Meal delivery plans are becoming more sophisticated as companies offer everything from set packages catered to specific needs to bespoke programmes designed by nutritionists. Catering News investigates.
Meal delivery plans have been growing in popularity in the Middle East region over the past few years, driven by an increased awareness of healthy eating, and demand for convenience, particularly among those with busy lifestyles. Companies such as Kcal, Under 500, Smith St. Paleo and The Right Bite are already on board with the trend, some offering bespoke packages, set meal plans, or both, in addition to flexible booking options.
“People need convenience,” comments Holly Purdy, founder of Smith St. Paleo, which offers a range of lunch plans, paleo snacks, sweet treats and protein shakes. “Life is busy and people are generally time-poor. Look around at the things that are successful these days, and they are usually things that save people time. Meal delivery plans do this well and take out the headache and time associated with food prep.”
Meal plans are not just for those looking to lose weight. Consumers are increasingly seeking out plans that have been specifically designed by a professional to meet their bespoke requirements, whether that be rebalancing post-exercise, mum-to-be plans or those aimed at building muscle.
Lauren Jacobsen, nutrition director at Kcal Brands, explains: “We offer a wide variety of personalised meal plans focused on the individual’s goals. Our ‘Success’ plan is focused on weight-loss, while the ‘Wellness’ plan is for weight maintenance and the ‘Athlete’ plan targets muscle-building and performance.”
“Despite the additional cost, you would probably find that it’s still cheaper than the food you would get if you ordered a delivery or went out to eat, not to mention healthier and prepared to your specific calorie and macronutrient needs” – Lauren Jacobsen, nutrition director, Kcal Brands
In addition, Kcal customers have the option of visiting a nutritionist for a personalised consultation, which involves complete body composition analysis to help determine the best plan for them.
Under 500 offers three meal delivery plans, each of which is scientifically balanced by qualified nutritionists to optimise results and goals. The available plans are: ‘Lean’ for fat loss; ‘Clean’ for a healthy, balanced lifestyle; and ‘Mean’ aimed at muscle gain.
Meanwhile, The Right Bite offers among its packages, ‘Balanced Mom’, a programme to ensure proper nutrition for expectant mothers and babies and the ‘Selective Plus’ plan, recommended for picky eaters and people with food allergies.
According to Nathalie Haddad, founder and managing director, The Right Bite, meal delivery plans can go beyond offering a temporary fix, helping clients adopt a long-term healthy lifestyle by teaching them the benefits of healthy eating. “Right Bite meal plans are a great answer to educating the consumer on the correct portions based on their needs, and providing them with a variety of meal choices that are convenient and cost-effective,” she comments.
Other key benefits cited by the experts are: optimising goals and results; being reassured you are making good choices; saving time on shopping and cooking, and having a wider variety of healthy options. “People want to eat healthily but are often caught short on options,” says Smith St. Paleo’s Purdy. “If they order from a service like ours then it takes away that risk of eating bad food. We also save them so much time on grocery shopping and cooking – the chances are they may not like or know how to cook.”
However, sticking to any diet has its downsides, and when the added challenges of expense, long-term commitment and inflexible terms and conditions are considered, meal plans become less of a convenience.
For Kcal, one of the major hurdles is educating consumers on why meal delivery plans can seem expensive. Jacobsen comments: “The one thing to remember is that the meal plan is a service and you are paying for the convenience of shopping, preparing, planning, cooking and delivering the food to your door.
“Despite the additional cost, you would probably find that it’s still cheaper than the food you would get if you ordered a delivery or went out to eat, not to mention healthier and prepared to your specific calorie and macronutrient needs.”
For Purdy of Smith St. Paleo, flexibility is the most important consideration for meal plan providers to have success in the competitive market. “If you are locked in with little choice for weeks at a time, then the chances of not feeling like eating the food or getting bored are higher. Food delivery companies that are flexible on menu options but maintain good, healthy meals, are what people need.”
“We will move with the taste and trends, continuously developing exciting, ground-breaking recipes while researching the health and fitness market and listening to our members’ wants and needs” – Mahmood Bartawi and Fadi Ghaly, co-founders, Under 500
Some companies have looked at ways of creating more flexible options for clients. For example, Under 500 offers a clause whereby clients can put a hold on their plan once a month, however Fadi Ghaly and Mahmood Bartawi, co-founders of the healthy eating brand warn that by doing so, clients risk missing out on the health benefits. “It’s possible to freeze a meal plan with 48 hours’ notice once per monthly plan for up to 40 days. However, the plan has to be followed daily to maximise results, and so random, sporadic nights out are off-limits,” comment Ghaly and Bartawi.
To offer clients more leeway, The Right Bite has introduced Right Bite express service, which provides healthy meals on demand, which are delivered to your door within an hour, and looking to the future, Haddad says her strategy will be to continue increasing the flexibility of meal plans. “In 2017 we’ll be enhancing the channels by which consumers can eat healthily, whether it be with our personalised meal packages, our express on-demand service, our on-the-go corporate solutions or our catering division. Whatever may be your dietary lifestyle, Right Bite will provide an accessible solution to eating healthily.”
As meal delivery plans grow in popularity in the region, providers are keen to stay ahead of new developments. Ghaly and Bartawi of Under 500 comment: “We will move with the taste and trends, continuously developing exciting, ground-breaking recipes while researching the health and fitness market and listening to our members’ wants and needs.”
For Jacobsen of Kcal, meal plans will become more customised and focused on consumer demand as the market continues to grow. “Consumers are more willing to spend a little more on healthy food that is fresh, natural and helps them achieve their goals. Plans that are focused on fresh foods, plenty of vegetables, fruit, and that are free of refined sugars and flours will continue to be dominant on the market,” she says.