Daily Harvest's frozen soups, smoothies and other meals offer convenience and on-demand ingredients to busy millennials, and in its new interactive popup shop, the brand is focusing on enabling an environment for experimentation and consumer feedback

Daily Harvest delivers health-conscious consumers a different kind of frozen food. In 2015, founder Rachel Drori took note of the rising interest in health and wellness, with Instagram driving a trend towards nutritious foods like smoothies and acai bowls. To make these foods more accessible and more convenient to an on-the-go consumer, Drori created Daily Harvest, offering an edit of pre-made healthful meals delivered on a weekly subscription basis.

Following the opening of its first New York popup, PSFK spoke to founder Rachel Drori about Daily Harvest's plans for physical retail spaces and the importance of maintaining one-to-one relationships with customers.

PSFK: Could you provide some insight into the niche you're filling within the marketplace, and any consumer or competitor trends informing your business?

Rachel Drori:  One of the things that is really core to the business and me as the founder is really being thoughtful and careful with the foods that we create. The reason I created Daily Harvest was because I was crazy. I was working so hard. I have a family. I was trying to socialize. I was trying to run a business. It's so much stuff that we put in our lives now that we're all busy.

What that means is that we usually default to convenience options in the food space. Those convenience options today generally come with some sort of compromise on health and wellness. What we really focus on in a brand is how can we take care of food so that food can take care of us the way that it's meant to.

If you think about capacities and letting food be that medicine, today we eat pills that say, “Made from vegetables,” when if we just ate the vegetables we'd probably be in better shape. Our philosophy is if you just focus on eating fruits and vegetables, you're making at least one good decision every day.

When I think about the competitive landscape and what's happened since we launched, all that we've done is we have really continued to keep our heads down and tried to fulfill that mission. What's happening is a lot of the people are saying, “Oh, they raised a big round of funding. This must be a profitable business. We're going to try to copy it.”

However, they're just not being thoughtful about the food. They're not being thoughtful about the ingredients. They don't have the direct relationship with the farmer. The way that we are really taking care of food is what differentiates us.

We've also built so much trust with our customers. We co‑create everything with our customers.

How are you building that relationship with your customers? How are you soliciting feedback, and how does that ultimately translate into the product that you put out there?

Since day one, we've formed a two‑way conversation with our customers. [On Instagram] we have created beautiful imagery to catch your eye, because you eat with your eyes first. Really what we've done is we've created a forum for our customers to communicate with us, to tell us the ingredients that they want in their food.

Then, as we iterate, we have only an eight‑week innovation cycle. What's so amazing about that is [how quickly] you can put something out there to the world. Our customers trust us. We can trust our customers to say, “Oh, it's not quite sweet enough,” or, “It needs a little bit less salt,” or whatever it might be. Then we're able to turn it around really quickly.

We have heard from our customers that they want to interact with us somewhere other than digitally. What we've said to our customers is, “We hear you, but we don't yet know what that means. Does that mean you want to sample it? Does that mean you want to buy it? Do you want a full size or, are you OK with a sample?”

What we've done is we've created this environment that is really about testing that and giving our customers a megaphone to tell us what works for them and how they want to interact with us.

What role does education play in how you're talking to your consumers, and how you're helping them make better decisions and provide more value around the products you're selling?

We're very non‑prescriptive as a brand. We don't subscribe to any guise or any philosophies. The only thing we subscribe to is, as I said, eating more fruits and vegetables, which is not something anybody can argue.

It's basic. We know that if you eat more plants you'll probably feel some sort of benefit. That's really where we try to draw the line. We're not trying to fit what we're doing into your life. What we've created is good food that nourishes at the seat of your life.

When you think about educating customers and getting them to understand what it is, it really starts with that trust. We are creating something that is good and thoughtful, and it's going to fit into your life seamlessly.

The Internet has a pro and a con for every single thing. It's like, “Ashwagandha is the new super food.” “Oh, wait, it's going to kill you.” We’re serving the facts to our customers, and saying, “This is ashwagandha. It is an adaptogenic food. This is why adaptogens are good for you.”

What it does is it allows people to figure out what they need in their life. We try not to educate customers because nobody wants to feel like they're being educated. We do have really fun dynamics and interactive content and conversations that bring them into our world.

What was the process like in terms of how you went about designing a physical retail experience?

I wouldn't say that this was meant to prove that we want to do physical retail. I would say that this is meant to show us how we should interact with our customers, which is a slight difference. There is a very real chance that that's not what our customers want.

When we thought about the components, it was really like, “Have we provided enough experience and enough richness in the experience, so that our customers can imagine what some of these things might look like in a more evolved form?”

We did create something that is a physical embodiment of our brand. That's something that we know and is always important to get across at bare minimum. Then, we really thought about what are the different ways people can choose things? What are the different ways that people can build their box?

What are the different ways that people can purchase something? How do all these things come together to create an experience where our customers have enough options where it feels like we're not deciding? Then, how do you put it all together in a creative way?

A lot of what you're doing is based on the one‑to‑one feedback that you're getting from your consumers. How are you thinking about that data and using it to inform your products and business?

Data is everything. It's table stakes in this day and age. If you're not using it appropriately, then you're not going to be successful.

It's one of the ways the ways that we speak to our customers. It's one of the ways that we listen to our customers. It also does, absolutely, inform all the things that we've touched on—recipe development, recipe innovation, and so on and so forth.

One of the ways that we create good food and then let food take care of you is by personalizing nutrition so that you can get the nourishing foods that you need and you want for your lifestyle.

You have the pop up experience, and then you're moving into your first non-cup product with the newly launched cookies. Anything else as you're thinking about for the future?

We did just launch cookies, as you mentioned, which is really exciting. The Daily Harvest version of a cookie is something that our customers asked for. We created cookies made out of avocado, sunflower butter and chia seeds that people are shocked by the taste of.

Then, when you think about the future, it really is seeing our mission being fulfilled or seeing our mission be realized, which is that we are taking care of food in many ways and creating food that allows people to be taken care of by food, but at the speed of life.

Daily Harvest

Daily Harvest is driving engagement and brand value by fostering interactive customer experiences and using consumer insights to inform its business. For more examples of similar inspiring retailers, see PSFK's reports and newsletters.