What Are Meal Kit Services?

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.

Are They Better Than The Grocery Store?

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.

So, Why Use Meal Kit Services?

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?

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