Real Food Blends
Parental love and instincts are at the core of Julie and Tony Bombacino’s business, Real Food Blends, which makes 100% real food meals for people with feeding tubes.
“Our son AJ went home from the hospital in a few days, was breastfed and a ‘normal’ baby,” Tony says. “He then had a 45-minute seizure at 6 months old and his brain MRI revealed that he had brain malformations that may lead to many other complications.”
A month later, AJ failed a swallow study and needed to get a feeding tube for 100% of his nutrition. Julie and Tony were given a feeding pump and traditional formulas that were typically recommended, but they were not well-accepted by AJ.
“Imagine your child throwing up 5-10 times a day for months. The ‘formula’ was a white liquid with 20+ ingredients (high in corn syrup/preservatives/synthetic vitamins) that would fill up his stomach, but he wasn’t growing, and he was crying and vomiting a lot. We were desperate,” Tony says.
It was a trip to Disney and facing the challenge of how they would continue feeding AJ real blended food that lead to their “aha moment.” Real Food Blends was born from the need they faced during this vacation, and in 2012, the two incorporated their company – it would take them another 2+ years to bring their first meals to market.
“With our backgrounds in marketing, we had no idea how the food supply chain or insurance coverage for our products worked. Our first production run was 15,000 meals and we sold out in three weeks. We had no clue if we would sell one meal, let alone all of them,” Tony says. “Our next production run was 90,000 meals and we sold out again in a couple of months — we didn’t realize it would take many weeks to get our meal pouches, so we went ‘out of stock’ and had to keep our customers engaged – that’s when we started to really utilize social media to share the behind-the-scenes aspects of our journey with AJ and RFB.”
Today, Real Food Blends has employees in seven different states, has sold many millions of meals nationwide and will sell more meals in 2018 than it did in its first three years of operation combined. The pureed real food meals are covered by many insurance plans and are available through the company’s nationwide network of durable medical equipment companies/home healthcare companies and directly via RealFoodBlends.com or Amazon without a prescription. They are also on formulary and used at leading hospitals and care centers like the Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic.
Tony says AJ has always been their “Chief Inspiration Officer” and he and his wife (and business partner) Julie continue to be inspired and fueled by AJ and their entire RFB community.
“Julie is our heart and soul … she was doing all of the blending and research from the beginning. It was cool to see how we came together to make our idea a reality,” he says. “Today, although we each focus on different things with the majority of our time, we discuss the business daily and combine forces on things like product development, supply chain strategy and hiring.”
He says they have similar backgrounds, but look at things differently, which enables them to complement each other and get to the best answers for the business.
“Building and leading a company you love, while helping our own son and many other people – while realizing financial success – and being able to be on this journey with your spouse; it’s a special thing. Julie and I both feel like very lucky people.”
Real Food Blends