By Nancy Weingartner Monroe
What makes the food-on-demand market so enticing is that in addition to the large, national players like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, there are individuals cooking for their neighbors within the boundaries of a reasonable delivery area.
Aleksandra Till calls herself a home cook. She was raised by a “health-nut vegetarian mom” who tried to limit her exposure to sugar. Fortunately for Till, she was a latch-key kid with the time and skill to make cookie dough before her parents arrived home from work. From there she graduated to making her own birthday cakes. She parlayed her baking prowess with cooking for her husband and three children, and turned it into a business.
Her husband’s brother, who lives in Sweden, introduced her three years ago to meal kits, an industry that had been thriving in his country for 10 years. Middagsfrid, the first meal kit company, was launched in Sweden in 2007 by Kicki Theander, a Swedish celebrity chef, according to website, Review Chatter, which collects information and aggregates articles on online businesses.
We discovered Till and her business, Home Grown Foods, at the Mill City Farmers’ Market in Minneapolis. She had a booth with two boxed dinners, both selling for
$20. Her dinners are built around what is available now with an emphasis on organic when possible. Since this was the Memorial Day weekend, one of her meals contained two hamburgers to grill, plus a simple salad. The other one was built around fresh pasta and vegetables. Both meals involved taking a ticket to another vendor in the market with refrigeration to pick up the meat or pasta.
Till has a professional website with just enough homespun charm (the green version of the ubiquitous red-checked tablecloths found in family restaurants) to keep an emphasis on home cooking. “The majority of people can cook,” Till explains, they just need a head start. Her clients range from retirees to double-income parents. She has kid-friendly entrées as well.
Subscriptions are customizable, as are the choices. For instance, there are no poultry, no red meat and no vegetarian plans. Subscribers can also choose meals with the shortest cook times, and of course, gluten free. The plan for three dinners a week with four servings each runs $120.
The meals are delivered in the Minneapolis metro area in an insulated bag. Last week’s empty bag is picked up from the front porch when the current week’s meals are delivered, Till says.
As we all wait to see the shake-out of the meal-kit delivery industry (about 170+ strong right now), it will be interesting to see if the economics for the small players with little chance of a buyout by the big fish will still prove business worthy. (I, for one, hope so. It’s a great way for home cooks to rent some commissary space and still be part of a cottage industry.)