Recipe box companies: a fad, or the future?


January 24, 2017| by Amy Rowe

With our progressively dynamic lifestyles, we’re finding ourselves increasingly time-poor. The idea of getting everything you need to put together a delicious home-cooked meal delivered to your door seems too good to be true.

The idea is simple – a recipe kit, made up of precise ingredients selected for your chosen meals. Weighed, divided and packaged, a parcel arrives at your door ranging from enough meals to feed yourself for the next two days, or the whole family for a week. Ultimately, recipe box companies want to offer you a more convenient alternative to having to plan, prepare and shop for your weekly meals. The idea originated with the simpler ‘Food Box’ introduced by companies Abel & Cole and Graze who packaged popular food products and delivered to their customers’ doors. This inspired companies like Gousto and Hello Fresh to develop the idea and move towards a focus on recipe suggestion.

A growing appetite

Recipe boxes have brought innovation into the online grocery market at a time that is welcoming change. Whilst a younger demographic is driving the market, there is a rising number of parents who are turning to the web ordering their weekly food shop to be sent to their doors. Recipe box companies target these groups with their strategy to promote ‘less’ – less waste, less pressure, less time.

A subscription with one of the many recipe box companies will remove the lengthy thought process involved in preparing meals – appealing especially to busy parents who have double dinner duty each evening.  The recipe cards are also a great way to inspire time-pressed young adults who want to broaden their appreciation of food without having to stalk the superstores for obscure spices that they are likely to only use once. By ordering ingredients that have been weighed and measured for your specific meals you could also find yourself minimising the amount of food wasted. However they also tend to have a short shelf life so if you make some last minute plans to go out for dinner then you could find yourself with a box of perished ingredients.

The demand for easy-to-prepare meal kits is growing fast within the UK but is not yet a threat to the leaders in the online grocery market. The niche sector is actually suffering the effects of an over saturated market as multiple recipe box companies are emerging with the most cutting-edge product offering. Abel & Cole specialises in selling its own grown organic produce with meal options aiming to please veggies, health fanatics and a ‘creative box’ for fussy eaters whereas Hello Fresh targets consumers who may have a slightly tighter budget by offering a more basic product offering with a flexible subscription. The concept has reached all spectrums of the food industry as Riverford specialises in meals for two, Mindful Chef caters for vegans and Gousto has extended its ranges to international cuisines. The variety across recipe box companies is endless but the market sector is yet to make a dent in the overall market. Individually the companies are experiencing growth; according to Mintel, Hello Fresh gained a £6.6mil increase in sales from 2013 to 2014. However the company only holds 0.2% of the entire grocery industry’s market share.

A fad, or the future?

Whilst the idea behind a recipe box is well established and endorses a problem solving service, there are a few obstacles the companies are yet to overcome to fully win over UK consumers. Firstly the subscription is generally perceived as a premium service and some recipe box companies can charge up to £6.87 per meal. At face value, consumers will often decide against recipe boxes as they believe that they would be able to buy their weekly shop much cheaper at their local supermarket. Another drawback is that the USP of the concept claims it will save you the hassle of having to go food shopping – however it is unlikely that the prepped kits will provide you with all of the every-day essentials you need throughout the week, such as milk and fruit. Perhaps recipe boxes should be considered more of a service that accompanies your weekly shop rather than replaces. Let the companies inspire you with delicious and different dinner ideas whilst you still look after your everyday breakfasts. Nevertheless if the companies overcame all of the minor issues they would still face the problem that many consumers simply don’t feel comfortable committing to a subscription, especially when it may result in a meal that their children refuses to eat.

Nevertheless, recipe boxes seem to have made a good impression on the relatively small number of consumers who have taken the plunge as reviews tend to debate which recipe box to choose, rather than whether to choose one at all. Moreover the value and potential evolution of the concept is validated by the likes of Waitrose and Tesco’s following suit with the introduction of their established versions. If the fast growing companies continue to entice new subscribers with their generous initial sign up discounts and heighten their already flourishing word of mouth reviews then prospective growth is clear. It appears that whilst it is only a small dent on the overall market it is still a dent that intends to stay.

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