Meal kit delivery services gaining popularity in Japan’s busy households

Kyodo

Meal kit delivery services are not just helping out busy households but also seniors in Japan’s increasingly graying society.

The selling point is that customers can prepare fresh meals on their own with a ready-made kit of food ingredients and seasonings in just the quantities they need, saving time and reducing food waste.

Customers mainly include people with little cooking experience, homemakers having trouble with everyday menu planning, and seniors. But gourmets are also being targeted with new services delivering high-grade meal kits for use in web-connected cooking devices under the internet of things concept.

Yoshikei Kaihatsu K.K. in the city of Shizuoka has been offering nationwide home deliveries of dinner ingredients with recipes attached since 1975. It launched a franchise business in 1978.

Accepting orders online or through other platforms, the company offers four categories of meal kits, including one that targets working mothers and another for households that include senior citizens.

Each plan comes with an extensive menu. Videos are also available online for some of the recipes so customers can watch how to prepare them.

For customers who are away from home during the daytime and can’t take delivery of the food, Yoshikei can lend a lock box. Company nutritionists create the menus using seasonal ingredients in appropriate amounts, according to the company.

Menus (in Japanese only) for each meal plan are offered both in booklet form and online. A set of meals to last three family members for five days, each consisting of two items that take about 30 minutes to cook, costs some ¥6,500.

In addition to companies like Yoshikei that offer these services as a core business, large-scale retailers have also entered the field to expand their online retailing presence.

Seven-Meal Service Co., a group company of Seven & I Holdings Co., entered the market in 2000 and delivers meal kits in Tokyo and surrounding prefectures.

The cooking time for each meal is around 20 minutes, with nationally registered dietitians creating menus to include 120 grams or more of vegetables, mushrooms and/or beans per meal, according to Seven-Meal.

Customers can order a meal for that day — ¥550 for one person or ¥1,000 for two — or enough to last seven days with deliveries made every day. Customers can also arrange to pick up their meal kits at Seven-Eleven convenience stores.

Sharp Co. is launching delivery services of premium meal kits for its high-end Healsio steam ovens and no-water cooking pots, starting this month. When the devices are hooked up to the internet, they can automatically download cooking instructions for the customer’s meal.

Users of the HealsioDeli service can follow menus created by big-name chefs. The ingredients and seasoning have already been measured, washed and cut; all the user has to do is put everything in the oven or pot and push a button.

Sharp is collaborating with restaurant search business Gurunavi Inc. and Taihei Co., a meal kit delivery service firm in Chiba Prefecture.

Chefs of restaurants registered with Gurunavi help to create Healsio menus, while Taihei is in charge of procuring and processing food ingredients, Sharp said.

Starting with 14 meals for “special weekend days,” Sharp will offer a kit for two or three people at a minimum of ¥3,800 without tax, plus shipping costs, for deliveries to Hokkaido, Shikoku and Kyushu.

A Sharp official says the company aims to run up ¥20 billion in annual sales by fiscal 2020.