To help families discover the foods and cultures of other countries through culinary adventures, eCommerce innovators are assembling family cooking kits. Take eat2explore, which offers boxes of recipes, spices, sauces and grains, among other items, centered around the cuisines different countries. Founder Rowena Scherer told PYMNTS in an interview her offering is an “educational food and culture box.” Scherer is from Malaysia but came to the U.S. for work. Scherer has been in finance for her whole life, but says she has a “very strong passion for food because I grew up with it.”
Her mom would make her family cook together every Sunday. When she came to the United States, however, she was busy as a working mom and trying to juggle all of her responsibilities. And she forgot to pass her passion along to her children: She realized her children couldn’t chop an onion. Her kits help provide a culinary education with three recipe cards from each country with easy-to-follow instructions. Boxes also include a country brochure, fun cooking tools, educational activity sheets and collectibles (i.e. passport, country sticker, flag pins).
The company, however, does not provide fresh ingredients in its boxes. Instead, it offers unique spices, sauces, and grain mixes. It also provides a shopping list, which allows consumers to buy foods that meet their dietary preferences or restrictions at a farmers market or grocery store. The idea of going to a supermarket also has some educational value — it’s a “teaching moment,” Scherer says — to, say, weigh ingredients is an experience in math and science, after all.
Consumers can explore a country by trying a single box or have an ongoing monthly order. Alternatively, they can explore a continent, which is four countries, and receive one box for four months. They can also explore the world by receiving one box for 12 months. Consumers can pay for a single box with PayPal, Google Pay, or Amazon Pay through express checkout or credit card, but the company only accepts credit cards for subscriptions.
The box, Scherer says, is excellent for kids. It’s ideally meant for those between the ages of 5 and 12 and helps them explore their palettes. (It can be harder to get teenage kids to hang out with their parents, after all.) The company’s target market includes parents and grandparents. And a lot of homeschoolers also like the service. There are some benefits to having kids cook, too. If you have children cook foods and get their hands dirty, Scherer points out, they are more willing to try new foods. They may not finish everything on their plate, but they still become introduced to, say, different kinds of produce.
A recipe from the Ethiopian box, for instance, features a chicken stew dish called doro wat with an Ethiopian flatbread called injera. (Injera is made with a water and salt batter typically fermented for four to five days called teff.) It also includes a stir-fried beef dish called tibs wat with rice and collard greens/kale. Since consumers are buying their ingredients, however, they can replace meat such as chicken with vegetables, tofu or seitan. “You still have the flavor,” Scherer says, but consumers are using a completely different protein or vegetable.
The boxes are also a way for consumers to try foods without investing too much in buying a product they may not like. Scherer says she feels like it’s always a food waste when you go to a store and buy big bottles of fish sauce (or sumac), and you cook one dish and realize you don’t like fish sauce. Consumers then might toss out the big bottle of fish sauce. Her service, however, lets consumers try new foods without buying huge amounts. And if they don’t like it, they don’t have to make it again, and they are not wasting spices or sauces. They have only receive the pre-measured spice/sauce mixes with the box.
If consumers do like a dish, however, they can buy only the spice/sauce/grain mixes on a one-time purchase basis. They can also purchase additional eat2explore passports, aprons, flag pins and stickers. Consumers can also order gift subscriptions and include a personalized gift message that will come with the first box. The company also allows consumers to buy a gift card for a recipient delivered through email with instructions for redemption.
The company currently offers 17 countries/regions and plans to add two countries, Peru and South Korea, to its lineup this year as it aims to provide families with culinary adventures through educational boxes.