We have all found ourselves in the following situation when trying to make it to the grocery store after a long day at work. We start out stuck in bumper to bumper traffic just trying to get to our preferred supermarket only to find the aisles are even more crowded with all the other poor souls lacking a good sense of foresight and waited until the waning hours of the day to go buy the package of chicken, bundle of veggies, and other ingredients needed for a quick weeknight meal.
But now we have other options, literally dozens of options, to choose from if we want to avoid the crowded supermarkets of our respective cities. Thanks to the meal kit market and the heavyweights of the industry like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron, consumers can now have all of the ingredients for their meals delivered to their front door.
Since the industry came to fruition in 2012, countless options have popped up with millions of customers and billions of revenue being generated. According to data compiled by Statista, meal kit delivery services brought in $1 billion (yes, billion with a 'b') in revenue in 2015. That figure might seem large, but it pales in comparison to the estimate $5 billion the industry is projected to bring in annually by 2020.
The vast majority of that revenue is coming from Hello Fresh and Blue Apron, which have a combined market share of 71 percent, according to Vox. And while most of the services have similar offerings, there are companies like Sun Basket, which offer vegetarian and vegan meal kits to their customers.
But what about when people order from any one of these services? What should they expect to arrive at their door? Well, when someone orders a set of meals (probably after using a coupon from any given podcast), they'll receive a box containing several bags. Each of those bags contains a recipe card and pre-weighed fresh ingredients (more on that later). The simplicity and organization of these boxes is key to the industry's success. You don't have to find all of the spices or go out and buy the spices you don't already own, you don't have to worry about finding the proper cut and amount of meat, and the veggies are pretty much ready to be cooked right out of the bag.
No trips to the grocery store, no traffic, and little to no fuss.
With so many different options out there, how do you decide which meal kit is best for you? To help you make up your mind, we selected five of the most popular services currently on the market.
There's a reason Hello Fresh is one of the most popular brands out there, and no, it's because it's plastered on just about every ad these days. With options for essentially all diets, Hello Fresh offers classic, vegetarian, and family-friendly kits.
The kits average at around $60 a week, but Hello Fresh constantly runs promotions offering nice discounts. Be on the lookout for those.
Blue Apron is another service you hear about all the time. With meal size ranging from two people to a family of four, Blue Apron has something the whole family will enjoy. You might not get the large variety of options that the more specialized services provide, but if you're looking for something that has a little bit of everything, then it's hard to beat Blue Apron's offerings.
With an average price of around $56 a week, it's not too big of a gamble to try it out for a spin.
Unlike the previous two entries on the list, Sun Basket goes for more of a health angle. With paleo, gluten-free, pescatarian, vegetarian, vegan, and just about every other diet under the sun, Sun Basket has near limitless options for its customers.
With those high standards also comes a higher price. The minimum order of two meals each containing two servings, Sun Basket customers can expect to pay at least $72 a week. The availability isn't as wide as the other options, so you'll want to check by your zip code before you get to attached to this service.
While some of the brands will market themselves as providing the best quality and high-end ingredients, EveryPlate takes a different route entirely. Calling itself "America's Best Value Meal Kit," EveryPlate offers some plans as cheap as $3.33 a meal (when you buy 18 meals).
When not running a promotion, EveryPlate will cost you around $39 a week, which is not bad compared to the other options.
Not to be left out on any of the fun (or a market to overtake in a few years time), Amazon has started rolling out a fresh meal kit service of its own with AmazonFresh.
Launched around the time Amazon announced the purchase of Whole Foods in 2017, the service is only available in a handful of major metropolitan areas - Chicago, Dallas, New York City, Seattle, select areas of California, to name a few - the service will deliver handpicked kits to your door, in addition to a wide variety of groceries. The meal kit service will cost you around $38 per delivery, but that amount can change based on your preferences and additional items.
What happens if you only require a few select items like produce or meat and don't have a need a full meal delivered to your house? Well, there are plenty of options for those types of customers as well.
We recently went into great detail about Imperfect Produce, a delivery service bringing unused and unsold fruits and vegetables to customers' doors. With a mission to put an end to the practice of farmers discarding produce because it's deemed too "ugly," Imperfect Produce has found a way to make sure even the strangest looking of produce finds a happy home.
The service only makes deliveries to a couple dozen locations throughout the continental United States, but that could be changing in the coming months and years as the service begins to grow nationwide.
Hungry Harvest is another "farm to doorstep" service that was started with a mission to end food waste and hunger. Similar to Imperfect Produce, Hungry Harvest purchases unsold, "ugly" produce from farmers and sells it in boxes that are delivered to your door. The company also offers items like eggs, granola, and even coffee.
Since the company started, Hungry Harvest has saved 12 million pounds of food from going to waste and contributed nearly 1,000,000 pounds of produce to hunger-solving organizations.
Calling its service "better meat for a better you," ButcherBox offers quality grass-fed and grass-finished beef, heritage breed pork, and free-rang organic chicken, not to mention a great deal of convenience, to its customers. The company offers five different types of boxes and 21 cuts of meat, so there should be something for everyone (besides vegetarians).
The cheapest option comes in at $129 a month (or a little more than $32 a week) for the curated box or $149 a month for a custom box. With so many types of meat available, you could gear your order around upcoming barbecues, get togethers, or large parties.
If you want all of the meat offerings of ButcherBox but also want some seafood, then Greensbury is right up your alley. Since the company started up a decade ago, Greensbury has made it a mission to hand pick quality products from the best organic farms, ranches, and fisheries in the United States that are shipped to your doorstep. All products can be stored for up to 12 months if frozen.
Greensbury has a subscription service that can save customers an average of 5% on each box of hand-selected meat items. You can create your own box or take advantage of any number of curated boxes offered through the service.
Sure, it's awfully convenient to have a box of meals waiting for you at the door when you come home from work, but are there any drawbacks to going this route opposed to picking your own items at the grocery store? Well, it depends on the individual's situation.
There have been times where I have ordered a box from Hello Fresh where the meat was a little older than I would like or the veggies were wilted. You can contact the service and either get credit for the food or have it replaced with a subsequent order. It did make for a not so great meal a couple of times, but that's the price I pay for the sake of convenience.
When you're at the grocery store, you put up with all of the ups and downs of the typical supermarket experience, but you do get to thoroughly inspect each item before you purchase it. So, it's the opposite of the meal kits. The same goes with trying out new variation on recipes. From my experience with meal kits, you aren't left with a lot of room for creativity with the dishes due to the recipes being very specific. So people who don't like sticking with recipes or like experimentation, it's probably safe to stick with the grocery store.
Here's a simple answer for an even simpler question - they're convenient. Meal kit services like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron offer consumers with a head start in the cooking process. Everything is already set up for you and the recipes are relatively easy to read and follow. The food is typically phenomenal and there can be some variety in the dishes offered each week.
But still, people might feel a little skeptical to try out these services. I was at first, but all of that changed when I decided to finally bite the bullet and try one of the many meal kit delivery services that you hear about when listening to virtually any podcast (for real, it seems like every meal kit service sponsors all of our favorite podcasts). And let me tell you, the likes of Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, and EveryPlate have taken a lot of the drama and anxiety associated with those last-minute post-work trips to the market.
With that being said, are meal delivery services everything they're cracked up to be? Are they better than say your neighborhood market? Regional grocery store chain? Massive supermarket chain?
The answer to all of these questions is you'll honestly have to try it yourself. What do you have to lose?