Three companies with somewhat different business models are offering options for those looking for healthfulness and convenience. In the wake of the multiple food scandals that have shaken Taiwan’s faith in its local food industry – and considering the oily, starch-laden foods that typify Taiwanese cooking – health-conscious consumers are hard-pressed to find nutritious, quality food on the go.
Green & Safe operates in much the same way, as an e-commerce site that also delivers from a central kitchen and depot via their own delivery vehicles. The exception is EatSmart, which is affiliated with Coda restaurant, where its gourmet meals for dieters, including the occasional celebrity, are prepared. The healthy-foods-delivered model is already well-established in many markets, particularly the United States, where market leaders Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem pioneered the business of delivering processed meals to dieters seeking portion- and calorie-controlled meals. The market is thriving in the United States, where new businesses seem to enter the market every day, some focusing on organics, some on localism, and still others on specific diets or processed foods.
Many busy office workers subsist primarily on small restaurant and takeout foods such as biandang lunchboxes that tend to feature oily meats and vegetables and lots of starchy white rice. Daniel Wu, cofounder of Eatsmart along with Andrew Lunman, says that their customers are primarily “very health-conscious people who are sick of getting oily food every time they go out but don’t have time to cook for themselves.” EatSmart meals average between NT$150 and $250 – not cheap by Taiwanese takeout standards, but not very expensive either. Lunman describes health food as “a premium product” and subsector of the “image industry,” alongside fitness and cosmetics and other luxury goods and services intended to make people look and feel good. Another reason for the predominantly expat clientele may be that Lunman and Wu’s principles may differ from Taiwanese people’s basic concepts of nutrition.
Wu observes that these same ingredients are sometimes hard for local consumers to accept, as they are used to eating a lot of white rice, often in a biandang.
As a result, after four years in business, the majority of Nutrifresh’s 250 customers are now local nationals.
Likewise, Green & Safe’s customers are almost entirely locals, and the company recently revised its target demographic income level downward from NT$3 million a year to $1 million, seeing a broadening trend in the market toward health consciousness. The success of these varied strategies would seem to indicate positive conditions for future development of the market, but the sector is still in its infancy and faces a number of challenges that may constrain continued growth. First, while subscriptions are considered essential to enabling these firms to leverage batch production and a steady revenue stream to minimize costs and deliver high quality, the pre-paid business model has faced problems in Taiwan due to strict regulations designed to protect consumers – some of them adopted in the aftermath of the Alexander Health Club scandal in 2007, in which the company continued to sell lifelong memberships until the day of its collapse. While Nutrifresh was able to overcome this challenge, subscription plans may also run into problems with customer acceptance. On the other hand, “if you’re really committed to weight loss, then you have to be committed to the plan,” he notes. Nutrifresh counters tedium by offering more choices and making some compromises between nutritional ideals and what customers expect in their meals. Taiwan-born but Texas-raised, Steve Ho worked on Wall Street for years until the financial crisis of 2008. After four months of working out and eating right, he felt better and decided he wanted to work in health and wellness.
While Steve initially expected the business to cater to corporate managers, 60% of the meals are delivered to homes and only 40% to offices.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and Andrew Lunman and Daniel Wu, co-founders of Eatsmart readily concede that they owe their inspiration to Nutrifresh. EatSmart delivers two days’ worth of fresh meals in the evening, “so you have your food ready for you to take to work,” says Lunman.
He adds that people in the upper-income demographic are demanding, making tastiness all the more crucial.
A longtime restaurateur, Lunman over the past more than 10 years has operated such Western restaurants as Bongos, Forkers, and Coda.
One reason for the preponderance of males may be the availability of EatSmart through some of the new gyms in Taipei. Green & Safe sees itself as offering healthier, organic versions of traditional favorites. With eight years of operation, Green & Safe is the oldest player in the market and the market leader, having some 2,000 subscribers who receive fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, as well as pledged organic meats (Taiwan has no organic certification for meats), wild-caught fish, and even frozen, prepared meals. Green & Safe sells to more than 20,000 customers every month, but only 15% of them are on the subscription plan – the rest order a la carte. Catering to the local market by offering healthier, organic versions of traditional favorites has allowed the firm to grow steadily each year, and demand now exceeds supply.
I am currently doing research for my thesis on the food delivery in Taiwan, and I would like to contact to you regarding some questions I would like to ask you, if you can spare 15 minutes. About Taiwan Business TOPICSPublished monthly by the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei, Taiwan Business TOPICS is a source of balanced, reliable, and insightful news and analysis on issues of concern to Taiwan's business community.
It is no secret that while I love to cook and create recipes, I also love to eat out and experiment.
