Originally published in December 2017
The idea started in his own kitchen.
Now, Victor Munguia is leasing commercial kitchen space just to keep up with demand.
Over the past year, the owner of Transform Meal Prep has taken his at-home healthy eating concept and developed it into a burgeoning nutrition company.
After starting out last winter with just one primary client — Achieve Fitness in Yakima — Transform is now partnering with six health-conscious businesses in the Yakima Valley and the Tri-Cities to deliver low-calorie prepared meals to hundreds of clients.
Munguia and his team cook the food twice a week at the old Sizzler restaurant at 1203 N. First St. and then deliver the pre-purchased prepared meals to remote refrigerators stationed at facilities like Achieve and Lower Valley Fitness in Sunnyside.
Munguia recently added 24/7 Results Training in Selah and the incoming Iron + Mortar gym in Yakima. Max Muscle Sports in Richland, Agis in Pasco and Body Fix & Wellness in Kennewick have all been on board for about four months.
The local Anytime Fitness clubs have also pledged their support for 2018, with more potential customers on the way.
“The idea of meal prepping as a business is somewhat new, especially in this area,” said Munguia, 27, who spent part of his youth in Yakima before going to Mexico City to study medicine. “I started doing it the old-fashioned way, cooking food for myself for an entire week. I thought I could do something like this as a business, but I thought it would be down the road. It has caught on pretty fast, though, and we believe we can keep growing.”
Munguia and his eight part-time employees — mostly friends and family — prepare three types of meal plans for customers who order them online for a week at a time. The crew works Sunday night for Monday deliveries, and Wednesday night for Thursday deliveries.
They drive a refrigerated van around to each of the six on-site refrigerators and fulfill the online orders. Customers come to their gym of choice, show their ID and leave with food for the next three or four days.
There are no contracts, just weekly payments. If a customer doesn’t wish to continue with the service, they simply cancel their order (or suspend it) on the website, transformmp.com.
“We’ll keep providing you with the same meal plan you select until you tell us to stop,” Munguia said. “But there is no long-term commitment. People pay weekly and they can cancel at any time.”
Attrition doesn’t seem to be a concern, however. If anything, Transform Meal Prep is building an even stronger following because of the quality, affordability and convenience it provides. That is evidenced by the three new partnerships Munguia secured in the past two months.
“Not everyone has the time or the skills to cook for themselves, so this is an easy yet healthy alternative for them,” he said. “You enroll because you need it. And after you do it for a while, you start feeling better and seeing results. No more groceries, no more cleaning up. You just pick up our freshly prepared food twice a week and you’re done.”
How’s The Food?
Munguia says the reviews of Transform’s products are very positive, though someone who is accustomed to a high-calorie, high-sodium diet (e.g., fast food) may think the meals lack flavor.
But we’re not talking about Lean Cuisine here. All of Transform’s meals are cooked fresh, without all of the additives and preservatives found in processed food.
If someone is looking for a fresh, flavorful, low-calorie alternative, Transform likely has something they will find appealing.
“Since our main focus is nutrition, we cook everything with that in mind,” Munguia said. “But it’s still very satisfying. We change up the recipes every week so people don’t get bored with the same old thing. We want people to get the nutrition they need, but also make it fun.”
The lowest-calorie plan, Lean Down, provides meals that are around 300 calories and cost between $6 and $8 each, depending on which protein the customer selects. Chicken, turkey, salmon, tilapia and prawns are among the most popular choices.
The medium-calorie plan, Sustain, offers meals between 400 and 450 calories that are designed to help people continue making healthy lifestyle choices.
The third option, Build Up, offers 600-calorie meals for people who are looking to add muscle mass or increase stamina.
Aside from calorie counts, the meal plans also vary in portion size.
“Our menu is based on how we can help people’s dietary needs, and everyone is different,” Munguia said. “Some people want all chicken dishes, others want to add salmon or prawns. Some entrees cost more depending on the cost of the protein. But if cost is a limitation, you don’t have to order a full week’s worth of food. Just order a few days’ worth and try to make good choices on the other days. You will still see results even if you don’t eat it every day.”
Transform Meal Prep likely wouldn’t have taken off so quickly if it weren’t for Munguia’s sales experience.
Prior to starting Transform, Munguia worked for four years as a wholesale manager and salesman for Caballero Western Wear in Yakima.
During his time there, he helped develop a wholesale brand called Admirable Boots, which quickly spread to 13 states. That gave Munguia the confidence to branch out.
“Last year at this time, I didn’t know what I was going to do,” he said. “I always wanted to start my own business, so I just gave it a shot. I felt confident that I could build something up after what I was able to do with Caballero.”
Last winter, he started working out of his house, doing meal deliveries for a handful of clients through Achieve Fitness while still working for Caballero.
After some initial success, he moved the operation to the kitchen at Casa Vittore on Yakima Avenue, where he also works part time. More growth led to a short-term move last spring to a small, vacant restaurant space on North First Street. Around that time, Munguia also made the decision to forgo home deliveries.
Now Transform is occupying a 6,000-square-foot space while servicing six remote fridges with a refrigerated van. Adding another vehicle to the fleet is likely this year.
“We’re also looking to bring in more help,” Munguia said. “Due to the nature of the business, we don’t have full-time employees. But we need people with specific skills who can be available to work at night.”
It’s hard for Munguia to fathom his company’s rapid rise, but for now he’s just rolling with it.
He has seen a handful of other copycat businesses sprout up around Eastern Washington, but he believes Transform’s products and customer service will set them apart.
“I’m excited to provide a new service to the community that is having a positive impact on people’s lives,” he said. “We want to help people look good and improve their self-image. But we want to do it in a personalized way. We want to give our customers the very best service and quality every day.”