If there is something that I undoubtedly inherited from my family, it is the taste of good food. But not only that but the ritual involved in the whole process, from buying the ingredients, preparing them in the kitchen, assembling the dishes, the presentation at the table and finally, the family reunion. Perhaps being born at a time when delivery was not yet the most common thing added to the tradition of home cooking made my youth bear the trademark of Sunday family lunches.
For such a reason, in 2018, I decided to give free rein to my hobby and start a career as a Professional Chef. For various reasons, I could only do the first year of it, which was enough for me to learn various techniques and bromatological issues, but what caught my attention was the passion that each of my classmates applied to each dish. Anybody can follow a cooking recipe, without a doubt, but the flavour, aroma and texture will vary depending on the passion and dedication that the cook puts into every single detail.
I always remember a story told to us by one of the teachers of the course. In the 1940s, the Betty Crocker brand, owned by General Mills (NYSE: GIS), launched a product that promised to be revolutionary: the premix cake. Imagine the time it saved to pour the contents of a sachet into a bowl of water, stir, bake, and get a cake ready to bake. Sales began to grow gradually until they began to stagnate in the 1960s.
It was then that they decided to look for the deeper causes of the low market acceptance, and for that, they turned to the Austrian psychologist Ernest Dichter, who specialized in studying consumer habits. The psychologist’s conclusion was that the product had to be “made worse”. Yes, the mixture made the process so easy that consumers even felt guilty about using it. They did not feel they were cooking but rather creating a synthetic product devoid of any sentimentality. The solution was simple: Remove the dehydrated egg from the premix and modify the recipe to allow the cook to add a fresh egg. And guess what? Yes, it worked. Now consumers had that cooking sensation.
In today’s age, culinary art is booming. It is very common to see a wide range of courses and TV programs on the subject. Many of us want to feel that passion and pleasure that comes from entertaining others with our food, but sometimes the fast pace of our lives does not allow us to take the time to put on our Chef’s hat. To help us a little with this issue, “meal kits” companies like the German Hellofresh (BATS EU: HFG) were born.
The theme is simple but very practical. Through a subscription system, Hellofresh (BATS EU: HFG) sends to our home a kit of ingredients together with a recipe card to prepare a meal. The ingredients are always fresh and purchased from the same suppliers, which ensures an identical taste over time as long as we follow the recipe to the letter. In this way, we can cook at home, being sure that we will apply the exact proportions and we will not miss any ingredients.
The bet is really innovative since it also allows us to open up to different cultures. Sometimes we do not feel confident enough to cook native dishes from other countries of the world on our own. The ingredients may differ from those we are used to and even, depending on where we are in the world, may be difficult to obtain, discouraging us from having to go to several markets in search of them. On the other hand, it also allows us to keep stricter control of our diet, as it contains a very easy-to-understand labelling that shows us, among other things, the final nutritional value per serving.
Hellofresh (BATS EU: HFG) had a dizzying rise. In 2011 it burst onto the market as a start-up, and its founders were the ones who delivered the first meal kits at home. By 2017 it announced its IPO, and just one year later, it absorbed one of its main competitors in the US market, Green Chef, oriented to the creation of meal kits with organic ingredients in order to expand the portfolio of options.
Today, the company has more than 7 million active subscribers worldwide. Seven million people do not give up their passion and find in the meal kits their ally against lack of time, tiredness and poor nutrition. At the moment, I can’t subscribe to Hellofresh (BATS EU: HFG) because it is not available in my country, but after researching, I discovered that there are several local companies based on this business model; I just have to decide on one of them and dust off my Chef’s hat.