eMeals, claims Collier, offers a happy medium, by addressing the pain points meal kits address, and offering a more sustainable solution for people without the money or inclination to cook with Blue Apron or HelloFresh in the long term.
For $5 a month (for a 12-month subscription), eMeals subscribers can select a meal plan with recipes developed by chefs and nutritionists (and then modify it to meet their personal preferences), and automatically generate a grocery shopping list based on the meals selected (which can be modified as appropriate).
They can then order the groceries from Instacart, AmazonFresh, Walmart, Kroger Clicklist, ALDI, Publix or other partners at the click of a button, or use the list to do their own shopping.
Inspiration, curation, and delivery… you just have to chop your own carrots
The eMeals menu building system will see that three recipes require cheese, for example, and combine them to create one purchasable SKU, says Collier. “It’s an intelligent list, it pulls together ingredients across multiple recipes so you don’t have to work out what you need.”
Once users are ready to start cooking, the eMeals mobile app then provides step-by-step instructions for each recipe.
“Meal kit companies are a great solution for some people, and we partner with them, but for everyone else, we deliver the same things, with groceries that land on your doorstep, at less than half the cost per serving," says Collier.
"The difference is that no one has put your garlic cloves into a baggie, you’re not getting the pre-portioned ingredients – and you have to chop your own carrots. It’s inspiration, curation, and delivery - together our partners cover 86% of the country.”
eMeals is also utilizing infrastructure that is already there (grocery stores, online shopping platforms, Instacart etc) rather than building a meal delivery service from scratch, he points out.
“We’re not recreating the grocery ecosystem, we’re providing inspiration and connecting people with companies that already gather and delivery groceries, and we’ve got hundreds of thousands of users [70%+ female, primarily in 25-35-year and 36-50-year age brackets, typically cooking 3-4 meals from eMeals per week] that stay years, not months.
"And our monthly new sign-ups are more than double what they were a year ago.”
Where most people get hung up is the planning process
But why would people pay for recipes when there are so many free ones online?
There are “billions of free recipes out there” online, acknowledges Collier, but eMeals is steadily attracting new users because there’s a difference between finding a cool recipe on Instagram and the grind of meal planning and grocery shopping week in, week out.
“Where most people get hung up is the planning process,” he says. “Even if you find a great recipe, that’s only one part of the equation. We make everything so easy. In under a minute, you can choose three meals you want to cook during the week, generate a shopping list, add in a bunch of other things you need (kitchen towels, snacks), and order your groceries.”
He adds: “People often ask what will drive adoption of online grocery shopping and I think services like ours are accelerating adoption. For some of the vendors [eMeals’ grocery online shopping partners] up to 50% of the orders they are getting through eMeals are from people that haven’t placed an order before.
“We only started offering the grocery ordering service over the past six months [previously eMeals users would save or print out their own shopping lists], but a growing number of trial members and new users are taking advantage of this part of the service.”
Pick and mix
On the recipe choice side, eMeals users love the flexibility it offers, claims Collier, with some users just clicking a meal plan (Paleo, quick & healthy, heart healthy, low carb etc) and making a couple of modifications – such as picking three meals instead of seven – and they’re done, while others are picking and mixing from multiple plans.
While revenues have traditionally been generated from end user subscriptions, eMeals is also generating income from partnerships with grocers, meal kit companies and in future, CPG brands, says Collier, who also partners with media companies that develop recipes.
Food retailers, he concedes, could develop this kind of service inhouse, but most of them don’t have the time, inclination or expertise to do it, and find that partnering with a service such as eMeals - which is dedicated to this task – makes more sense.
“We are jointly selling subscriptions with partners as well.”