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Kathy Hochul, lieutenant governor of New York, presents RealEats’ Dan Wise, Aliya LeeKong and Keith Lydon with the award Photo courtesy of RealEats America
FIRST WINNER: Kathy Hochul, lieutenant governor of New York (second from left) presents RealEats’ Dan Wise, Aliya LeeKong and Keith Lydon with the first-place award during a Grow-NY event at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center.

RealEats American wins first Grow-NY business competition

The meal kit service sources many of its ingredients from upstate New York farms.

RealEats America, a meal kit service that sources many of its ingredients from farms in New York’s Finger Lakes region, is the $1 million winner of the inaugural Grow-NY business competition.

Grow-NY is a business competition focused on ag technology startups in central New York, the Finger Lakes and the state’s Southern Tier. Seventeen finalists pitched their business plans to a live audience and panel of judges during an event held at the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center.

The event attracted nearly 900 attendees and featured more than 75 food and agricultural exhibitors.

Empire State Development and Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement sponsor the competition.  

“This competition has further solidified our relationship with New York state and our commitment to the region,” says Dan Wise, founder and CEO of RealEats. “This victory is a million-dollar victory for the local farms, local businesses and service providers that we are so proud to partner with. 

"We strongly believe that today’s food companies should be close to the real food and we couldn’t think of a better place to build a healthier food future than the Grow-NY region. Here, we have the ability to look to the past and remember where real food comes from: the farms and farming families. At the same time, we have an opportunity to gain a unique perspective on the future because of all the innovation in this region that is making our food system healthier, stronger and more sustainable.

“RealEats’ success is largely due to an innovative packaging format and pot-to-plate process we created that makes it easy for people to access and enjoy delicious, nutritious, junk-free, chef-prepared meals that are ready in 6 minutes. But our true innovation is developing a local infrastructure and ecosystem in upstate New York that delivers an enormous bundle of benefits that can positively impact people’s lives. We deliver the nutritional and health benefits of real food, convenience and time-savings, and customers have the comfort of knowing that they are supporting local farmers and reducing food waste.

“Nobody else has that kind of tie-back to local farms and local communities.”

Grow-NY awarded $3 million in prize money. This includes the $1 million top prize, two $500,000 prizes and four $250,000 prizes. Upon accepting the award, winners commit to operate in central New York, the Finger Lakes or the Southern Tier for at least a year. RealEats plans to continue growing its business and presence in the region, working with more suppliers and farmers, and innovating new products.  

Award finalists were judged based on the following criteria:

  • Viability of commercialization and business model
  • Customer value
  • Food and agriculture innovation
  • Regional job creation
  • Team

All finalists received dedicated mentorship from hand-selected regional business advisers leading up to the competition. This included pitch training to hone live presentation skills along with an expenses-paid, multiday business development trip to the Grow-NY region. The trip enabled finalists to meet with potential partners, customers, manufacturers and producers.

RealEats America has been a member of WeWork Food Labs, a workspace and global platform dedicated to helping startups impacting the future of sustainable food, since the program’s inception in May 2019.

Empire State Development provided funding for the Grow-NY competition through its Upstate Revitalization Initiatives: CNY Rising, Finger Lakes Forward and Southern Tier Soaring. Cornell University’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement administered the competition.

In its first year, Grow-NY attracted nearly 200 completed applications from 23 different states and 16 countries around the world, as well as hundreds of additional partial applications and inquiries from food and agriculture startups from across the nation and around the world.

To learn more about the winners, mentors and judges, visit grow-ny.com.

Source: Empire State Development, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.
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