by Sophia Markoulakis

On a sunny afternoon in July, 13 members of the SFPFS gathered at past president Nona Lim’s west Oakland production facility to learn more about her award-winning line of ready-to-eat (and heat) soups, broths and noodles. Nona welcomed us into her staff lunch room and provided background on her journey from the food stalls of Singapore to her time in London as a tech consultant and Olympic-bound fencer to her first foray in the food delivery business once she landed in the San Francisco Bay Area. The year was 2005, before meal delivery businesses like Plated and Blue Apron were hatched.

Many times throughout our visit Nona referenced being ahead of the curve, not just with her idea of meal delivery but also regarding the concept of detoxing with food. Her Detox meal delivery business, which she ran until 2012 when her clients deemed her soups too delicious and nutritious for such a narrow niche, was another example of Nona being ahead of a trend.

Nona Packaging

Delicious broth in beautiful packaging

 

Nona

Nona shares her exciting story

 

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A delicious tasting

 

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Nona Lim Soups tour; Photos by Elaine Wu

In 2014, Nona phased out her Detox meal program to focus on her growing ready-to-heat meal line. Currently there are 11 vegetable-based soups available, and during Nona’s presentation her staff brought out samples of all to try. Her top three best sellers—Carrot Ginger, Tomato, Zucchini—were bright and lively with the essence of fresh-picked vegetables. All soups are made with whole, fresh vegetables, fresh spices and herbs, and are gluten-free and non-GMO. Nona sources as many products as possible from local farms and purveyors.

Once we finished tasting her line of soups, we sipped her new line of broths, which are made from beef and chicken glaze sourced from outside vendors. Nona’s facility is not certified by the USDA to handle meat products so her sourcing of glazes solves the certification problem and allows her to produce her vegetable-based soups and her smaller line of meat-based broths in the same facility. Topics like slacking (from freezer to refrigerator case), retail placement, and the importance of sampling were discussed as were other issues related to growing a business.

At this point we all donned protective clothing including coat, rubber boots for those who arrived in sandals, and hair net, and headed inside the production area to observe Nona’s chef in the kitchen and her staff packaging soup. She acknowledges that her facility is still at the beginning of automation and with growth will come a more refined and automated process. Once the soup is packed and sealed it is placed in an ice bath where the temperature drops until it is ready for boxing and storing. Cases are then sent to an off-site freezer where they are stored and are ready for distribution.

Nona treated us to lunch, offering up her delicious broth and Singapore-sourced packaged noodles, a complementary addition to her line of broths. Thanks Nona for an informative and delicious peak inside your burgeoning business.