Recipe box specialists Mindful Chef and Gousto won investments of £6m and £18m respectively this week, showing that the market for meal kits is on the rise.

Targeting the health-conscious but time-constrained customer, recipe boxes cut out the boring parts of cooking – finding the recipes, doing the food shop, and weighing and preparing the ingredients.

Many cater for a variety of diets, or even calculate consumers’ calories and macronutrients to make them feel like a gym-pro.

The number of recipe box companies has proliferated in recent years. HelloFresh emerged in 2011, swiftly followed by Gousto in 2012, SimplyCook in 2014 and Mindful Chef in 2015.

“The global recipe box market is fast-growing and driven by time-poor consumers seeking more convenient, less wasteful and healthier ways to lead their lives”

Libby Gibson, Piper

“The global recipe box market is fast-growing and driven by time-poor consumers seeking more convenient, less wasteful and healthier ways to lead their lives,” says Libby Gibson, founding partner of consumer brands investor Piper, which took a £6m stake in Mindful Chef.

“The market is becoming well established and we’ve been following it closely for some time, but we always look for a brand with a strong and highly differentiated proposition.”

The global market is forecast to be worth $10bn by 2020. In the UK, Piper believes the market is worth £215m at present and that it will nearly double over the next five years to around £430m.

Successful model

Recipe box success is built upon a subscription model – which is attractive to retailers because of its recurrent nature, and to consumers because of its convenience, avoiding the need to collect all the ingredients in-store and often in a hurry. It can also cut food and plastic waste.

Big grocers are attempting to secure their own place in the market. Morrisons released its own-brand range of recipe boxes, Eat Fresh, in September last year, boasting prices to rival the established companies.

Waitrose’s Cook Well has been around since 2016, kept cool in “upcycled sheep’s wool” to appeal to the environmentally aware. Tesco and Co-op have also trialled in-store meal kits.

“Many customers will try out the concept from Waitrose, then come to us for an alternative, healthier option”

Giles Humphries, Mindful Chef 

Far from being competition, co-founder Giles Humphries says Mindful Chef was “delighted” by the supermarket chains’ involvement in the market because “it could only raise awareness” of recipe boxes in general.

“We will continue to price ourselves at the higher end of the market, based on the quality of our ingredients and the health benefits of our recipes,” he says. “Many customers will try out the concept from Waitrose, then come to us for an alternative, healthier option.”

Mindful Chef’s sales rose 178% over the past year and the recent investment from Piper will enable the business to expand its customer base further.

Humphries says Piper’s investment will be partly used for growth marketing, expanding awareness of recipe boxes, considering that 55% of its customer base is “surprisingly” outside the M25.

Mindful Chef is also in the process of developing new product ranges, a few of which are to be released this year, all with their signature health focus.

Competitor Gousto grew at a rate of 170% year on year last quarter and has received further backing from existing investors Unilever Ventures, Hargreave Hale, BGF Ventures, MMC Ventures, and Angel CoFund, as well as new investment from health guru and Instagram influencer Joe Wicks, renowned for his ‘Lean in 15’ lifestyle books.

Tim Boldt, chief executive and founder, says the investment will be used to further the retailer’s interest in AI technology, as well as launching new products including Wicks’.

This brings investment in Gousto to £75m.

Ultimately, in what many, including Humphries, deem the “age of convenience”, the desire for recipe boxes to take the planning out of a meal plan is bound to grow.