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Insta-Meal: ‘Set it and forget it’

Robyn Wagner

Robyn Wagner (left), with her daughter, Cora, and husband, Chris Wagner. (Photo courtesy of Insta-Meal)

Robyn Wagner always has had a passion for food and cooking.

It wasn’t until 2019, however, that she made the shift from helping companies with their e-commerce sales to selling her own product through her own company, Insta-Meal, based in Kansas City.

Wagner’s background is in originally in real estate. She and her husband were involved in buying and rehabbing homes when they decided to diversify their investments by selling products on Amazon.

Their primary business today is focused on helping companies to sell their products using Amazon’s e-commerce platform. While they were working with Spicin Foods, a Kansas City, Kansas-based company that makes and sells bottled gourmet hot sauces and other goods, the company’s owners told her to stay in touch if she had an idea for a product, Wagner said.

Her love for her pressure cooker sparked the idea for Insta-Meal.

“I thought it would be so nice if I had a sauce I could pour on top of my pork roast and not have to do any chopping or anything. Just set it and forget it,” she said.

Wagner explained that using a pressure cooker requires just the right amount of liquid: In addition to whatever is added to the cooker, juice from the meat also collects in the pot.

While using other pre-made sauces, she found they didn’t contain the right ratio of liquid and flavoring, leading to bland food requiring more sauce when the meal was cooked.

“That was the idea with Insta-Meal: Can we develop a sauce where it’s made specifically for pressure cookers, so it takes into account when you open the lid it’s still really delicious and you don’t have to add anything afterwards?” she said.

Wagner launched the business formally in January 2019 after developing products through a partnership with Spicin Foods. The company sells three sauce flavors online: Tangy Buffalo, Taco Taco and Sweet and Spicy Teriyaki.

In 2020, Wagner hoped to focus her efforts on retail sales, but she said COVID-19 thwarted that plan. She said that ties into her biggest mistake as a small-business owner.

“We knew the Amazon platform very well. That was our initial, ‘Let’s get our feet wet, let’s test this out,’” she said. “We wanted to go in an avenue we knew a lot about.”

Wagner said the goal was to always eventually pursue retail sales and try to get her sauces on the shelves in local grocery stores.

“I really should have been doing both at the same time because we did know the Amazon business so well that I could have been exploring retail on the side,” she said.

In Kansas City, there is plenty of opportunity for small businesses such as Insta-Meal to get their products on store shelves, Wagner said.

“Hindsight is 20/20 – had I known what 2020 was going to hold for us, I would have realized I wouldn’t have been able to go knocking on doors in 2020,” she said. “Every grocery store has a time of year that they want to go look at new products, and they have a short window to do that. With everything the way it is right now, it’s a lot more difficult, and it’s more difficult for us, too. We’re having to sit back and not do that as much as we hoped for 2020.”

My Biggest Mistake

“We knew the Amazon platform very well. That was our initial, ‘Let’s get our feet wet, let’s test this out.’ We wanted to go in an avenue we knew a lot about. I really should have been doing both at the same time because we did know the Amazon business so well that I could have been exploring retail on the side.”

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