Cooked is a local Chicago company that is setting the standard in fresh, healthy food and meal delivery.
Our healthy, locally sourced meals are crafted with care and packaged in sustainable, biodegradable packaging. Not only are these meals created to satisfy your taste buds and your stomachs while nourishing your body, I LOVE that the packaging is biodegradable! Nutrition info is not provided for all dishes at this time, but they have recently (as in, this past weekend) updated their nutrition reporting system to make it more accurate for the entire dish.
I chose a selection of different types of foods–I wanted to see how they would stand up, how the flavors would come through, and also some (such as the posole and the shrimp and papaya salad) that I just have a super huge weakness for!
Unfortunately, there was a mix up with the delivery, and the quart of broth didn’t make it to me. I adore true Mexican chicken soup, and I love posole, but it is generally a no go for me, as posole (or pozole) is traditionally made with lard and pork.
Due to the mix up with the Posole, the folks at Cooked offered me a substitute meal, and Chef Jona suggested the duck breast salad. Many of you might not remember, but Som Tom (Thai Green Papaya Salad) is one of my absolute favorite dishes, period. The food selection truly is among the best that I have seen, and they willingly accommodate a multitude of diets (and even have cleanse-like plans). I can see that for some palates, the dishes might be a little too light, either in seasoning, calories, or otherwise.
I reached out to Cooked on my own after being introduced to them at the Good Food Festival.
I too gave Blue Apron a whirl and while I was pleased with the recipes, quality of the produce and ease, I wasn’t thrilled about the options. This is great for people who work full time or have a difficult time getting to the supermarket regularly. I’m right with you on the eggs, salad, or smorgasbord of different things for dinner for one. I really want to try to recreate some of these meals since I’m so far away from getting these delivered!! Muscle Meals Direct takes all the hard work out of preparing food by providing freshly cooked meals that are portion controlled, cooked fresh each week and delivered to an outlet near to you.
Now, however, several startups are serving up healthy foods with the added convenience of delivery straight to the consumer’s home or office. But in convenient Taiwan, where there is no shortage of inexpensive meal options for busy office workers, are consumers ready for or interested in these products and services?
Longtime concerns about food safety have been acerbated by the recent waste oil crisis and earlier scandals involving dangerous chemicals added to drinks and other products. However, the company does require that subscribers pay upfront anywhere from NT$10,000 to NT$20,000 or more to cover the cost of the next month’s meals. Eat- Smart “uses only fresh, natural ingredients – for example quinoa, guacamole, blueberries, Lunman says.
EatSmart’s offerings are “higher in proteins and contain raw vegetables and different kinds of carbs,” he notes. He uses lean meats and lots of vegetables that are stir-fried (“we use tiny amounts of oil just so they won’t stick to the pan”) or steamed.
In fact, Ho says that one of his biggest surprises has been the low percentage of expat customers.
Consumers might balk at spending between NT$10,000 and $20,000 per month for meals upfront, even though they are likely to spend as much or even more eating on their own. Noticing that no one in Taipei seemed focused on the diet-end of health, he says, “a lightbulb went off in my head.” Steve established Nutrifresh in 2010, and despite a year of research he was still unprepared for market realities and almost folded. He also notes that a surprisingly large number of customers are female, and that some subscribers use his service to provide for their children or elderly parents.
Wu, a personal trainer from Australia, says he was looking for ways to help his training clients eat better when he discovered Nutrifresh.
EatSmart offers tastes from Taiwan and around the world: even a version of Taiwan’s beef noodle soup (niu rou mien). But despite his long experience, the healthy-foods-delivered sector has brought some surprises. Ho Yi-chia says Green & Safe takes pains to track the exact source of all its ingredients. For NT$2,500, the smallest weekly plan provides two fully prepared meals and the ingredients for three more for a family of two or three people. But Ho will not expand faster than Green & Safe’s ability to ensure the safety and quality of its suppliers. Prior to joining Taiwan Business Topics magazine in 2014, Tim was a frequent contributor, focusing primarily on issues related to energy, economy and technology. TOPICS readers look to the magazine for in-depth reporting on such subjects as Taiwan's infrastructure development, healthcare system, regulatory regime, environmental conditions and quality of life, and the political and legal system.
