19 April 2016

My husband is a fabulous chef who loves meal planning and cooking.  Producing a delicious unplanned weeknight meal for two in 20 minutes, appetizer included – he’s got it covered.  Tonight’s dish requires some obscure ingredient – he has it on hand.

While I am one lucky lady, I remain fascinated by the relatively new meal options out there for those not married to an aspiring Ricardo.  “Dinner-in-a-box” services like évoilà5 and Cook it are simple: you pre-order meals for the upcoming week, the required recipes and ingredients are then prepared for pick-up or delivered to your front door.  No planning, no shopping, no boring meatloaf recipes, no food waste, no restaurant prices.  Meal preparation is stripped down to the fun part: the actual cooking that enables you to serve healthy, tasty dishes to your loved ones.  Brilliant!

The “you” is critical.  Even if you could afford to eat out every night, or hire a personal chef, it wouldn’t be quite the same.  There is immeasurable value in using one’s own hands and culinary skills to prepare meals for the family.  It is one of modern society’s most significant demonstrations of caring, one we are unlikely to give up anytime soon.  The thinking and grocery parts – I’ll “contract those out”.  The right to feel “I have it together enough to cook this great meal, just for you” – no way I’ll contract that out on an ongoing basis.

We all know the story of the initial launch of a line of Betty Crocker cake mixes in the 1950s.  The powdered cake mix did not sell well.  After analysing the problem, General Mills relaunched a version where housewives (this is the 1950s, remember) had to add a fresh egg to the powdered mix.  Sales exploded!  Drew Boyd explained in his 2014 Psychology Today article: “First, doing a little more work made women feel less guilty while still saving time. Also, the extra work meant that women had invested time and effort in the process, creating a sense of ownership”.

Like Betty Crocker back in the day, today’s “dinner-in-a-box” services meet a number of deep, human needs prevalent in our developed market. The learning for new product and service development would be to assign some of the work to the consumer.  Makesure that work is…

1) Interesting: these services have stripped away the need to plan and shop, and let consumers start at the fun part right in the kitchen.

2) Rewarding: producing great-tasting, healthy meals?  What’s not to like?

3) Guilt-free: consumers actually prepare the entire meal, thereby preserving their sense of ownership.  Receiving kudos from the family is fully deserved! 

4) Personalised: want to add cumin to those beets?  By all means, improvise a bit according to your own tastes and creativity.

How can your business provide these benefits to consumers?