and he loved them.
What are your future plans? What do you have cooking up for the future of your company?
Ty: For the summer months here, our focus is to get the next five meals, right? Yeah, five meals on to our website, and into our production process, and on the website. Really focus on getting the word out there. I think that’s our biggest challenge right now.
There are millions of people on the Paleo diet, and a fraction of them are outdoor enthusiasts that are looking for this. Just getting our product in front of those people is really going to be our push for this summer. We’re also beginning the process, as we talked about a little bit earlier, of local retailers.
That’s our big push here for the next six months, is to focus on that and continually improving. Our longer term goals are definitely to get down at some of the shows like Paleo FX. We’re going to try to focus on continually improving our products and trying to get it out there.
Gary: That’s the hardest part. You can have a great product, but if no one knows about it, it’s not a great product. [laughs] I learned that the hard way. I don’t come from a business marketing background, either. Everything I started, I had to learn the business side. I had started a business 10 years prior, but with something very different.
It was more investing in my financial side of managing my own finances as far as I had properties, and stocks, and bonds. I was managing my own portfolio and trying to make more money with real estate and land. That was a whole different animal. When I jumped into a real company format, I wrote all my books, I went, “Oh, wait. I never took a marketing class.”
Gary: “Never took a business class. This could be a problem.” It’s a learning process. I learn more every single day on how to promote. It’s that fine line, I’m sure you guys know too, of not losing that moral compass. Marketing’s a tricky animal. If you cross that line into the rubber dog turd salesman, you can’t step back. You know what I mean? Once you get there, you can’t come back.
Once you cross that line, now you’re in a whole different category. You’re just a pusher is what I call it. You’re just pushing a product that you don’t necessarily care if it’s good anymore. That’s the hard part. We all go through that balance. It’s really, really tough. I’ve seen some people in the Paleo world go completely the wrong way.
I’ve let them know about it, because I take this stuff very personally. I’m in my mid‑40s, and I’ve been around in the health industry and everything a long time. It gets frustrating when I see people go to what I call the evangelist side of marketing. Getting up and just touting something that is not a good product, it’s not a good philosophy, and capitalizing on a movement.
I don’t like it. It’s in society all in general. It’s a tough one, because you have to make a living, too. That’s the hard part. You’ve got to decide can I eat, or do I lose some of my morals and promote this product or promote on a show I don’t truly believe in?
I applaud you guys for doing it right, and sticking to your guns, and staying to the online consumer, and not trying to jump out there too quick. Have you thought about looking at Natural Foods Expo West or East?
Dawn: It’s been suggested to me. I’ve had several people mention that, that that would be a great place for us to go and a good fit for our products. Hopefully, at some point, we’ll have time, and energy, and money to get out there to one of those.
Gary: They’re expensive. I’ll tell you, I’ve been to three of them now. I worked a booth last year for someone. The other two years, I went to look for products. That’s where I go for my stuff. I look around. There are some very interesting companies there. I’ve seen companies come and go. I’ve seen trends come and go already.
There’s a whole part that’s for new products, and it’s one floor, part of a floor, dedicated to very new products, natural products. I’ll tell you what. That’s the first place I go now. I don’t even mess around with the rest of the stuff. I go to the new one, and that’s where I find the best products, actually.
That’s probably the best fit, but I know how much it costs. It is expensive to get up there. Then, you’ve got to pay for your hotel. Then, you’ve got to do all that. I know we’re a little bit off‑topic, but I talk about entrepreneurship a lot. I get asked a lot of questions on how I started. I just had someone hit me up the other day and basically had to life coach a bit.
It was interesting. This is someone in the business, and they were asking me advice. I’m all, “Me?” [laughs] I notice that a lot of people want to know. My crowd’s a little bit different than the Paleo crowd in the sense that I’m in the survivalist, self‑sufficiency, and there are some preppers. I’m a little different animal.
Even though I’m in the primal Paleo community, I fall into a whole broader spectrum of people. Those communities are very interested in self‑sufficiency, and starting their own business, and how to do that. Not be a part of the system, even though you technically are, to live their life the way they want to. That first part of it is figuring out how to pay the bills and start your own business.
You guys have a good story, so I wanted to make sure people understood some of the hard tribulations you go through and joy. I see the boxes in the back. You see my stuff in the back. I’m sitting in my new shipping area up in Washington. I was shipping in California, and I moved all my stuff up here. I’m 100 percent in Washington now, my company and me. I know how it goes.
Let people know how to find your products, and your website, and any contact information you’d like to share.
Dawn: Our website address is Paleomealstogo.com, and our email is the same. You want to contact us by email, it’s [email protected] That’s T‑O‑G‑O with an “S.” Paleo meals. Our number is (224) 725‑3652.
Gary: I’ll make sure I have all the links on this, on YouTube and also when I put it on the blog post, so everyone will be able to click on it. You can always get a hold of me at [email protected] I want to thank you, Dawn and Ty, for coming on today. I think you guys have a great product. I’m excited about it, as well.
We’ll keep in touch, and I’d like to have you on in the future. We’ll talk about where you’re at at that point.
Ty: Sounds good.
Dawn: Thanks, Gary.
Ty: Yeah, thanks a lot.
Gary: Thank you.
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