Speaking with Betsy and Scott Epton is like talking with old friends. In conversation, it quickly becomes clear that they love what they do, taking pride in the process and having fun along the way.
This month marks the third anniversary of The Fresh Plan, the healthy meal program started by the North Shore couple, who have been married for over 33 years. Betsy, who worked in food distribution for two decades got the notion for the business when her son suggested she start her own company, given her experience in the industry and the large client base she has built over the years.
With deliveries of meal kits popping up on front porches across the country, The Fresh Plan sets itself apart in a number of ways. First, all meals are fully prepared: no need for following recipes, mixing, or pots and pans. Simply reheat, and you are ready to eat.
The Fresh Plan is not just the quick and easy option but the healthy one. It is calorie-controlled—customers can select either 1,200 or 1,700 calorie-per-day options—in addition to being low in sodium, low cholesterol, low-fat, low sugar, and even gluten-free, upon request. The Eptons employ an on-staff nutritionist to make sure they stay on target.
“We want fresh, healthy food in people’s homes,” the couple shares. “This isn’t a fad. It’s about portion control and high-quality ingredients. If we use carbs, they are whole grains. Our ingredients are locally sourced, when possible. And all of our chicken and turkey comes from a nearby farm—it’s antibiotic-free and free-range.”
From millennials and singles to career people and those who simply want to lose weight, the Eptons’ goal is to put a healthy option in their fridge. In fact, a large portion of their clientele also includes senior citizens: “Adult children order from us on behalf of their elderly parents and have the food delivered to them. The Fresh Plan is great for someone who wants to stay in their home.”
No matter who you are or what stage of life, taste is key. Betsy and Scott work closely with their executive chef to formulate the menu, always remaining conscious about flavor and variety. They have a four-week rotation so customers don’t get bored and are currently working on a fifth and sixth.
They also remain receptive to customer feedback, periodically adding, deleting, and adjusting certain styles. Customer favorites include protein bars that pop up on the breakfast menu, which come in almond butter, peanut butter, and blueberry varieties. A popular dinner entrée is the Mediterranean salmon.
Personally, the Eptons love the lemon thyme chicken and flatbread pizza, with Scott opting for the bean enchilada and Betsy favoring the Greek or lentil salads. “We always try to balance between heavy and lighter dishes,” Betsy says.
Now that they are empty nesters, their son (25) and daughter (29) both live in the city, the couple says they don’t cook at all: “We are our own clients!” And their children have followed suit. “Our daughter just got married and she and her now-husband both did the plan before the wedding. They felt great!”
“Consumers are more educated now and more demanding of good quality food. We meet those demands,” Betsy adds. “We’re not a diet. We’re not extreme. We just take the guesswork out.”
The Fresh Plan kitchen is located on the west side of Chicago, with their main hubs in Old Town on North Avenue and in Northbrook. Their delivery service, new to 2018, covers the entire Chicagoland area, and they also have 7 physical pickup locations. For more information, visit thefreshplan.com.