Meal kit service Sun Basket tries to reach a new audience: 30 million people with diabetes

Key Points
  • Sun Basket is adding diabetes-friendly recipes to its meal kit service with the help of the American Diabetes Association.
  • These meals are high in fiber and low in sugar and sodium, to better assist diabetics manage their blood glucose levels.
  • Customers who adhere to specific diets tend to be more loyal to brands and will stay with the company longer than those who don't have dietary restrictions.
Sun Basket's new Diabetes-Friendly meal plan includes dishes like Salmon Cakes with Celery Salad and Tahini Goddess Dressing.
Source: Sun Basket

To grow its meal kit business, Sun Basket is targeting diabetics with meals designed to meet their nutritional needs.

Meal kit users are notorious for ditching their subscriptions within six months of starting them and either jumping to another brand or returning to their old grocery habits. However, customers who adhere to a specific diet, whether it's paleo, vegetarian or gluten-free, tend to have more loyalty to these brands.

Sun Basket told CNBC it has created recipes with the help of the American Diabetes Association that are high in fiber and low in sugar and sodium, to better assist diabetics manage their blood glucose levels without sacrificing flavor.

"We want to help people in the United States, where there is really a significant population where eating healthy and cooking healthy can help," CEO Adam Zbar told CNBC. "Thirty million people in the United States have diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2, and over 100 million people are at risk for diabetes."

Meals that are part of Sun Basket's diabetes-friendly plan are all under 700 calories, Zbar said.

"Individualized nutrition is the cornerstone of diabetes management," Dr. William Cefalu, chief scientific, medical and mission officer of the American Diabetes Association, said in a statement.

Recipes in this meal plan include items like salmon cakes with celery salad and Manhattan-style cod chowder with potatoes and fennel. These new diabetes-friendly meals are available on Sun Basket's site for no extra cost.

"The old thinking is that there is a diabetes-specific diet and that's actually kind of false," Sun Basket nutritionist Kaley Todd told CNBC. "You can follow a variety of different eating plans as long as it follows a certain criteria that will help manage your disease. ... It's taking the diet out of diet, it's making it more of a lifestyle change."

This is Sun Basket's second foray into meals for people with chronic health problems. In October, the company launched its American Heart Association certified Lean & Clean menu, recipes that are under 500 calories, low in sodium and cut out ingredients like bacon, butter, confections, whipped toppings and oils.

Sun Basket is looking into creating a number of health-conscious meal plans that target other medical needs. Zbar said recipes that target autoimmune disorders, reduce inflammation and ease irritable bowel issues are being considered.

While other meal kit companies have taken to heavily discounting their products to lure in new diners or rewarding current members for turning their friends onto the program, Sun Basket has been more focused on the diversity of its offerings.

Sun Basket customers who adhere to these diets have higher retention rates than those who don't and have twice the long-term value for the company, Zbar said.