Really Cool Foods

In 2005, Michael Recanati, now founder and CEO of Really Cool Foods, was not even in the food industry; he was just looking for a good prepared meal in Manhattan, where he lived.

Five years later, he has a company with a food production facility in Indiana that is supplying national foodservice, private label and supermarket accounts. “For me, it was a personal desire to have terrific-tasting, great quality and healthy foods as options for dinner,” relates Recanati. “It was kind of a perfect storm. My background had not been primarily food operations, but I clearly saw there was a need. It was great timing and a great opportunity.”

His first concept was a store in Manhattan that supplied such food to consumers from a commissary he opened in Syosset, N.Y. One of the co-founders, Peter Mirabella, realized the commissary could supply other food retailers. “The demand was so high through the retail channel and foodservice inquiries that we closed the store and focused on the wholesale and manufacturing opportunities,” Recanati says.

Now the company is transitioning

op­erations to the 79,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility it built two years ago in Cambridge City, Ind. “The location was picked because about 207 million people are within a 48-hour distance range,” explains Steve West, chief commercial officer. “So it allows us to get fresh foods fast to the distribution points of our customers nationwide.”

Really Cool Foods cooks up tempting, complete meals for an attractive price-value equation, such as a tower of eggplant parmesan, almond-crusted flounder, chicken parmesan or its signature 12-layer lasagna that measures 3 inches high. “Customers have to feel good about the meal they are buying in this form for the price they are paying,” Recanati points out. They have to feel “they got a delicious meal at a great value,” he says.

Recipes are developed by one of the company’s founding members, Exe­c­utive Chef Bill Valentine. “Bill does an exceptional job of pushing us forward,” Recanati emphasizes. Really Cool Foods ships its products – many of which fit in the category of home meal replacement (HMR) – predominantly from Indiana to Texas, Minnesota and locations east.

It’s a Gas

HMR uses technology called mod­i­fied atmosphere packaging (MAP), which has been used in  industry for years.“It is a carefully regulated gas exchange that is put in the package to minimize the risk of any foodborne bacteria,” COO Don Gillum explains.

“It’s a signature formulation for us and all done in a very tightly controlled, refrigerated environment, and then it is monitored all the way through distribution on refrigerated trucks into the dist­ributor or a retailer,” he continues. “Our products have approximately a two-week shelf life because they are minimally processed, carry no artificial pre­servatives and have never been frozen.”

Really Cool Foods offers a range of products in different combinations including oven-baked and grilled foods and ones prepared in kettles and braziers. “We have some of the highest food safety standards that are viable in the industry,” Gillum stresses. “We imported pieces of equipment and techno­logy from the United Kingdom and other countries where they’ve been in the fresh prepared food manufacturing category for a significant period of time and have a lot of sophisticated techn­i­ques.”

‘Incredible Partners’

Packaging is an important part of successful food delivery, and Really Cool Foods has developed its own packaging with CPT Plastics. “They’ve been a huge partner with us to help design pac­k­aging in this category that is incredibly safe and durable and holds up to the life in the food chain, all the way through man­ufacturing, distribution and delivering a great meal to the consumer’s din­ing table,” says Dana Richardson, vice president of marketing. “So they’ve been just incredible partners.”

The future for Really Cool Foods will include more food items, growth inside its categories and possible geographic ex­pansion across the Rocky Moun­tains, which would necessitate another production facility. “We’re very pass­io­nate about what we do and continuing to do it well, and continuing to grow and provide solutions,” Recanati concludes.