As meal kit providers are promising easy-to-cook recipes, some startups are designing their services around specific appliances. Presto Eats, for example, is creating selections with multicookers in mind.
“I fell in love with the new wave of kitchen appliances,” Connie Chong, the company’s founder and CEO, told PYMNTS in an interview about the decision to start her company. When she got her first Instant Pot a year ago, she said she was “impressed at how dramatically it cut down on the cooking time.”
Multicookers like the Instant Pot offer various cooking functions, such as steaming, baking and roasting, with the press of a few buttons. Instead of watching and stirring, consumers can simply press a button, which essentially does the cooking for them. While it would have typically taken Chong hours to make the broth for one particular dish, it took her less than 30 minutes using the cooker.
However, even with the appliance, it still took Chong an hour to shop for and prepare ingredients for the dish. After searching Google for meal kits that would serve such a need and not finding a solution, she decided to start her Canada-based company.
Presto Eats, which now serves the Calgary area, offers meal kits that can be cooked quickly in multicookers. Chong said her service is “definitely the original Instant Pot meal kit, because nothing else exists for it yet.”
The offerings include yellow curry with tofu and basmati rice, and one of her top sellers is salmon and risotto and snap peas. While the company now has its initial permanent menu, there are plans to offer rotating menus with locally sourced food in the future. Chong also aims to make the company environmentally sustainable by using recyclable plastics.
Presto Eats operates on a direct-to-consumer (D2C) model, and its products are sent on a weekly delivery schedule. Customers pick out which meals they would like in advance, and can decide when to have their meals delivered each weekend. To pay for their meals, shoppers can use PayPal, Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Apple Pay. Chong said she decided to offer Apple Pay because her target market is busy professionals, which are more likely to explore the newest forms of payment.
Most customers order an average of eight meal kits, and can keep them in the freezer until they are ready to cook so there is no concern about spoilage. “All of our meal kits freeze really well,” Chong said.
Multicookers are gaining traction in the marketplace. The Instant Pot was the best-selling item on Amazon during Black Friday in 2017. “These are definitely entering into customer households right now,” Chong said. “These multicookers have so many functions; it almost replaces the need for [a] stovetop.”
At the same time, Chong said that “kitchen counter real estate is definitely precious” in big cities. A large portion of the population lives in high-rises, especially in Canadian cities such as Vancouver.
Chong equated her company taking advantage of multicooker technology to the revolution of the microwave, when a whole line of food products emerged specific to that appliance. And therein lies the advantage for Chong’s company amid a challenging market for meal kits: While other meal kit companies are seeking to serve the entire market, Presto Eats targets a niche market of those who love instant pots and seeking offerings that complement them.
To introduce more customers to her company, Chong has had social media appliance giveaways through channels such as Facebook and Instagram. She is also planning to offer in-person cooking classes. Overall, the company aims to position itself as an expert and offer advice on how consumers should use their kitchen appliances, as it eyes growth in the multicooker meal kit market in Western Canada and the rest of the country.