Short on time and patience, consumers are jumping on the bandwagon of meal kits and meal kit delivery services, which have taken the retail food industry by storm. Meal kits and meal kit delivery services – such as, Plated, Blue Apron, HelloFresh and Purple Carrot – are all the rage these days primarily due to their convenience, healthier food and beverage options, and price points. Meal kits and meal kit delivery services provide subscribers with pre-measured, packaged and fresh ingredients along with straightforward, simple to follow recipes that make whipping up a nutritious meal as easy as child’s play. These services have effectively altered consumers’ idea of convenience, and carved out a niche market within the retail food industry to the tune of potentially $35 billion by 2025. By giving consumers exactly what they want – flavorful meals that don’t require much forethought or time spent within a grocery store – these services are leaving restaurants and grocery stores alike to wonder whether they are on the verge of becoming passé
One of the key factors driving the success of meal kits and meal kit delivery services is convenience. Subscribers of these services are often individuals who know their way around the kitchen and want a fresh, home-cooked meal, but lack the time to go grocery shopping on a daily basis. Through the use of websites and other technology, these meal kit services have streamlined the meal preparation process and become a more than viable middle ground between sit-down restaurants and take-out orders. Another factor catapulting the success of these services is freshness. With a consumer base hyper-focused on healthier, fresher options, the farm-to-table philosophy of these meal kit services greatly appeals to consumers looking for unprocessed food. Since these meal kit services’ favor local, farm grown ingredients for their menus, partnerships between these meal kit services and local farmers have increased exponentially over the past few years and generated farm-fresh specialty ingredients specifically grown for and tailored to these services’ menus. This symbiotic relationship has been beneficial to the meal kit companies and local farmers since meal kit services are able to acquire fresh produce at a lower cost than grocery stores and local farmers can expect predictable demand for their crops.
At a time when much of the retail food industry is struggling to stay above of water – evidenced by the demise of many fast-food chains and grocery stores – meal kit services have gone from relative obscurity to a multi-billion dollar goldmine. And, this success has not gone unnoticed. In fact, Whole Foods has decided to throw its hat in the ring and join forces with an enterprising start-up, Purple Carrot, to roll out plant-based meal kits in its stores. Faced with declining profits and the closure of some of its brick and mortar locations, Whole Foods, in a calculated leap of faith, is hoping that this partnership will reinvigorate its target customer base. At the same time, Purple Carrot hopes that its partnership with Whole Foods will give it additional visibility and the opportunity to become a household name in the meal kit industry.
Given the impressive metrics of the meal kit industry to date, it certainly has the potential to upend restaurants and grocery stores in terms of revenue. This impressive tour de force by meal kit services has caught the attention of traditional food industry juggernauts, such as Tyson Foods and Martha Stewart, and has prompted many to believe that meal kit services have staying power and should not be considered just another fad in the retail food industry.