Christine Day: CEO, Luvo

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Christine Day is CEO of Luvo, a forward-thinking food company creating the next generation of frozen food, with a focus on great taste, convenience and most importantly, nutrition. Her passion, experience, and dedication to wellbeing make her an ideal leader for Luvo, as the company continues to disrupt industry norms and spark a change in the way consumers eat and think about frozen food. Christine brings her executive leadership experience to Luvo from lululemon athletica, where she served as CEO for six years. During her tenure, the company grew in revenue from $290 million to $1.6 billion and became the most profitable retail apparel company in the world.  Among other accolades, Christine has been honored as one of Fast Company’s “100 Most Creative People in Business” and leader of a “50 Most Innovative Companies” in 2014. She was selected by the Stevie® Awards for Women in Business as “Female Executive of the Year in Canada” and “Innovator of the Year” in 2015. Christine has also been selected as one of Fortune Magazine’s top five- “International Most Powerful Women”, “Canada’s Top 100 Women,” and named “CEO of the Year,” by the Globe and Mail and Business in Vancouver.  

How did you get into the industry?

When presented with the opportunity to join Luvo, I was immediately intrigued by its purpose. The company’s goal of making healthy eating accessible and convenient to all really resonated with the commitment I had previously made to myself; to help create a healthier society. This commitment came to me after my mother was diagnosed with diabetes. When looking for meals that met her dietary guidelines, provided complete nutrition, and were easy to prepare, I found very few. So when Luvo came to me, I knew this was a great opportunity to highlight the need for a refocus on healthy living and to help make nutrition-focused, convenient meal options accessible to everyone. I was also drawn to Luvo and the challenge of leading a startup from the beginning, as each of my previous positions had been at more established, larger companies. Our timing, purpose and passion aligned perfectly and so, I joined the team and set out to grow Luvo; a forward-thinking food company creating the next generation of frozen food, with a focus on great taste, convenience and most importantly, nutrition.

Any emerging industry trends?

There’s been a recent shift in the way consumers think about frozen food. More and more consumers want to make healthier choices and are looking for nutritious, convenient options that meet their lifestyle needs without giving up the bold flavors they desire. Consumers are also looking for information on what is and is not included in their food, the use of real ingredients and transparency in food labeling.

Now the entire food industry is working to provide healthy options and to keep up with these consumer demands that are driving the industry.

Luvo was founded with a focus on nutrition, which is why we’ve stayed one step ahead. Each of Luvo’s chef-created, nutritionist-approved meals provides one or more servings of fruits and veggies, with an emphasis on nourishing whole grains and lean proteins. We use herbs and spices for flavor instead of added sodium, artificial colors and sweeteners. And each Luvo offering costs less than the average price of a fast-food meal.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

Currently, we’re seeing consumers and the industry moving beyond the convenient and processed products that first defined the earliest generations (Frozen 1.0) and the niche, diet focused frozen meals made with unnatural ingredients that have more recently dominated the freezer aisle (Frozen 2.0).  Now, Luvo is leading the way in Frozen Food 3.0 - the next generation in the evolution of the frozen food industry. We’re providing simple solutions that meet people’s lifestyle needs, so they never have to sacrifice convenience for health or taste. We call it, food for the greater good.

It’s no secret that the freezer aisle has been in need of a makeover, with declining sales in frozen meals that had previously been slow to adapt to consumers shift toward nutrition-focused eating. We’ve developed products to help shift the category’s negative perception and bring consumers back to the freezer aisle with meals that that contain real nutrition and real flavor and come in a format that matches their need for convenience.  It’s really encouraging to see more and more consumers seek out products that incorporate the basic building blocks of good nutrition, and even more exciting to be part of a company creating products to meet these needs.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

Luvo was founded with the mission to make it easy for people to eat nutritious meals that taste amazing every day. Our goal is to support the needs of busy consumers looking to make healthy meal choices and to provide them with products that use the best real ingredients– so they can feel and perform better in every aspect of life.

We are sparking a change in the way consumers eat and think about frozen food, with nutrition standards that set us apart and drive new shoppers into the category; and a unique commitment to nutrition education, with ambassadors and community partnerships that help spread awareness and promote a nutrition-fueled lifestyle.

We look forward to continuing to expand our product offerings in the frozen aisle, in foodservice and beyond. We see a robust pipeline of opportunities in the future and are committed to continuing to disrupt the industry and lead this important evolution.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

We are extremely excited about the debut of our Planted™ Power Bowl product line and nutrition app, Luvo CheckIt both of which have launched in the past month.

