Sprinly delivers vegan, ready-to-eat meals in Pittsburgh

The new year is well under way, and you’re not alone if you’ve had a “Come to Jesus” talk with yourself about what you want to do differently in 2018.

At the top of the list, no doubt, is eating better. Even if you’re not trying to shed pounds, a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables and lean proteins is key to living a longer, healthier life. It’s just who has the time to plan, shop and cook those good-for-you dishes?

Ray Lui not only feels your pain, but thinks he can ease it.

When the Cleveland native was putting in 120-hour work weeks at a tech and finance consulting firm advising start-ups in California’s Silicon Valley, he, too, found it difficult to eat the way he knew he should. It was more about quick and convenient than healthy for the many breakfasts, lunches and dinners he ate at his desk.  

It would take a one-way ticket to Thailand with his girlfriend, Mary McCann, six months of soul searching and the daring to put his finance/entrepreneurship degree from the Wharton School to the test by starting his own business that he finally got the meal thing right.

In May 2016, Mr. Lui and Ms. McCann started  Sprinly, a globally inspired, plant-based meal delivery service. Originally available only within a 30-mile radius of Cleveland, the company expanded its operations late last year throughout the Midwest, South and East Coast, including the Pittsburgh area. 

During the couple’s backpacking trip through Asia, Italy and Brazil, their eyes were opened to some pretty awesome global flavors. So when they returned to Cleveland with the goal of starting their own food business, they decided to capitalize on it, only with a twist: the organic meals they’d offer also would be vegan.

“You go to stores and see the word ‘healthy’ on the package, but when you read the ingredients closely, it’s not,” says Mr. Lui, 29, who worked at his parents’ Chinese restaurant during high school. Ms. McCann grew up cooking with her family in Japan.

As for company’s unusual name?

“We tried to think of a word that represented that feeling when you eat something healthy,” he says. 

What sets Sprinly apart from other meal delivery services, Mr. Lui says, is the convenience factor. Unlike meal-kit companies that ship ingredients for you to cook, Sprinly’s meals come already prepared. So all you have to do is heat them up in the microwave, oven or on the stovetop. The company’s mission is to deliver the healthiest food possible, with recipes developed by nutritionists. 

All the ingredients are mostly organic and locally sourced, and feature flavors that take you on a trip across the globe. Think North Africa peanut stew flavored with harissa, Osaka soba noodles with tofu and a crisp Japanese Carrot Ginger salad that will have you swearing off iceberg lettuce.

“We try to create something that’s interesting that you haven’t tried before,” Mr. Lui says. 

All of the dressings and sauces are made in-house, and the recipes are fairly creative. Standing in for ground beef, for example, is a lentil walnut crumble while a lentil-and-carrot meatball is topped with cashew and lemon juice "cheese.” Burgers are made with black beans or roasted beets. 

“It’s a healthier way of getting protein, which makes it easy for omnivores to get on board,” he says.

Good nutrition that’s quick and easy doesn’t come cheap: At $109 a week for six meals, or $159 for nine, Sprinly is almost twice the price of a Blue Apron or Martha & Marley Spoon plan. (New subscribers can try it for 20 percent off the regular price.) But many of the meals are large enough to stretch into two, and there are new meals every week, so it doesn’t get boring.

“Quality is important,” say Mr. Lui, adding, “We want to make sure people have access to convenient, honestly healthy food.” 

Gretchen McKay: gmckay@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay.


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