“In January, we did a very general customer understanding of how the original meal kit product was meeting their needs,” co-founder Trista Li told FoodNavigator-USA.
The original model was a three-tier meal kit plan priced at $22 for the small (good for one adult for a week), $38 for the medium (good for two adults and two children for a week), and $62 for the large (good for two adults and three children for a week).
However, many customers said they would like to see more fruit in the box – reporting that their kids tended to gobble it up before being able to use it in a recipe – and some of the ingredients were never used at all.
“There were a lot of leftovers of starchy produce that ended up not being utilized within a week’s time span,” Li said.
To address these pain points, the KitcheNet team introduced two new simplified products: the “Fruit Box” (a box containing four varieties of snackable fruit that rotates every week) and its “Power Produce Tote” (containing locally-sourced seasonal vegetables with an emphasis on greens).
According to Li, customers expressed the most excitement for the seasonal local greens such as kale and chard.
“The fact that it is seasonal, the fact that it is locally sourced, is very attractive to the consumer,” Li said.
The variety of produce is another attractive feature of its boxes, according to Li. KitcheNet sources its fruit from multiple grocery stores and local farms to include exotic varieties such as lychee and persimmons in its boxes along with information on how each fruit should be stored and consumed.
“Fruit Box has been predominantly our major sales and it has been an increasing percentage of our total sales,” Li noted.
The startup also decided to simplify its meal boxes to include more varieties of fresh produce. Now each meal box includes three types of greens, a selection of herbs, and one selection of another seasonal item accompanied by abbreviated, more flexible recipes and cooking methods.
Prices across its products have also been reduced to make its fresh, healthy eating options more accessible to under-served communities.
Honing business model into three buckets
Still keeping with its same mission of providing affordable and easy access to fresh, healthy food to under-served communities and backed by a ‘Community Engagement’ grant from the University of Chicago, KitcheNet has organized its service offering into “three major buckets,” Li said.
The first is its primary impact route supporting community wellness by providing delivery to senior citizens living in low-income neighborhoods who are primarily enrolled in government-assisted Medicare and Medicaid programs.
The second is its outreach to working individuals and heads of households in these areas, by placing central pickup hubs for its Fruit Box and Power Produce Tote products. KitcheNet has set up a partnership with Kennedy-King College on the Southside of Chicago and is pursuing additional partnership to expand its pickup locations.
The third target for the company has been offices both in low-income areas as well as offices in Chicago’s downtown loop area, the latter of which is charged a $2 delivery fee which goes towards supporting its delivery services to the senior community.
“We noticed there is a pain point of accessing fresh produce during work time, especially healthy snacks like fresh fruit that has variety. Even though there’s a lot of desire to get fresh produce to take it home, the time people are spending in the office has been increasing but the access to anything that is a healthy alternative that is fresh and perishable has not been meeting the demand,” Li said.
KitcheNet has been conducting office demos with downtown companies, such as RX Bar and Leo Burnett, and will continue to target the high density business areas to drive awareness of its company mission as well as additional revenue to fuel its expansion and community outreach.
Next up for the company is engaging more directly with the health community by bringing its fresh fruit and veggie boxes directly to hospitals where conventional vending machines are still the norm.
According to Li, KitcheNet just kicked off a conversation with the University of Chicago’s School of Medicine to start targeting this area.
"Our mission has not changed and it's still very ingrained in this idea of allowing our users to own the narrative of their desire to eat healthy."