Food & Drinks

A thriving meal-in-box business

pot

The packaging is 90 percent biodegradable. PHOTO | COURTESY

Summary

  • In Kenya, where local grocery sellers are a norm on every street corner, Mohammed Idris Mapesa, founder of grocery and meal kit delivery service Pot and Apron, discovered a niche approach to keeping the recipes exciting.
  • A career entrepreneur, he ventured into meal kits business in 2018.
  • At first, a friend floated the idea for an organic vegetable delivery service, which would eventually expand into meal kits and other dry groceries.

Meal kits have been gaining traction globally as the coronavirus pandemic keeps people in their homes. Searches for the term “meal kits” sky-rocketed on Google, from 52 percent in March 2020 to 100 percent in early May. The one-stop solution for making quick meals with pre-portioned ingredients has an added benefit, zero waste.

In Kenya, where local grocery sellers are a norm on every street corner, Mohammed Idris Mapesa, founder of grocery and meal kit delivery service Pot and Apron, discovered a niche approach to keeping the recipes exciting.

A career entrepreneur, he ventured into meal kits business in 2018. At first, a friend floated the idea for an organic vegetable delivery service, which would eventually expand into meal kits and other dry groceries.

“I understood e-commerce well from early on in my career, so it was just a matter of applying the same principles into the food business,” he tells BDLife.

When he started, The Dinner Box and Love and Meals had already set up shop. He says he had to find something that would make his business stand out.

He discovered a niche in upcoming chefs and food bloggers on Instagram.

“Most upcoming chefs have great recipes, but rarely make money directly from them,” he says.

While some bloggers have seen the success of their recipes replicated as their followers seek to try something new, others serve as eye candy for the curious consumer who may then find the recipe inaccessible. Pot and Apron then sought to bridge that gap.

Bloggers like Google(@davidkinyanjuii), Tara (@_tarara) and Mocha Mitchy (@mocha_mitchy) on Instagram have since collaborated with the brand offering a variety of recipes that are relatively easy to make for the novice cook, with step-by-step directions and a set time that allows for adequate time management.

“Chefs and food bloggers are artistes, and they should be make money from their art like any other creator,” he says.

“The purpose of the platform is not only to sell vegetables but to push other products that may be useful in the kitchen in the long run. Our grocery suppliers are also up and coming and have a lot to offer in their capacity,” he adds.

The next step in modelling his business for the Kenyan market was scrapping the subscription box approach taken by other meal kit companies, making the Pot and Apron product an option for the one or two days in a week that a client would need something special.

“Crucial to my research was finding out how much people would be willing to spend for a single serving of a balanced meal with protein, vegetables, and starch,” he says.

“By design, the portions are measured and priced at Sh350 a plate and multiples according to the number of people the meal can serve as per the recipe. The reason for this is to counter the notion that meal kits are expensive.”

This also ensures that there is zero food waste for both vegetables and condiments.

“Some recipes will require you to buy soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, or mushroom sauce. You’ll go to the supermarket, stand in the aisle and wonder ‘why spend so much cash on something I'll only need one tablespoon of?’’’ he says.

Meal kits have been at the centre of controversy when it comes to their environmental impact.

As the world moves towards tackling climate change, Pot and Apron is eco-friendly. The ingredients are packaged in biodegradable material, save for the cups for the sauces, and the cling film used to package the meat.

“90 percent of our packaging is biodegradable, and the rest can easily be recycled,” Mohammed Idris says.

BDLife tried their chicken tacos by Tara, a meal that serves four and takes 52 minutes to create with teriyaki chicken and mango-salsa folded in a tortilla wrap.

“The aim of the meal kit is, after all, to introduce a new meal to the kitchen that will spice up your life in place of the regular rice and beans,” Mohammed says.