Lunch boxes for Instagrammers: Hong Kong’s Prepd raises US$500,000 by cashing in on ‘food selfies’ and healthy eating trend

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 February, 2016, 2:29pm
UPDATED : Friday, 05 February, 2016, 4:17pm

A Hong Kong start-up has raised US$500,000 for a project seemingly pitched at health-conscious Instagrammers by offering them a modular lunchbox and smart recipe app to help them shop for and cook nutritious midday meals.

While some may consider HK$389 (US$50) a bit much for app-based advice from nutritionists and the Prepd lunchbox, despite its sleek bamboo exterior, set of geometric plastic containers and stainless steel cutlery, the project has taken off by appealing to faddish hipsters who love to post pictures of their meals on social media.

“If people are proud of the [food] they’ve made and show it off, that’s fantastic,” said Prepd co-founder Chris Place.

“To be proud of taking your lunch to work is really the end goal here.”

Although most of the money raised so far has come from US-based backers, the lunchbox concept may have greater resonance in crowded Hong Kong, where restaurants quickly fill up and queuing for lunch isn’t always an option for hurried white collars.

Place said he came up with the idea after attempting to follow a Paleo diet – non-processed, dairy-free, pre-industrial-era food - but struggled to find suitable and affordable lunch options near his office in the city’s Sheung Wan district.

The Prepd app helps users create meals that are perfectly designed to fit inside the containers provided. It also gives the nutritional information for each menu, while the calories consumed can be tracked over longer periods using the Health app on iPhones.

For an extra US$10, a Prepd Sleeve can be added to insulate the Prepd Pack with a layer of premium fabric lined Neoprene to maintain the temperature of the food for longer.

Although such a project risks becoming a passing fad, Place said it should endure because of its cost-effectiveness.

A recent survey by Visa found that people in the United States spend US$17.60 on average when eating out for lunch, compared to just US$6.30 on the cost of a typical packed lunch.

This may help justify the slightly steep cost of the lunchbox for on-the-fence consumers. Its founders say the premium price tag is due to the high quality of the materials used.

The Prepd containers are made of Tritan, a kind of plastic considered safer for health as it is free of bishphenol A. The lunchboxes can be put in the microwave or freezer without risk, Place said.

Kickstarter backers have pledged $110 to buy three or four sets of containers on average, which allows them to better plan out their meals for the week ahead, he added.

“We’re offering a really easy, seamless way of meal prepping that’s previously been quite difficult to plan and organise, and we’re doing it in a premium way that currently isn’t available.”

Place comes from a design background while fellow co-founder Will Matters is experienced in manufacturing. Between them, they have launched three successful Kickstarter projects.

Prepd will be shipped to backers in June and will retail later for US$70, they said.