Drew Munro and UpMeals bring healthy, convenient eats into the office
For most of Drew Munro’s life, the word “seed” was reserved for things like apples and pears.
The Surrey native went to Vancouver Community College in the mid-’00s and became a private chef, mostly making meals for families. “I really thought that was going to be my whole life, my entire business,” Munro recalls.
It wasn’t to be. He soon launched a private catering company in Vancouver—Drew’s Catering and Events typically has some 35 chefs working at gatherings across the Lower Mainland. But Munro wasn’t content to stop there.
“I started to get the feeling that I wanted to do something with a potentially global impact,” he says. “I became really involved in reducing food waste and healthier eating and sustainability.”
Last year, he co-founded UpMeals, which uses technology to power vending machines that offer nutritious prepared food in environmentally friendly packages and houses about 20 people combined in its office and facility, both located in South Vancouver.
The company, which recently won the international Shibuya Food Tech Challenge for Social Innovation in Japan, is raising a $400,000 seed round that includes Robert Angel, the creator of Pictionary.
So far, UpMeals has installed a few machines as pilot projects in Vancouver offices, marketing itself as an all-in-one food service provider and part of a safe return-to-work strategy for companies and their staff members.
Eventually, Munro hopes to have machines in places where there are large numbers of employees and customers alike, such as airports, transit centres, hospitals and universities. “A 24/7 healthy meal solution would have a ton of value, and that’s really what UpMeals is trying to do—make this healthy food accessible whenever people need it using technology.”
Currently on the menu are options like salad bowls, entrées, wraps, cold pressed juices and healthy treats.
It’s as big a career change one can make without really making one at all. “That’s the beautiful part of entrepreneurship,” Munro says. “It takes you on these crazy journeys you never think of when you first start out.”