Editor's Spotlight: Startup Focus

Personalised meal replacement startup taps into top nutrition trends

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

Abnormal meal replacements box with shaker
Abnormal meal replacements box with shaker

Related tags Startup company Sports nutrition functional beverage beverage

The founder of a successful sports nutrition company has launched a spin-off personalised meal replacement brand tapping into some of the biggest trends in the nutrition industry today.

Abnormal​, brainchild of the entrepreneurs at The Protein Works (TPW)​, sees customers complete a quick online questionnaire on their diet, health goals, allergies and lifestyle, in order to receive a box of portion-packed meal replacement shakes which promise to contain the ideal amount of protein, fats, carbs, vitamins and minerals for their needs.

Mark Coxhead, CEO and founder of Abnormal and TPW, explains why he felt there was a gap in the market for such a service.

“Consumer perception of meal replacements has really shifted. They used to be seen as weight-loss focused, with lots of brands targeting females, but we saw this offering becoming perceived as more of a lifestyle product and a healthy choice when consumed in replacement of junk food or skipping meals.

“At the same time, we saw a number of trends including a big growth in personalisation, with people demanding products developed specifically for their needs.

“There was also a growing interest in subscription-based services, with the likes of Gusto and HelloFresh becoming more popular during lockdown, and this model proliferating other categories such as pet food."

Another COVID-boosted trend, was e-commerce, as consumers became more comfortable with buying everything online, he says.

Chocolate glass sachet_abnormal_1-CMS Block Desktop and Mobile-924x629

"The other big trend across many sectors is for sustainable packaging. With Abnormal, we tick all these boxes."

The brand was ‘soft’ launched into the UK in February this year, with the team only investing in marketing in recent months. Customers receive a free trial pack of seven sachets, with a free shaker, before subscribing to receive their first lot of 30 meals for £59.99. They can also choose the flavour of each serving, with a choice between: vanilla, strawberry, chocolate and banana.

Thanks to the online questionnaire that all customers complete, the team is able to continuously gain insights into their customer base.

Some interesting insights include the fact that 85-90% of customers are aiming to lose at least a little weight and 95% of customers don’t get the recommended intake of fibre in their daily diet.

The data also reveal that around 50% of customers want dairy free shakes and the majority of customers do not go to the gym at all.

“I find it really interesting that Abnormal speaks to this market of non-gym users because the customer base at TPW is dominated by gym-goers.

“This goes to show that meal replacement products are more likely to appeal to people looking for other methods of weight management.

“We do find the majority of our consumers are people with busy lifestyles who struggle to find healthy on-the-go meal solutions for breakfast and lunch so they probably struggle to find the time for the gym also.”

And to tick that sustainability box, each abnormal meal uses paper-based single serve sachets and is an end-to-end plastic free product. The box even uses a design that requires no adhesive in its construction.

Keeping consumer ethics front of mind, the brand also donates to the worldwide hunger charity, Share The Meal, each time a subscription box is sent out.


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