The organization “Zest”, located in Fairfield, New Jersey is a small café owned by Luciana Contuzzi whose service innovation is providing foods mainly using organic ingredients that are non-GMO and suit the needs of all people who are restricted by food allergies or are transitioning to a healthier lifestyle. Her innovation aligns with the third UN SDG, “Good Health and Well Being'', the 12th “Responsible Consumption and Production”, and the 13th “Climate Action,” by providing foods that are purchased from local certified organic sources to benefit people with allergies and dietary restrictions.
Rutgers Business School
Luciana Contuzzi founded Zest as an online business in September of 2014. By 2017, Zest had a physical location in Fairfield, NJ. Luciana’s husband, TJ, helped implement and develop the business. He assumed the role of a manager alongside Contuzzi, and he was in charge of the baking aspect of the company. Luciana did not have internal or external shareholders when starting Zest. She had the help of her family to secure funding, but she primarily used her savings to start up the business.
The innovation that Zest provides is its service of gluten-free, organic, vegan, and other healthy food options to all of its customers regardless of dietary restrictions. According to Niall McCarthy in the article, “The Number Of Americans Going Gluten-Free Has Tripled Since 2009”, there are 3.1 million people in the US who follow a gluten-free diet, and 72 percent of these are people who are not allergic to gluten that simply wishes to follow a gluten-free diet for health purposes. Luciana hopes to cater to this growing population of gluten-free people and provide healthy and delicious food options. Her mission also aligned with some UN SDG goals. The innovative solution Zest provides aligns with three of the UN SDGS: #3 Good Health and Wellbeing, #12 Responsible Consumption and Production, and #13 Climate Action. Zest’s service keeps the community healthy by only using clean ingredients and being completely transparent about what is in their food. As for “Responsible Consumption and Production” as well as “Climate Action,” Zest gets the majority of its ingredients from local organic sources; this allows people with all kinds of dietary needs to eat healthily as well as lessen the environmental impact on the planet. Because the majority of the ingredients are purchased locally and are organic, the production is considered responsible.
Luciana Contuzzi was inspired when she suddenly discovered the positive and negative effects of certain ingredients used in our everyday meals. Luciana has done extensive research on these typical ingredients, such as gluten and soy. She realized that few restaurant options in her local area provided meals for people with these specific ingredient intolerances. The idea was born when Luciana got the urge to introduce her community to sustainable eating habits that include organic ingredients such as legumes, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Lucianna explains, “The idea for Zest started with a notebook on a plane ride home from Italy after graduating a semester early and quitting my first full-time job against many people's direction after just six months.
The basis for Zest comes from all the holistic powers food has in generating energy and preventing disease. "My goal is to create delicious and nutritious meals, snacks, and desserts that are free of gluten and dairy and full of taste for everyone to enjoy and to feel great doing so”, said the founder. By introducing sustainable eating practices to her community through Zest, Luciana is able to not only provide healthy meals for people with food intolerances and dietary restrictions but also inform others about the healing abilities and positive effects that certified organic ingredients have on our bodies. Extensive research indicates that organically grown ingredients are richer in vitamins and nutrients and have fewer traces of growth hormones and pesticides that can negatively affect our bodies.
Zest’s innovation positively impacts various aspects in the business, society, and the environment. Zest uses clean and organic ingredients from local farms nearby. Local farming has proven to benefit the environment by reducing gas emissions from short-distance traveling. According to Lauren Mullen, in “The Positive Impacts of Organic Foods”, global croplands can store an additional 1.85 gigatons of carbon each year, which equates to the amount the global transportation sector gives off annually. By using organic ingredients, Zest is also helping the environment by not using fruits and vegetables containing pesticides. Organic farming practices have been shown to reduce pollution by conserving water, reducing soil erosion, increasing soil fertility, and reducing energy use, which in the long run will contribute to reducing the human footprint on global warming.
Zest’s innovation also positively impacts its customers by inspiring the community to eat healthier. Luciana said that “there's nothing like Zest in Fairfield where most menu items are gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and organic.” Organic foods are proven to have various health benefits compared to traditional foods. Luciana has had a history of stomach-related issues and claims that her body started to feel much better by converting to organic options. According to Lauren Mullens, a study performed by Friends of the Earth showed that transitioning to an organic diet lowered the levels of cancer-causing glyphosate – a major component in a common pesticide – by 70% in participants’ bodies in just a week’s time. It’s been discovered that organic foods naturally have more nutrients which help to fuel customers’ bodies. Zest’s customers have seen the impact on their health from organic foods and have continued to return to Luciana’s store, which led to her switching to a larger location to support her growing business.
This innovation benefits the business in that it brings in profit and provides the community with healthier eating habits. Luciana explains, “We want customers to realize that eating healthy doesn’t mean eating bland. We provide a wide range of delicious meals that satisfies the preferences of our diverse customers.” In fact, having diverse menu options has inspired Zest to create a loyalty program that has helped the restaurant see a gain of approximately 60% in customer retention. The loyalty program is relatively simple; when a customer completes a transaction worth more than $10 with Zest, they get a specific number of points. When they reach ten points, they get a percentage off their next order. The loyalty program has helped Zest gain new customers while simultaneously retaining older customers.
Luciana has seen a new opportunity in creating a new management position for a nutritionist who would solely focus on meal preparations and receive a percentage of the profit made from them. By incentivizing in this way, the nutritionist would offer the meal preparations to their current clients to benefit Zest by gaining new customers. Being an employee at Zest is not just taking orders and preparing them, each employee has taken part in the creation of a strong sense of community within the restaurant that also extends down to the customers. They have also gained knowledge and inspiration on healthier eating practices that Zest enforces. Luciana believes a healthy and friendly work environment leads to overall happiness as well as productivity. Apart from having a loyalty program as well as plans to extend the Zest business, Luciana also requests feedback for new ideas and implementations from her employees via written communication. This ensures that each employee has the opportunity to have their opinions and ideas heard.
The innovation’s benefit to society involves its ability to prioritize customers' health by providing a transparent menu that includes various options ranging from gluten-free, vegan, and organic. Her use of organic and diverse ingredients to suit the needs of different people benefits those with food allergies or who are interested in understanding the nutritional makeup of their meals. The transparency of her food options allows customers to understand all of the organic ingredients being used. The innovation serves the community by “offering nutritious foods and offering customers the opportunity to understand the great benefit that it has to offer.”
By providing foods that are purchased from local certified organic sources, people with allergies, dietary restrictions, and food intolerances can enjoy delicious healthy meals while also getting a sense of fulfillment by contributing to the earth's wellbeing. The innovation includes ingredients from certified organic sources, especially those believed to be treated with high amounts of pesticides during cultivation. “Our organic ingredients are based on the dirty dozen, a list of foods that contain the most pesticides. We make sure that all of these products are purchased organic and that they are labeled on the menu in green writing,” said Contuzzi. There is extensive research stating that pesticides contribute significantly to climate change. The certified organic foods that Zest utilizes must be grown strictly following the USDA’s standards which include no harmful synthetic materials, chemical fertilizers, genetic engineering, or sewage sludge.
Luciana Gencarelli (Contuzzi), Founder
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Fairfield, NJ, US
Business Website: https://www.zesteats.com/
Year Founded: 2014
Number of Employees: 2 to 10
The organization “Zest” is located in Fairfield, New Jersey, and is owned by Luciana Contuzzi. Zest is a small café that serves the community with nutritious homemade foods that meet the needs of a variety of people who are gluten-free, vegan, or dairy-free. Zest offers its delicious foods to those who are eager to live a healthy lifestyle and allows people to understand the benefits of feeding their bodies with organic products.