What Is a Meal Kit Delivery Service?

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Meal Kit Service Definition:

A meal kit is a subscription-based service that sends the customer a box containing pre-portioned ingredient items for that kit’s recipe. All that remains to be done is combine the ingredients, cook and serve.  Some meal kits require chopping, slicing and similar prep steps.
With most meal kits services, the subscriber signs up for a certain number of meals per week. The plans are flexible, allowing for changes in meal items and skipping weeks as needed; service can be cancelled at any time without a cancellation fee.

What is the service?

It used to be when a busy parent, or those juggling multiple jobs, working couples, or people with special diet needs were rushed to come up with a quick dinner, the go-to solution was pizza delivery, a drive-thru or a takeout counter. These days, there is so much more in prepared food and meal kit delivery, the consumer is all but overwhelmed with choices.

One of the food delivery business genres seeing explosive growth is that of Meal Kit Delivery Service.

Most meal kits take about a half hour to an hour to prepare and cook. Though prices vary, they can run on average about $8-$14 per person per meal. With the subscription format, the customer selects the number of meals per week along with the number of portions. Many companies offer different menus, such as vegetarian or meat, while some specialise in a certain diet plan, such as Paleo meals. More meal kit suppliers are offering kits without a subscription. Of course, all require advance ordering, some at least a week before delivery.

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We could say it started with pizza, as many pizzerias delivered the U-Bake variety. The branching out into the delivery of multi-item meal components actually began in Sweden in 2007. The idea gained traction and spread to other Northern European countries. With the success of this business model, competition increased and within a few years, the US and other countries saw the growth in meal kit suppliers. Profits grew quickly and in 2015, the industry saw sales of over one billion dollars. This past December, the value of the meal kit industry reached 2.2 billion dollars.

Meal Kits History and timeline

Who is it for?    

  • Convenience-lovers: Basically, the meal services seem to be designed for convenience. At the top of this list are those who do not enjoy – or don’t have time for – food shopping. Some people just need help with managing their use of groceries.
  • Variety-of-meal-seekers: Though most services have been offering dinner options only, companies have started to diversify, bringing breakfasts and lunch plans into their product line. Consumers can even order smoothie kits, a recent addition. So with all this variety, who needs to spend time shopping?
  • Menu-diversity-seekers: Besides this convenience, meal kits appeal to the diner who wants to diversity meal offerings and enjoy new experiences in meals.
  • Customer Demographics: Surveys  show that millennial and GenX consumers are the most numerous customers of meal kit services. Of these, the city-dwellers subscribe the most. That could be because the services are more widely available in urban settings.  In contrast, only a small percent of those over 45 make use of meal kits. It’s probably no surprise that men are more likely than women to use the services. There is also a relationship between higher income level and those who try the meal services. This is true even though it has been found that the meal kits actually end up saving money, rather than straining the budget.

Biggest companies to operate in the USA

In this fast-growing industry, there are well over 150 meal kit firms just in the US. Listed below are eight of the most well-known. We have made some comparisons to help in making selections.

Why is it wise to use a meal kit service?

  1. To save money:  While it might seem counter-intuitive, using meal kits actually saves money. There is less waste of food, as we often purchase too many items from the produce aisle and their short shelf life means we throw out a lot of food. With meal kits, we use every bit of the kit, because only the amount for the recipe is included. Since the portion sizes are realistic and not hungry-caveman size, there are rarely leftovers.  Your food disposal will thank you and probably last longer, as well.
  2. To enjoy meal variety without stressful shopping: Using meal kits bring variety into the family’s dining experience. Most of us would have to admit that dinner planning is one of the first chores to go when time is short.  Who has time to look for new recipes and then go out and buy the unusual items on the recipe list? How many pizzas can a family eat in a week? With meal kits, all that planning and shopping is done for you and all you have to do is prepare the meal. Even the measuring is done for you, greatly simplifying meal prep. Not to mention, with fewer utensils and dishes used, the time it takes to wash the dishes and clean the kitchen post-meal is happily decreased.
  3. To experience diet diversity: Diversity in the offerings comes not only from each company offering their own range of menu, but some companies now specialize in specific diet programs.  Because of the flexibility of plans, families can try the different diets. Would most cooks ever prepare meals from a Paleo diet if they didn’t have the opportunity to have the meal components delivered to the door? By the way, the best part is, reports are showing that the food items are usually healthy and nutritious.

If consumers can cut down food expenditures, bring more interesting and nutritious meals to the table, and cut out waste, it makes sense that meal kit delivery use is catching on. In an age where stress is a major health factor, these meal kits add to our health in more ways than one.

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