The Danish food company’s U.S. ambitions begin here on the West Coast
Words by LESLEY McKENZIE
Photographs by WE ARE THE RHOADS
Twenty years ago, doctors advised Jakob Jønck that his peak fitness days were numbered. “That’s a rough sentence to get put down on you when you imagine you’re going to be physically active for the rest of your life,” says the former professional ski instructor, then in his mid-20s. He was told that he had 10 years left as an athlete given the injuries he had sustained.
SIMPLE FEAST’s Co-Founder and CEO JAKOB JØNCK.
It was a wake-up call for Jønck, who soon realized that a plant-based diet was a way to optimize his health. Not only was it key to less inflammation in his body, but it also allowed him to have more energy and bounce back faster from injuries. What’s more, a plant-based diet would benefit the planet. “There’s this moment in time that it dawns on you, why are we actually killing all these animals?” says the entrepreneur, who spent four years in Silicon Valley working primarily with fitness startup Endomondo (which Jønck co-founded in 2007 and sold to Under Armour for $85 million) and MyFitnessPal, along with 10-plus years working in health tech in the Nordic countries and California.
Fast-forward to present day, when Jønck’s personal approach to health is the cornerstone for Simple Feast, an organic, sustainably minded, whole-food innovation company Jønck co-founded in his native Denmark in 2014. Originally conceived as a recipe app to promote healthy eating, Simple Feast broadened its mission in 2017 to include pantry staples and plant-based meal kits crafted with real ingredients. Last year, he decided the U.S. market expansion would begin in California.
“We’re not targeting vegans, we are targeting everybody”
“What people don’t realize about Denmark and Scandinavia is we are big meat eaters,” says Jønck, who also serves as the brand’s CEO. “We figured, OK, if we can make something real that works in this country — and we’re not targeting vegans, we are targeting everybody — we have something that probably can be successful elsewhere as well.”
In 2018, Simple Feast expanded into neighboring Sweden, and three years later, Jønck moved with his wife and three children to Santa Barbara, where the company has a test kitchen and a larger production facility near Oxnard. Currently available in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, Simple Feast has its sights set on San Diego and Northern California next.
Chief Innovation Officer ANDERS VALD.
“From a culinary perspective, we are super inspired by the California kitchen,” says Chief Innovation Officer Anders Vald, the chef-turned-entrepreneur tapped by Jønck early on to lead the innovation team and formulate and launch the brand’s offerings. Together with a team of Michelin-trained chefs from the likes of Copenhagen’s Noma and The French Laundry in Napa Valley, and product developers in California and Copenhagen, Vald formulates a global menu for all markets.
“Occasionally we will swap out a side dish due to seasonality, but the overall profile of the dish is the same,” explains Vald.
“We talk about our kitchen philosophy as CoCal — Copenhagen/California”
Taking cues from 100% organic local (and when possible, biodynamic) produce, recipes range from shiitake vegetable potstickers with citrus ponzu sauce to cauliflower, carrot and bell pepper korma. Retail products such as Simple Feast’s black garlic ketchup will soon be introduced to the U.S.
“Internally we talk about our kitchen philosophy as CoCal — Copenhagen/California — and how we mix those two worlds and how they inspire each other,” says Jønck.
Available by subscription, and chosen via an app, the chef-prepared meals are easily assembled and warmed up in about 20 minutes. They are delivered each week in packaging that is biodegradable, reusable or compostable. What you won’t find on your plate: any overprocessed foods or meat substitutes.
(From far left) SIMPLE FEAST’s Global Creative Director MAJ HENRIQUES, Co-Founder and CEO JAKOB JØNCK, Chief Innovation Officer ANDERS VALD and VP of Business Development FREDERIK HENRIQUES.
As for that dire prediction doctors gave Jønck 20 years ago? “I feel the best I’ve ever felt,” he says. “That’s pretty awesome.” simplefeast.com.
This story originally appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of C Magazine.
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