Through a mobile marketplace app, and the installation of vending machines within offices, schools and hospitals in Nigeria, Mealimeter has been working hard to provide consumers with easy and quick access to nutritious food options. On 30 July this year, the company was recognised for their innovative business approach and awarded US$7,000 as the second runner up in the Global Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Pitch Competition.
Mealimeter’s first attempt at providing working professionals with nutritious food options used a traditional e-commerce platform. Due to limited infrastructure, delivery was not cost effective, so the company tried a new approach. “We used our early experience to help nutritious food businesses sell more efficiently and offer great customer value,” explains Mealimeter co-founder, Adekunle Jinadu. The company does this by providing over 20 nutrition-focused small businesses and chefs with kitchen facilities that meet national food safety standards. These businesses are then connected with consumers through the installation of vending machines in offices, schools and hospitals across the country.
The Mealimeter vending machines do not sell junk food, only carefully curated meals, snacks and drinks including salads and fruit smoothies. And the customer app goes further to promote healthy living by providing access to meal plans, as well as tips and guidance from fitness enthusiasts and nutritionists from across Nigeria.
Adapting for food safety – and success
During the SUN Pitch Competition, Mealimeter was given access to training and mentorship. “Thanks to the facilitators and mentors, we gained a better understanding of the nutrition ecosystem, including the challenges, new customers and vendors, and more recently, we learned lots about product marketing, business strategy, investment readiness and pitching knowledge,” Jinadu explains and expresses his joy at winning: “Apart from the excitement and very welcome good news, the prize is a validation of our work and the call for more innovation from our team. It is time to take this next step forward.”
One of the aspects of the business that really impressed the SUN Pitch Competition judges was the company’s ability to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mealimeter has leveraged its innovative technology to help offices make their cafeterias safer by eliminating the need for cash and crowds. Customers simply download the Mealimeter mobile application which identifies the food available in the closest vending machine to them, and allows them to pay for the food. When they arrive at the vending machine, they scan a barcode which grants them access to their purchase.
“Our response to COVID-19 is an enabler for the nutrition ecosystem, and our scalable business model helped us win the competition,” explains Jinadu, echoing the words of one of the judges as the reason behind the team’s competition success. “We’re also taking this opportunity to promote Mealimeter, as the pandemic has highlighted the importance of good diets,” he continues.
Through its innovative platform and delivery method, Mealimeter is effectively tapping into Nigeria’s workplace catering industry, which is worth over US$5 billion, and is looking to expand across Africa, starting with Kenya in 2021. With the prize money, the Mealimeter team is also hoping to attain two goals in order to address the increasing levels of undernutrition – as well as overweight and obesity – in Nigeria: “We want to pilot a system for access to nutrition for work-from-home professionals (including research and development on recipe development), and a different way to provide nutrition education so that people choose nutritious food before it becomes an urgent health need,” Jinadu reveals.