However, I do have several dietary restrictions that keep me from going out on a limb like some people are apt to do. Meals are delivered fresh with reheating instructions and are designed to be hot and ready to eat in minutes. As a former waitress and someone conscious of the amount of waste we produce (I recycle everything), this really stood out to me! Plus, if you have dietary restrictions, simply let them know in the product notes, and they will modify accordingly. The site warns that dishes can be up to 1.5x the size accounted for in the provided nutritional information (to account for the hand made nature of the meals). To the credit of the folks at Cooked, they immediately offered to supply with a replacement posole or meal from their new menu! I am not typically a fan of duck (at least in restaurants, where it can jut be too fatty), but I was game if he particularly recommended it, and I wanted to try one of their heartier offerings. Appropriately sized, clean recipes with top notch ingredients and freshly prepared with no preservatives.
But again, you don’t come to Cooked if you are looking to splurge on anything other than fresh goodness.
They graciously provided me with a gift card for my own selections, but all reviews and opinions are my own.
Love that everything is preservative free but still keeps for a few days–allows you to plan a few days in advance.
I try to minimize any and all food and container waste, and it’s good to hear a delivery service is doing the same! Every working day, a staff of just eight people produces two to four meals for some 250 customers throughout Taipei – 750 meals in all.
In addition, Lunman notes, eating is a social activity and subscription meal plans can be isolating. You’re not eating this cause you want tasty – although the food is tasty – you’re eating it because you want to be healthy. But he held on, and through trial and error built his company into one serving 250 customers paying between NT$12,000 or more a month, depending on the plan. Client Andrew Lunman heard about the system, and suggested that they could partner on their own food production and delivery company, but with a menu more tightly focused on the fitness sector as opposed to the general community. One is that single people comprise only around half of the clients, “not as high a ratio as I would’ve thought,” he observes. For example, to ensure the quality of the extra-virgin olive oil they use, Ho and her team went to Italy to visit the 600-year-old farm that presses it. I enjoy (I truly do enjoy!) a very healthy and health conscious diet, and getting in proper nutrition particularly during marathon training is of the utmost importance to me (read my tips for fueling your body during marathon training). Executive Chef Jona Silva is certified to create meals for those with Celiac or gluten intolerances. Also, they have just (as in this weekend) updated their ordering and packing system to avoid these issues, so I’m sure that had something to do with it.
I had this to refuel midmorning Saturday following marathon coaching and before lunch as it was a bit too light for a lunch option for me, but had excellent nutrition and macronutrient ratios–great carbs and just enough protein! I added some red pepper flake to it, and I liked that heating it up gave the spinach within an extra layer of moisture, flavor, and texture (you could eat it either cold or hot). Let them know–as long as it is an even swap (like jasmine for brown rice), they are game for your suggestions.
I swear I used to be on top of things but gosh lately I’m flying by the seat of my pants. After our terrible experience with delivery pizza a few weeks ago I don’t think I will be doing that ever again! Cooking for one is tiresome and tedious, and makes it so easy to be lazy and say, cereal it is! Muscle Meals are an ideal tool to allow you to concentrate on your training and recovery as they are perfect for anyone too busy to prepare, cook and eat clean fresh food all the time.
Meals are delivered twice a week, and subscribers can choose among Western, Asian, and “third choice” prepared meals, most of which can be eaten either warmed in a microwave or cold. The result is EatSmart, a boutique food delivery system that operates from Coda restaurant, serving fewer than 20 subscribers.
Another is that about three-quarters of the customers are men, though some couples go on the plan together. All of the farms that are Green & Safe suppliers are organic or pledged organic, and the company is careful not to push farmers to provide more than they are confident of producing for fear that organic standards may be compromised. With its focus on organic farm-to-table foods, Green & Safe’s offerings vary by the season and include special items for some holidays.
The duck was tender, juicy perfection cold as well as warmed (I tried both)–it made me want to try duck again later on! Until then, it was great inspiration for some fun new dishes, like Blue Apron, but on a more accessible level (dishes that I could eat again and again, rather than every now and then!). The company employs a further eight drivers to deliver the meals to homes and offices in the Taipei metropolitan area. EatSmart offers various plans in four- and six-days-a-week options ranging from the NT$12,000 Healthy Helper “supplement plan” to the NT$18,000 “Liquidator” full-course version. Thus why I focused so hard on my nutrition during Ragnar–for me, nutrition affects my whole being.
Perhaps a tad underseasoned, but a perfectly portioned light bowl for lunch or a larger snack.
Cutting through all that richness was the strawberry and golden raisin chutney and pickled red onions, which were all sweet, sour, spicy, acidic, and lots of different textures.
Salmon? I was incredibly impressed by the virtually endless options from menus that change weekly. The lime and cabbage came on the side (as is customary for caldo (soup) of this nature), and omg, yes. And that lime-Thai dressing was so good that I am not ashamed to say I actually drank a little of it straight from the cup. If they want to send croutons, they would be better served to have them sealed (to preserve crunchiness).
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