Performance Kitchen taps healthcare insurers to raise brand awareness, sell food as medicine

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Performance Kitchen
Source: Performance Kitchen

Related tags food as medicine Frozen food

Former better-for-you frozen food brand Luvo’s mission to make eating nutritious meals easy and delicious lives on under new leadership in the recently rebranded and repositioned Performance Kitchen, but with a narrower focus – for now – on the insurance payer space.

Under the leadership of John Yamin, who replaced CEO Christine Day as CEO in early 2021, Luvo became Performance Kitchen to better communicate the functional benefits of food as a viable health management tool worthy of insurance reimbursement​.

Through partnerships with several insurers, including Medicare and Medicaid, Yamin explains that Performance Kitchen hopes to show consumers that a nutritious, well-balanced diet can dramatically improve their health and help prevent, manage and sometimes even reverse diet-related chronic illnesses – all without sacrificing taste.

“The message of food as medicine is a great message for us, but I am not sure everybody is ready to understand exactly what that means. Sometimes, people hear it and they think, ‘Oh no, I don’t want it to taste like medicine,’”​ and that fear keeps them from trying healthier options or products promoting functional benefits sold at retail, Yamin said.

Messaging around food as medicine and functional benefits also must compete against other core consumer priorities, like price point and perceived value, and it doesn't always end up on top. Luvo experienced this when competing in the frozen aisles of mainstream retailers, like Walmart, where most shoppers go not for better-for-you messaging and healthy options, but for value.

“Competition in the frozen aisle is built on promos – five for $10 – and that is not what we tried to do. It’s not that we don’t offer some promos, but that is not the direction we wanted to go,”​ Yamin said, explaining that Luvo – and now Performance Kitchen – offers “nutritionally balanced meals that will help you feel better, which is a different approach and a different message, and one that is not really communicated very well in the traditional frozen aisle where consumers are looking first for value.”

A more effective way of communicating this message and driving trial, according to Yamin, is to have health care providers prescribe bundles of Performance Kitchen’s medically tailored frozen meals, which were created by doctors, registered dietitians and chefs, and which are paired with more than a thousand diagnostic codes used by insurers to cover some or all of the cost to the patient or consumer for meals that meet the dietary requirements of certain chronic conditions.

To make it easier for health care providers to prescribe Performance Kitchen’s frozen medically tailored meals, the company created an easy-to-use portal with drop down menus that associate bundles of meals with benefits for common diseases, like diabetes, and the associated diagnostic codes.

Raising awareness about the brand and food as medicine

This strategy not only lowers the bar for trial for patients or consumers by lowering their costs, but also taps into a trusted group – health care providers – to raise brand awareness and more effectively communicate key messaging around food as medicine, Yamin explained.  

Performance Kitchen also is working with a variety of other respected health care experts who are recognized public figures and athletes to further build awareness beyond consumers who are prescribed medically tailored meals – an extension that hints at the next phase of the company’s planned growth.

Yamin explains that over the next two years, Performance Kitchen will focus primarily on raising awareness through healthcare providers and the insurance payer space. As more people try the products at the behest of their provider, he says he hopes that they will learn that food as medicine can be a delicious way to manage their health – and one that they will talk about with friends and want to continue even if their prescription runs out.

They, and other consumers, can do this through Performance Kitchen’s direct-to-consumer ecommerce platform, where shoppers can choose meal bundles based on their diets for a one-time delivery or sign up for a flexible subscription that is delivered to their doors.

To further differentiate its meals from competitors beyond the nutritional value and messaging, Performance Kitchen also is focusing on a diverse range of culturally-relevant meals so that consumers can select healthy options that not only fit their lifestyle, but also their heritage.

As consumer awareness grows, in two to four years, Yamin says he wants Performance Kitchen to return to select brick and mortar retailers where consumers who understand this message and the brand’s value proposition shop, but where it also can reach consumers who are looking for a great tasting and convenient but also healthy alternative to take-out or fast food. The key here being the brand's meals are not just for those in medical need -- but can be enjoyed by anyone. 

Exponential growth expected

Through this strategy, Yamin says he expects Performance Kitchen to grow quickly.

In just one year since the rebrand and repositioning, the company’s business has doubled, Yamin said, noting this even takes into account some big declines, including a contract with Delta Airlines that was put on hold due to the pandemic.

“Even with that big hole, we had a resurgence in the payer space and in our web business. And we see our business continuing to grow next year,”​ Yamin said.

He predicts sales will triple in 2022 and close to five times the following year. “So, the growth is exponential.”

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