LOS ANGELES — Ralphs has partnered with Eaturna, a prepared foods company based here, to launch a line of organic and all-natural grab-and-go entrees, appetizers, side dishes and desserts at 19 Ralphs locations in Southern California.
Targeting health-conscious shoppers, Eaturna says its proprietary recipes are generally 30% to 50% lower in calories and fat than similar, conventional prepared foods, and are free of trans fat, additives, preservatives, nitrates, and added hormones and antibiotics. Side dishes and entrees — such as Thai sesame-crusted chicken breast, dilled albacore tuna salad wraps, and old-fashioned brisket with herb scalloped potatoes — range in price from $4.99 to $8.99.
“People are much more educated today about the link between fresh, minimally processed foods and their health,” Diana Fair, president and chief operations officer of Eaturna, told SN. “Most importantly, today's consumer also loves good food and isn't willing to trade taste for health. That's what upscale restaurants [have] also caught on to. Delicious and fresh and healthy and convenient had to meet — Eaturna is the result of that fusion.”
Fair continued, noting that “People want to cook this way — if they had the time. They don't have time, and more time isn't on the horizon, so the search for convenience leads to unfresh, processed, unhealthy choices.”
Founded in 2004 by chefs Beth Ginsberg and Akasha Richmond, Eaturna partnered early with the supermarket industry.
One of its first locations was a full-service prepared foods format, which included a seating area, inside a Los Angeles-area Vons store. That location is no longer in operation, but Fair said the restaurant helped Eaturna learn a lot about making prepared foods work well in a supermarket environment — notably, that convenience is key for busy shoppers.
“We learned a lot with our Vons partners,” Fair said. “We learned that the customer absolutely loved Eaturna, but convenience extends to exactly how people want to buy our food. They'd rather grab the meat loaf or eggplant parmesan in a prepackaged dish rather than interact with an employee and ask questions. They wanted all of the information at their fingertips: ingredients, nutritional [values], etc., and not have to wait to be served.”
The company already enjoys a successful relationship with Ralphs, delivering a small selection of fresh-baked cakes and desserts daily to more than 20 of the chain's locations in the region. The new prepared foods program will operate on a similar commissary model, with Eaturna delivering a selection of items each day to Ralphs locations in West Hollywood, Tustin Ranch, Pasadena, Manhattan Beach, El Segundo, Glendale, Costa Mesa and many other locations in the Los Angles metro area, plus two stores in San Diego.
“Ralphs is a terrific partner for Eaturna, as they are passionate about their Fresh Meals destinations within their stores,” said Fair. “Ralphs and Kroger understand today's consumer and are as eager as we are to meet their desires. Ralphs and their distribution partner understand the needs of fresh products and are willing to work with Eaturna to accommodate those particular needs.
“It's inspiring to us to have Kroger, with all of their talent, knowledge and ability, supporting us in this mission. Since Eaturna is exclusively available at Ralphs, our brand will help drive new and existing health-conscious consumers to shop [there]. We also bring the ability to grow with them quickly.”
Fair explained that many of the most popular items on Eaturna's menu are salads and wraps that utilize healthier alternatives to the heavy dressings and mayonnaise that often add lots of extra calories and fat to other prepared food menus.
“That's where our chefs are so talented — they don't rely on excess calories or fat for flavor,” she said. “The Savory Turkey meat loaf is very popular, and we always sample our Curry Mango Chicken Salad, because its such a ‘wow’ and shows off Eaturna's attention to flavor.”
The company, she hopes, will continue to grow in tandem with the natural and organic food movement, through similar partnerships, along with stand-alone locations, including one in Los Angeles International Airport.
“Going forward, the mainstream growth of the natural and organic movement is terrific for everyone — especially to support healthy lifestyles for Americans. Growth in this category is good for the suppliers, farmers and retailers. As more and more consumers seek out healthier and natural foods, it's nothing but opportunity for us and our customers.
“Once you eat this way, and see how great you feel, you don't want to go back. You'll want an Eaturna everywhere you go. Eaturna is in the airport now, LAX, and will be growing nationally in other airports,” Fair said. “We have other national partnerships in the pipeline, and we look forward to growing with Kroger.”