Meet the Founders - MenuAid

Meal kit services have become increasingly popular in recent years. In fact, the global industry is worth 10 billion dollars and growing 13% year on year. While it might seem like the silver bullet for the ‘what’s for dinner’ conundrum many households have,  it’s not always the case. Meal-kit delivery providers can be costly, unsustainable, inflexible and ultimately not really solving the problem.

Enter MenuAid, a seamless menu planning platform that makes mealtimes easier with weekly recipes, a smart shopping list and flexible shopping options to suit all households.

Meet the founders of MenuAid, Elise Hilliam and Toby Skilton. They are one of the start-ups taking part in our three-month Sprout 2022 Accelerator in the Cohort VIII intake.

“The inspiration came from our own dilemma. Every Sunday, we’d ask the same question, what’s for dinner this week and end up cycling through the same handful of recipes. We figured there had to be a better way. We looked around, and there wasn’t, so we came up with our own solution,” said Elise.

The duo say that while meal kits are popular, the amount of plastic waste, inflexibility and cost of such services is off-putting for many people and not solving the problem.

“It’s very rare that we hear people say, ‘oh, I love picking out new and exciting nutritious meals to make my family happy and writing shopping lists’. That’s why there’s such a boom in the meal kit space, but they’re fundamentally flawed. While they do provide a solution, there's lots of problems with them, so we thought let's remove the problems and actually solve the problem,” said Toby.

MenuAid is unique in that the product is flexible and scalable, with levels of personalisation that cater to all types of household and family situations. With Elise’s background in nutrition and Toby’s experience in creating innovative and disruptive technologies, the duo knew they had the right foundations to make their idea a success. They were also aware that they'd need more experts if they were to really make a go of it. Enter William Pearse, a developer wizard, Brett McGregor, New Zealand's first Masterchef winner, Helen Jackon, chef and recipe developer, Charlie Jackson, digital and photography guru.

The diverse and strong team is united in their aspirations for the company; to have at least a million customers globally and make mealtimes enjoyable for people across the globe. With the help and support of their Sprout mentors and customers who are eager to provide feedback and suggestions, they’re on the right path.

When asked if they would do anything differently if they had to start their journey again, Elise and Toby agree they would put more emphasis on learning about their core customer and focusing on creating a customer-led business rather than a product-led one.

“At the start, we had this notion that we had to release the perfect product. We were very focused on coming up with new bits to add on, and I think we really were just trying to create a solution for the problem Elise and I were having. This is fine, but as time went on, we got feedback that kept suggesting that our core customers were families and we needed to cater to them more,” said Toby.

“I’d swap our priorities around and focus more on the customer and letting the customer shape the future of the product, which we are definitely doing now” said Elise.

During their journey, the whole team had faced roadblocks and feelings of doubt that they have had to navigate. The duo agrees that getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is as essential as backing yourself.

“The whole start-up journey is exciting, but it’s also stressful and scary, so it’s about celebrating the small wins and making the most of the awesome start-up ecosystem we have in New Zealand. We are lucky to have so many people who have walked a similar path before us that we can learn from, which is a big part of why we wanted to be part of this venture with Sprout.”

Find out more about our Sprout Accelerator.