Podcast: Healthy food by subscription

Every week, Harm Edens of BNR radio interviews internal and external experts on why a bank is aiming to build a better world. In this week’s podcast he speaks to Jack Stroeken of Ekomenu, suppliers of specialized food boxes by subscription.

Listen to the podcast now (in Dutch) or read on for our synopsis in English.

Jack Stroeken is a man with a mission: improving people’s health and wellbeing by offering them a convenient, personalized way of changing their eating habits. How? By delivering tailored recipe boxes with healthy, organic food right to their doorstep.

“I studied plant science and marketing in Wageningen,” says Stroeken. “As the son of a tomato farmer, I was always fascinated by the power of vegetables to improve health. We’ve only begun to discover the effects of what we eat and how changes in our eating patterns can help fight disease.

“Type 2 diabetes can be cured without medicine”

- Jack Stroeken, Ekomenu

Food as medicine

“For instance, doctors have only recently become aware that early-stage type 2 diabetes can be cured without medicine, just by changing the patient’s diet. We can also address kidney problems, high blood pressure and much more through food.

“I wanted to raise awareness of this. I became general manager of a Dutch agency promoting fruit & vegetables, was chairman of the Slow Food Movement in the Netherlands, and became involved in initiatives to sell local food straight to consumers. Ultimately, though, I wanted to move faster, so chef and cookbook writer Marjolein de Vlaam and I decided to start our own company, Ekomenu.

Hassle-free healthy cooking

“Ekomenu sells food subscription boxes online and delivers them. They contain recipes and all the fresh ingredients you need to cook several meals. It takes the hassle out of healthy cooking. No need to find recipes or look for ingredients in the supermarket. And because you get exactly the amounts you need, there’s no waste.

“A range of players is already active in this market. So what makes us different? First of all, quality: our meals are 100% organic and contain 200 to 400 grams of vegetables per person. We had two teams at Wageningen University checking our menus against the latest insights on health and nutrition.

Specialist solutions

“Then there’s the variety and flexibility. Most competitors offer a number of standard boxes: classic, family and extra fast. Some have vegetarian boxes as well. But we’re the only company offering vegan, low carb and gluten- and lactose-free solutions. Plus special boxes for expectant mothers, diabetics and slimmers.

“Additionally, as of this week customers can even put together their own personalized box, choosing recipes from our entire range. And there’s plenty to choose from, whether you’re a traditional or a more adventurous eater.

“30% of all groceries will be purchased online by 2030”

- Jack Stroeken, Ekomenu

Challenging supermarkets

“Online grocery sales is quite a niche market now, with just 3% of consumers buying food from web shops. This group needs to grow if we’re to achieve our goal of changing mainstream eating habits. We see plenty of potential, though. Longer term, the market share of online food sellers is expected to rise to 30%, driven by convenience.

“For that matter, supermarkets are not really not the best place to go for healthy food. Of course they sell healthy things, but it’s nearly impossible to leave the store without some unhealthy impulse buys in your shopping cart. You very often end up buying more than you need, too, leading to waste. That’s why Ekomenu is likely to save you money even though our prices are about 10% higher than in-store prices.

“Supermarkets aren’t really the best place to go for healthy food”

- Jack Stroeken, Ekomenu

In for the long haul

“Changing behavior, certainly when it comes to food, is a slow process. So we’ve made sure we have financial backing to get us through the first 10 years. Promoting our concept through social media, events and farmers’ markets, we aim to double our sales every year and to break even by then.

“We intend to expand the range of boxes to cater for other target groups. Meanwhile, we’re also looking to roll out the concept outside the Netherlands. We’ve already started up in Belgium, where there is certainly interest.

Mission accomplished

“Our mission will be accomplished when healthy food is generally recognized as an alternative to medicine in fighting lifestyle-related illnesses like diabetes and high blood pressure.”

Rabobank’s ‘Banking for Food’ podcasts are available in Dutch via various podcast apps for iPhone and Android, SoundCloud and Stitcher (26 minutes).