Q: Tell us about what inspired you to found Fire Ox. How did you connect with each other and decide to collaborate on this company together?
A: Fire Ox was born out of our passion for good food - food that is better for people and planet. Our vision is to make delicious, vegetable-based food accessible to all with the intention of helping people incorporate more vegetables into their diet.
We met in New Haven a couple years ago while we were toiling on our own food businesses - Zoni and Plentiful. Serendipitously, we were both in the same town, with the same mission, making similar products. Realizing our shared values and vision, we decided to partner up to create the next rendition of our products.
Q: Last year you shared the background on the origin story of the Fire Ox name. Has Fire Ox branding impacted the intentions and decision-making of your company?
A: It goes both ways actually - our company values and vision have helped shape our brand identity. At the same time, our brand has and will continue to impact the decisions we make, especially around product innovation and packaging. Our brand is rooted in our values and these influence every decision we make as a company. In the simplest terms our values are: create good food, treat ourselves and others with respect and kindness, and honor and preserve the earth. The Fire Ox brand is inspired by exploration of great food and the beauty of the natural world. Zoë’s ancestor, Suydam Cutting, enjoyed discovering new places and cultures in the 1900s. The decision to use Suydam’s book as inspiration for our brand fit well with the vision we have as a company and our line of products. We love discovering and eating great vegetable-based cuisines from around the world. Our palates inspire our products.
Q: Fire Ox recently announced a subscription meal delivery program (congratulations!). How did you decide to provide your customers with a subscription model? What can subscribers expect?
A: Yes, we recently launched a pilot of Fire Ox Box, where customers can order our meals online and get them shipped directly to their home. However, we decided not to adopt a subscription model for the online store because it didn’t provide value to our customers. Our customers can expect meals that are not only tasty and convenient, but also good in a well-rounded sense – healthy but not in a food marketing “healthy” kind of way. Our meals are also versatile, our eaters enjoy them on their own for lunch, a light dinner, or as a vegetable side paired with additional protein.
We launched our online store at this time due to how covid has changed consumers’ food purchasing behavior. More people are ordering food online because they want to avoid shopping in stores. We were considering developing online ordering capability in the future, but the pandemic accelerated our launch. Currently, our online store is only available to our pilot customers, but we will be opening up online orders to customers located in the Northeast region in February. We launched the pilot to assess the economic viability of shipping DTC, figure out the operational steps required, and make any necessary changes to our online store and shipping processes before making our products available to everyone based in the New England region. At this time, customers can only choose from five different meals, but we plan on expanding our meal selection next year to include more varieties. We may also make other products available to customers through our website, like our veggie sliders.
Q: What have been some of the major joys and challenges of founding Fire Ox?
A: We have learned that starting and growing a business is incredibly difficult and requires a lot of patience. There have been many challenges along the way, but the most difficult one for us was when a large food company accused us of infringing on their trademark. We were forced to completely rename and rebrand. We persevered through a very trying period and we are proud to be alive and kicking today! One of the major joys is connecting with people who share our passion for better food and want to support us - whether those people are customers, retail buyers, advisors, interns, or fellow entrepreneurs.
Q: What can customers expect to see from Fire Ox in the next year?
A: We will be making our products more widely available in grocery stores throughout the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic. Customers may also see some exciting new meal varieties pop up on our website. Please sign up for our newsletter by visiting our website and follow us on social media @fireoxfoods to learn more what we’re up to!
Q: What are your favorite Fire Ox meals?
A: I love the Braised Ethiopian Greens. The meal feels so satisfying. I rarely cook Ethiopian food at home, especially now that I have a 6-month-old, so it’s a great way to change things up.