What you need to know:
- Interestingly, some of her first time clients get shocked when they find uncooked food in the package.
- Offerings from The Dinner Box include chicken, lamb, fish and beef recipes.
It took Eva Mugo a compact schedule of school and work and the persistent inconvenience of spending money on unhealthy food to develop a business solution.
Now, her company – The Dinner Box – has taken off and aims to serve those looking for healthy food options.
After graduating from United States International University with a degree in international business administration, Eva, 28, left for Australia to pursue a Master’s degree in global media and communication at the University of Melbourne.
Immediately she arrived there, she felt like she was in unfamiliar territory. Eva had to work two jobs to make the extra money she needed to survive.
‘‘There was hardly any time left in my schedule to shop for cooking ingredients. I was also watching my food-related expenses, yet nearly every meal left me unsatisfied,’’ she narrates.
Dejected, she started ordering meal kits so that she could prepare her own food. Her frustrations morphed into a business idea. And when she returned to Kenya late last year, she decided to implement it.
In February, she founded The Dinner Box, an online-based enterprise that delivers meal kits to customers’ homes.
‘‘Meal kits are packages of pre-portioned ingredients for different dishes. They come along with a recipe. Customers pick and order a meal plan online, and the deliveries are made to their doorsteps,’’ Eva explains.
By cooking at home, clients get to enjoy restaurant-style dining.
‘‘It saves the customer the hustle of buying groceries and having to determine the portions of oil, salt or spices to add while cooking.’’
Offerings from The Dinner Box include chicken, lamb, fish and beef recipes. There are vegetarian options too consisting of pasta and veggie wraps. Offerings come in different sizes that serve one, two or four. Also in the meal plans are spices, sauces and other seasoning elements.
While meal kits – also called food boxes, recipe boxes or cooking kits – are popular in the western world, Eva notes that this is a fairly new phenomenon in Kenya.
‘‘Meal boxes are a billion dollar industry abroad. However, majority of Kenyans are not familiar with this idea. It is still new here,” she says.
Interestingly, some of her first time clients get shocked when they find uncooked food in the package.
‘‘They expect to find ready-to-eat food.’’
But what inspired her to start The Dinner Box and who are her target customers? Eva says that most people, especially working millennials, suffer from ‘‘decision fatigue’’ where they’re unable to decide what to have for dinner after an exhausting day at work.
‘‘It is not easy to come up with quick, healthy and tasty fixes. Food boxes are for people who are willing to experiment with recipes and to learn. It also targets those who are busy and hardly ever get time to shop for groceries and other ingredients,’’ she says.
Foodies and creators of food content can also benefit from the concept, she adds.
While she’s passionate about good food, Eva’s role is purely entrepreneurial. Her job involves supervising operations and approving recipes.
‘‘I work with Rhoda Nemburis, a culinary arts expert, who creates the recipes. She is the brains behind the concept and determines the ingredients for every dish.’’
Eva met Nemburis at a family party two years ago. They kept in touch, and when she was ready to set up her business, she approached her.
When the coronavirus pandemic was first announced in Kenya, hotels and restaurants were ordered shut to contain the spread of the virus. When these businesses resumed operations, they only allowed the takeaway option.
To fine dining enthusiasts, this was an inconvenience. But for Eva, it was an opportunity to strike.
‘‘The concept of The Dinner Box allows clients to enjoy the experience of restaurant-like dining even during this period. What’s more? They get to make the food themselves!’’ she says.
The success or failure of her business, however, isn’t pegged on the current crisis.
‘‘This isn’t a reactionary product, it is a solution to a problem I personally experienced. I spotted the gap two years ago,’’ she says.
Eva hopes to capitalise on cost, convenience and speed to foster continuity for her business even after the pandemic is brought under control.
‘‘Eating out is expensive. A plate at a good eatery goes for between Sh1,500 and Sh1,800. Add drinks to the budget and this will cost about Sh4,000 for dinner for two,’’ she argues and adds:
‘‘Preparing the meal at home is convenient since you don’t have to move around.’’
So, how has the reception been like so far?
“Impressive!” Eva replies.
‘‘Kenyans like to try out new things in the market. Many are curious to know what a dinner box is and how it works.’’
Eva notes that cooking, as opposed to buying a readymade meal, allows for more freedom and flexibility.
‘‘You determine what goes into your meal based on your preferences. Besides, it is a great learning experience.’’
‘‘I am happy to set the trend. I hope to create a new recipe every week. At the end of the year, we hope to have additional meal plans,’’ Eva says.
As the local food scene grows and Kenyans grow to appreciate different options, the food business is getting more diverse every day.
‘‘Kenyan palates are more exploratory today. Food is now an art and a vibrant element of culture, more than ever before. We must continue to embrace these culinary developments for a livelier food industry,’’ she adds.
Her proudest achievement? Creating employment to not just herself, but also to the chef and those who deliver the meal kits to customers.