carrot, broccoli and courgette salad bowl with cous cous

Meal Kit Delivery & Recipe Boxes: What Are They & Should You Get Involved?

Meal kit delivery and recipe boxes have grown in popularity in recent years, capitalising on the busy worker who wants to enjoy their meal but doesn’t have the time to search for ideas, shop and then cook.

What's inside...

For some people, the idea of figuring out what to cook is a struggle, especially after a long and stressful day. Add on trying to figure out how much a thumb of ginger is or how to mandoline a carrot, and hunger has people reaching for ready meals or Deliveroo. But with an increasing awareness of our health needs, customers are looking for better, healthier and more diet friendly alternatives. Enter meal kit delivery!

Recipe boxes and meal kits are an opportunity for food businesses, both new and old, to serve customers with delicious food and turn a profit doing so. So, let’s look at how these innovative food delivery options are being enjoyed and where the opportunities in the market might be for your food business.

Understanding The Terms

four lunch boxes with rice, potatoes, falafel and mix salad in rows

The first thing you need to understand is what customers mean by recipe boxes and meal kit delivery.

What is a recipe box?

A recipe box is a package delivered to your door, which contains all the ingredients you need to make a recipe. Recipe boxes will also include a recipe card with simple, easy to follow instructions. Each box may contain multiple recipes.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that a recipe box was just those Old El Paso quick kits for making tacos or burritos. The recipe boxes that we are talking about here are somewhat inspired by this, but taken a step further.

Recipe boxes contain everything you need to make a meal, or a few meals, including those specific amounts of each ingredient based on the number of people or meals that each recipe is for.

What is a meal kit?

A Meal kit is another way of saying recipe box, in all practicalities. Meal kit deliveries are subscription services that deliver pre-portioned ingredients, sometimes partially prepared by being chopped or minced, for you to make meals from, for example Hello Fresh. They aren’t to be confused with meal delivery, which focuses on cooked meals, such as services like Just Eat, with meals from restaurants (or delivery kitchens).

How to get involved with recipe boxes

People chopping peppers and head of lettuce

There are two options if you are considering getting in on the meal kit delivery and recipe box scene:

  1. Start your own meal kit/ recipe box food business
  2. Turn your most popular recipes into meal kit deliveries

Starting your own meal kit delivery food business

If you are going to be getting in on meal kit delivery, you need to understand what the market looks like. Meal kit delivery in London is well established, but in smaller towns and cities you are likely to find smaller, local versions, if any at all. Being competitive and knowing your food business’s Unique Selling Point (USP) will be key to attracting customers.

What are some of the most popular recipe box businesses currently?

Recipe boxes are one of the many new varieties of subscription box; other kinds of subscription box include toys/collectables, toiletries, fashion/clothes and snacks. You might have seen ads for Hello Fresh or Gousto, who are two of the top names in the meal kit delivery world.

Though far from the only meal kit delivery services, many of the others are more niche and looking to attract specific target markets, such as pasta lovers or those looking for only organic ingredients.

What are the different types of meal kit delivery services?

Customers for meal kit delivery vary widely. Big brands, like Hello Fresh, cover the general easy to make and balanced meals, offering a variety of cuisines, from Thai and Indian to Italian and Mediterranean. But this is really a focus on taste and flavour preferences.

When we consider diet and lifestyle, including the growing push towards greener eating to preserve the environment, there is a whole range of other ways to create interesting recipe boxes that would work for different customer needs.

If you are going to start a food business offering meal kit delivery, then consider targeting the following audiences:

  • Vegan/Vegetarian (and flexitarian) – there are at least 542,000 vegans in the UK, more vegetarians and even more people choosing veggie or vegan options as they are following a flexitarian diet.
  • Free From – this can include meat free meals, but also extends to recipe boxes for those who are lactose intolerant, gluten free, nut free or some combination of these.
  • Fitness Enthusiasts/Athletes – Companies like Gym Food are tapping into the health and fitness market by creating recipe boxes for those in training, going to the gym or who are athletes. The key here is that people want more than healthy, they want maximised nutrients to match their workouts.
  • Healthy Eating – the most basic option, in a sense. Healthy meal delivery is important to a lot of people who don’t have the time to figure out what makes a balanced and tasty meal. Gousto and similar brands are already marketing with healthy in mind, but not many are utilising buzzwords like:
    • Seasonal ingredients
    • Lean meats
    • Local produce
    • Weight loss

These are just a few examples of ways in which you can tap into the meal kit delivery market with a new food business.

But say you already have a thriving business, how do you get involved then?

Turn your most popular recipes into meal kit deliveries

If you are a restaurant, food truck or market stall food business, and are considering getting into recipe boxes, then you should think about what you already know your customers love. Creating a meal kit version of your best dishes might be popular, but you don’t necessarily want customers to be able to recreate your dishes exactly, so you can create at-home versions.

These might include your own spice mixes or sauces, with the other raw ingredients. You also then have the option of taking your recipes to supermarkets, should you want to expand into that area for a sales boost.

Start by choosing your most popular meals or perhaps a few of your signature dishes and figure out what a recipe box version of that would be. If there is a healthy recipe box version you can create too, that would give you a version for customers to make at home, and keep your original recipe in tact and under your roof.

As a food business, you are going to be creating new recipes all the time, taking inspiration from food trends, changing tastes and looking at available ingredients. You could consider phasing out certain dishes and making them into recipe kits, giving you room to create new dishes and customers an access point to enjoy their old favourites.

The options are endless when it comes to recipe boxes. The most important action for you as a food business owner to take before launching into meal kit delivery is to look at what you know about your customers, what the market is like for what you are creating and how you might fit into it.

Use a food delivery kitchen to trial recipe boxes and meal kit delivery

bowl of sweet potato fries with black beans, salsa and a dollop of sour cream

If you’re thinking of getting started with recipe boxes then start by diving into The Business of Meal Kits and looking at the recipe box food brands that are succeeding to get tips on how they are doing it.

Then you can trial your recipe kits, perhaps by renting a food delivery kitchen in a particular area, you will be able to see if there is an appetite for what you want to sell. This will also give you the time and experience to amend your recipe boxes so that they are perfect when you do your big, official launch.

What are you waiting for? Get involved today!

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