Plant-based eating is rising in popularity and we developed our new line of Planted™ Power Bowl in order to make plant-based eating more accessible and convenient than ever. The new line caters to a broad set of consumers, whether vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian or just trying to cut back on meat. Our Planted™ Power Bowl are gluten-free and 100% vegan, allowing consumers of all lifestyles access to the nutrition they demand and deserve.

Another new product we just unveiled is our mobile app, Luvo CheckIt, a nutrition label reader designed to help consumers make better informed and balanced food choices. We are really excited about launching the app because it supplements our frozen food products by focusing on our commitment to nutrition education. The app allows consumers to scan the barcode of any packaged food and immediately receive insight into the food’s true nutritional value and get an answer to the question of “is this good for me?” Luvo CheckIt enables consumers to make a healthy choice quickly and confidently. We like to say that we are putting the power of a personal nutritionist in your pocket.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

Instead of focusing on what shouldn’t be in our food, we are changing the conversation to what should be in our food all while engaging with our consumers in strategic ways.  By utilizing blogs, digital and social outreach, event sponsorship, and national marketing campaigns, we are able to better connect and communicate with our target consumers.

We have created an incredible network of health-conscious, influential brand ambassadors including Derek Jeter (NY Yankees), Russell Wilson (QB, Seattle Seahawks) and Natalie Coughlin (Olympic Gold Medalist Swimmer). Our ambassadors work to inspire our consumers and raise awareness of the importance of healthy living.  

Luvo also partners with leading foodservice programs to give consumers access to delicious and wholesome food choices when they are away from home or on the go. Our custom wraps on Delta Airlines brings taste and nutrition to 35,000 feet, while delicious whole grain salads provides nutritionist-approved options on the grounds at Yankee Stadium.  

We will continue to listen and engage our fans and consumers and develop new products that reach them with what they want, and always putting focus on ensuring our brand is one that consumer can always trust.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

When first joining Luvo, a big challenge for me was the start-up nature of the company. When I joined, we had to build the brand from the ground up in a competitive industry– create a brand, business model and corporate culture from scratch.  This proved to be a challenge, but it was also one of the reasons I was drawn to the brand. I learned quickly that Luvo could not derive solely from our personal visions, so we turned to the consumer for insight.  Because consumers are the purchasers of our products, it only made sense to develop our brand, business plans and corporate culture based on their values and needs. Some may have seen our decision to turn to consumers as a risk, as most brands are product and supply focused. However, we’ve seen great success with this strategy, and to this day remain a consumer-focused brand.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

We are a purpose-led company, which means we have the ability and responsibility to inspire the consumer on a more personal level. Beyond providing consumers with nutrition focused meals that taste great, are affordable and easy to find, we also want to teach consumers guiding principles of eating healthy. Whether that be through brand storytelling, our ambassadors, community partnership or focus on nutrition education; our biggest goal is to ensure that when consumers think of Luvo, they feel a sense of trust. We strive to always provide consumer’s convenient food choices that use the best ingredients and help them eat nutritious meals that taste amazing every day. It comes down to providing products, resources and information to help people feel and perform better in every aspect of life.

How do you motivate others?

Throughout my career, I’ve found that employees thrive when they are able to fully engage with the brand and its mission. I fundamentally believe in finding ways to allow employees to advocate for the brand they work for, which for me, is by giving employees ownership and autonomy in their work; letting them contribute ideas, take initiative on projects they feel strongly about and making it clear their contributions are valued and vital to the success of the company. I always want to create an environment where employees find a way to take satisfaction from their successes while owning, fixing and learning from their mistakes. Ultimately this teaches resiliency and drives their growth in being proactive and accountable, which not only brings out the best in their work but the best in the business.

Career advice to those in your industry?

I’ve found the most success in my work is when there’s been clear parallels between my personal values and the business’ values. Value drives engagement, and similar to the level of engagement I expect from my employees, it is paramount to me that I am engaged with my work. If your work is linked to your personal values, you’ll be inspired to do whatever you can to live them out. Simply put, you care more.  This translates to better communication, increased drive to complete projects, a willingness to collaborate with co-workers, and so much more. As you work to realize your values in your work, you’ll succeed. If your values can’t be realized, change direction and try something new.