The biggest hurdle I’ve had with meal kit subscriptions is all the work it takes once you get the ingredients. Sure, they’re portioned, but you still have to do a ton of prep work and be a halfway decent cook to make them turn out. Plus, you have to use up the ingredients before they go bad.
Mealhero, a two-year old startup based in Belgium, wants to have overcome these issues through a combination of frozen food plus connected high-tech steamer, and have taken to Kickstarter to expand their European footprint.
Quick note: It’s not easy to suss out all the mealhero details outside of the subtitled Kickstarter video, as almost all of their promotional materials are in Dutch. We reached out to them with some questions, and didn’t hear back at the time of this writing. UPDATE: Jeroen Spitaels, Co-Founder and CEO of mealhero, emailed us back with answers to our questions, which are pasted below.
The mealhero service is comprised of three parts: a box of frozen ingredients delivered to your home, an app to help you assemble your ingredients into a recipe, and a connected three-container steamer to cook them automatically.
The app knows what ingredients you have and can suggest a recipe, or you can assemble a combination of foods how you like. The frozen ingredients include vegetables, starches, and meats and come in their own containers, each with an RFID label. Once selected, you scan each container on the steamer and place the ingredient in its own compartment. The steamer knows how long to cook each individual component, so you don’t have to actually do any cooking.
According to mealhero’s Kickstarter video, they offer 100 ingredients, which can be combined into 300 different meals. And since everything is frozen, it keeps longer.
While most people probably don’t want every meal steamed, mealhero does seems to be taking the friction between meal kit delivery and actual usage. In a similar vein, Tovala combines specialized meal kit delivery designed for its own oven appliance. And Nomiku offers a similar prepared meal service for its connected sous-vide cooker. And elsewhere in the Netherlands, IXL has it’s E-cooker, another three compartment cooker that uses pulsed electric fields for precision heating (and it took home the Innovation Award at our recent Smart Kitchen Summit).
Mealhero currently has customers in Belgium and the Netherlands, and is using Kickstarter to raise $75,000 to grow the business.
THE SPOON: 1. Is mealhero currently available anywhere?
Jeroen Spitaels: mealhero is available in Belgium and The Netherlands. It is geographically limited because of the recurring food service, which we aren’t able yet to ship worldwide.
2. Do you currently have any funding, or are you doing this entirely through Kickstarter?
We already have some funding, Kickstarter is mainly to get more customers and further expand our market. Besides the funding aspect as well.
3. It looks like if successfully Kickstarted, you will roll out in September of 2018. Is this correct? Where will you be rolling out to first?
Correct. We will be rolling out in Belgium and The Netherlands.
4. What is the Kickstarter money going towards?
The production of the smart steaming devices. For now we have funded everything ourselves together with our partner. Which basically means the entire technological development. So the Kickstarter support will be used to – in fact – manufacture all the devices.
5. How much to does mealhero cost? Will the price change once you reach the market?
Retail price is 319 [EUR, $369 USD] for a smart steamer and 1 foodbox. Kickstarter price is 229 [$265 USD] for the smart steamer and 1 foodbox. Afterwords, customer are able to order as many foodboxes as they like for which the price will vary between 9,5 [$11] and 6,5 EUR [$7.54] per meal, depending on the total order size.
6. How do you plan to avoid the challenges other Kickstarter hardware projects have encountered?
At first we did all of the developments ourselves, afterwards we teamed up with an experienced partner in hardware product development for electronics, mechanics and design. Doing so allowed us to gain access to a broad range of possible suppliers for the devices. Furthermore, there is also a consumer guarantee as is the case for all consumer electronics.
7. How do you plan to avoid the challenges other meal kit delivery services have faced?
I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in a family food business in which I’m the 3rd generation. So we already have quite a bit of experience within the food industry. Besides that I believe it is also one of our core strengths that we’re always very open towards partnerships. For instance for the logistical supply chain, we are partnering up with specialized firms.