Karl Brandt is the CEO of Mealtek, one of the UK’s leading personalised meal delivery services with up to 2000 meals distributed a day.
We met with Karl to learn the key drivers behind this rapidly emerging market and the critical role of technology in developing a truly scalable solution.
How is the market changing?
Over the last decade there has been a really important shift towards organic food, but there’s still a long way to go. As a society we now need to address the issue of portion size and achieving the right ratios of complex ingredients that cater to the individual. We’ve already seen a growing awareness of these matters which in turn is fuelling the demand for personalised meal delivery services.
The trend isn’t just about fitness junkies, although of course they are some of the most enthusiastic early adopters. It’s also about the generally health conscious who are income rich but time poor, of whom there are vast numbers in London!
What’s fuelling the change?
Part of it is education, but technology is also playing a major role. For example, My Fitness Pal has given people much more control over their nutrition but actually prepping meals is still a headache. Services like Mealtek allow people to enjoy a meal plan with the perfect balance of macronutrients and calories, delivered right to their door.
What about those with less disposable income?
For now we have to be realistic; it’s only a relatively small proportion that can afford this kind of service. However, our vision is not just about money, it’s about having a real impact on society’s health. Our ultimate goal is to one day find a way for people of all walks of life to enjoy complex dishes bespoke to their requirements at an affordable price.
It’s our belief that personalised meal delivery will eventually become mainstream. After all, why would someone pay £4 on a sandwich when they could spend the same on something that’s far healthier, just as convenient and completely bespoke to their needs?
What’s required for that vision to become reality?
It all boils down to technology. The challenge is in developing a scalable platform that becomes increasingly cost efficient at larger volumes. That’s why we’re called Mealtek; the solution is half food, half technology!
I’m personally from a web development background and since day 1 we’ve placed a huge emphasis on technology, particularly on our algorithm that automatically designs meal plans around goals and circumstances. This platform is at the core of our business as it allows us to scale without compromising quality.
How does an algorithm address the issue of taste?
Well our algorithm allows us to make meals that are far more sophisticated than your usual meal. Typically it’s more time consuming to get a recipe to fulfil a person’s nutrition requirements the more ingredients it has. But, because we have an automated algorithm to do this we can use really complex, delicious recipes without sacrificing on the nutrition side of things.
We also recognise that many people love cooking and that tastes and flavours are very personal to the individual, which was why the original plan was to provide customers with the ingredients and let them do the preparation. We decided in the end to provide the whole service as it was only fractionally more expensive and gave the Mealtek brand far greater differentiation, but I think one day we may revisit the raw ingredients model.
At what point do you expect the big brands in the food market to embrace the trend towards personalised meal distribution?
Ocado have done an incredible job in making food more convenient and now that they have the infrastructure in place I think they’re in a very strong position for future growth. However, even their model still fails to address the issue of wastage.
The barrier to widespread adoption is that the entire industry is set up to create and distribute thousands of the same thing, so while Ocado have addressed the issue of convenience, none of the big players are in a position to address the demand for personalised meals or portion control. For now that can only come from specialist companies.
However, the trend is in motion and it’s not going to stop. There are 1.9 billion overweight people on the planet and every year we’re just going to see more money pumped into the markets that offer potential solutions. We believe that personalised meal delivery will be at the heart of that movement.