By Brittany Maroney
Photos by James Patrick
When you’re hungry, health-minded or on the go, there’s almost nothing worse than opening an empty fridge and wondering what you’re going to make for dinner. In today’s busy society, healthy and quick options for meal time are at a premium. Families have less time to prepare home-cooked dinners and busy adults are looking for at-home alternatives to fast food. At minimum, Arizonans are seeking healthy meals that will help them maintain their waistlines – without sacrificing taste. John Stewart’s meal delivery company, Sunfare, believes they have the answer.
In 1997, Stewart was living in Los Angeles, where he says he happened upon the food industry. “I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and I ended up working in the fitness industry,” he says. “At the time, the Zone Diet had become all the rage but there was one problem. Nobody had the time to make the meals. That’s where we saw the opportunity to start Sunfare and to make healthy eating easy for people.”
Along with business partner Carl Ferro, Sunfare moved to Scottsdale and began addressing a very different issue. Everyone wanted something different from a plan and each client had a very different palate.
“The key was that if people didn’t like that day’s option, they wouldn’t eat it … and they wouldn’t get the results they wanted,” Stewart says. “So, we started giving people the ability to customize their own meals by removing ingredients they didn’t like and giving them different meal choices each day, so they could always find something appetizing. That kind of personalization made a huge difference and continues to set us apart today.”
Now, Sunfare boasts a daily delivery service to more than 1,000 families per day across both Arizona and Los Angeles. Each personalized menu is cooked fresh daily and delivered to front doors by 7 a.m. Sunfare offers six gourmet meal programs to fit the dietary needs of even the pickiest patron, including options for vegetarians, Paleo, gluten-free and family dining.
It was back in 2001 that the Sunfare meal plans began getting national attention. During that particular summer, actor Charlie Sheen had lost weight and several media outlets wanted to know his secret. Sheen proudly championed the Sunfare service on nationally syndicated shows like The Rosie O’Donnell Show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Entertainment Tonight, and On Air With Ryan Seacrest.
“The next morning, phones across the Sunfare office were ringing and orders were pouring in. It was so exciting,” Stewart says. “We had no idea he was going to do that, and we’re still grateful for it.“
Now, A-list eaters like Jack Black, Kim Kardashian, Eva Longoria, Ashley Greene, Mark Wahlberg and Britney Spears swear by the Sunfare meal delivery service. Stewart also notes that actress Jennifer Aniston was their sixth client.
“We’ve been in the industry for close to 20 years, and one of the most rewarding parts has been building a great team, a group that believes in the collective good of the business,” Stewart says. “I’m proud to say that our team at Sunfare right now is the best, most hard working, and most passionate we’ve ever had – it’s just an awesome family to be a part of.”
Family and Community
And speaking of family, Stewart calls his wife a “rock star,” and he is a proud dad to two little boys.
“I love that each day I get to do both – be an entrepreneur and daddy,” he says. “It’s super satisfying and a lot of fun to hold [my kids’] hands and guide them through life. To make it all work is a bit of a juggling act, but at the end of the day, I’m extremely fortunate.”
With the meal delivery business grossing more than $400 million annually, Stewart admits it’s a competitive industry. That’s why innovation and integrity are still the roots of the Sunfare brand — and why Stewart is always looking for the newest trends in food and convenience.
“Something that’s really exciting is the whole local, farm-to-table approach to food preparation. Not only is it good for the environment, but it pushes you creatively in terms of menu design and our possible meal offerings. We have an entire product line called Artisan Meals that we’re devoting to this philosophy.”
For a leader like Stewart, his company is more than just the product. It’s about healthy living, family and, of course, the community.
“We’re feeling great about the direction and growth of our company, but more so, we believe in supporting the community we live and work in,” Stewart says. “That’s why, in addition to supporting several local charities, we also donate weekly meals to local food banks.”
The company also calls on regular patrons of Sunfare to give back. Every December, customers are encouraged to place canned foods back in their delivery boxes for donation.
“This is a great community,” Stewart says of the Valley. “It’s our community, and Sunfare is going to make sure everyone is well fed.”
You can find out more about Stewart’s meal delivery service at www.sunfare.com.