Meal kits are the 21st century’s answer to busy lifestyles. Our appreciation for food will always be there, and meal kits aim to serve this desire whilst staying both healthy and convenient – something that is often viewed as being mutually exclusive.
Some people assume meal kits are retailers delivering organic grocery shopping, whilst others think it’s ready-made meals that you reheat. The answer however lies somewhere in the middle.
Meal kit companies essentially provide the ingredients for a dish, and that alone. A few dishes can be chosen per week, but you’re essentially receiving pre-weighed, precisely measured ingredients that will leave no surplus or serve no other use. So, you still cook, but the paradox of choice is out the window, and so is a lot of the preparation.
This has become a fun way to entice people into healthy cooking again, as the difficult stuff like shopping around for certain spices is taken out of the equation. They’re available almost everywhere too, from having many meal kit delivery options in Toronto to having almost all of the US covered.
Meal kits cost a little more than the “manual” way of grocery shopping. But analog shopping is boring, and it’s not been easy during a pandemic. Meal kits are still cheaper than most takeaways but are of course significantly healthier. It also rules out impulse buying snacks in the confectionary aisle too. In a strange form of double negation, their USP is just as much about what they don’t do as opposed to what they do.
A rollercoaster industry
Meal kits have been on a bumpy ride, with some suggesting they will never be profitable, whilst the sales numbers are proving them to be highly in-demand. Blue Apron somewhat sums up the industry with their rollercoaster journey, going from an industry leader to a plummeting stock. The pandemic, however, created the perfect circumstances for them and their competitors to thrive.
The pandemic wasn’t only a matter of self-isolation leading to online deliveries, but it was a time where many of us had spare money due to the lack of socializing and entertainment services available. This spare money and a trend towards buying more health-related products – perhaps due to the time for self-reflection as a crisis is occurring – led to a desire to try meal kits.
We often say for a new business to succeed, it needs to solve a problem. Despite the difficulties that meal kit companies face, they are all about problem-solving.
They solve the problem of social distancing by delivering meals to your door in a contact-free manner, they solve the obesity epidemic by offering healthy ingredients in dishes with limited calories, and they also solve the environmental concerns by not using plastic packaging, use local farmers, cause very little food waste, and prevent people driving to supermarkets.
They also solve the problem of time, something none of us feel we have enough of. Meal kits save time by having a limited dish menu, delivering the ingredients (pre-measured and exact), and have a clear, simple recipe to follow.
It’s, therefore, no surprise that they’re a marketer’s dream, and many customers feel as though they’re being conscious consumers by purchasing from them. Of course, price is an issue for many people and is perhaps why they’re mostly a hit among young professionals. However, for students that can afford it, they’re perfect too because they get students cooking healthy whilst still offering convenience.
What we are yet to find out is whether meal kits continue their high sales heading into a post-lockdown world. It’s not just lockdown that drove a lot of sales, but also the generous sign-up offers that have become a staple of the industry. Customers can hop from one company to the next, using up all of the first-order promotion codes, and then deciding which company is best for them – or decide against meal kits entirely.
Access to meal kits
Whilst the larger meal kit companies are doing a good job at covering the majority of the landmass in North America, it’s evident that there are some less densely populated areas left behind. This is an issue more for the customer than the company because there aren’t too many sales to be made in these areas – and of course, costs surrounding logistics rise per sale.
However, it seems that there is an expansion underway, and eventually, there will be very few people outside of delivery zones. In Canada, Hello Fresh currently delivers to AB, BC, MB, NB, NL, NS, ON, PE, QC, SK – but many small firms only deliver to one region.
Vegan meal kits
To take meal kits a step further towards environmentalism and conscious consumerism, most providers offer a selection of vegan meals. Generally, companies have the nutritional values denoted along with the recipes, and their ingredients. Because of this data, filtering during recipe searches is common, meaning that results can be catered towards specific dietary requirements.
Vegan, vegetarianism, dairy-free, gluten-free. and many other dishes are often available. Furthermore, those looking to lose weight can easily track calories because the ingredients are so exact, and the dishes come with a total macro breakdown. Compare this to counting calories when cooking a meal with items from a grocery store and the difference in accuracy is night and day.
Overall, meal kits have become a great shortcut to healthy eating. They don’t achieve much that you can’t already get elsewhere – you can find fresh, local produce at certain markets, you can find great recipes online, and you can have groceries delivered. However, it’s the limits they set which is what’s desirable: having only the perfect amount of potato for two meals to ensure there’s no waste and having a limited set menu that gets us trying out new foods. There are still two problems to solve for meal kits: how do they cover more delivery zones and how do they cater to people who want more choice and control over their shopping.
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What has been your experience with meal kits? I love them! Let me know in the comments, I love hearing from you!