The traditional home-cooked meal has forever been changed thanks to the popularity of meal kits. Nine percent of Americans, or 10.5 million households, have purchased a meal kit in the previous six months.
Meal kits provide pre-measured ingredients and step-by-step recipes for people to make at-home meals that are restaurant quality but without the price tag. Customers get a quick and healthy meal that is convenient and relatively easy to cook. Services such as Blue Apron, Plated and Hello Fresh provide meals that even the most novice of cooks can complete.
What might be more attractive to consumers however, is that it eliminates the need to go to the grocery store.
However, the market has become crowded due to the concept’s growing popularity. More than 150 meal-kit companies are operating in the U.S. today. Companies are creating all types of kits to suit every customer preference – vegetarian, plant-based, vegan, organic, and gluten-free. The list is endless. New services continue to pop up, often trying to differentiate themselves by focusing on one food type. GreenBlender, for example, focuses entirely on smoothies while Daily Harvest offers meals and snacks that are blended, then eaten directly from the container.
Meal kit companies face a major problem in retaining customers. Consumers quickly move on to try the next food craze or try another service with a better deal. One way companies are trying to combat this is by partnering with celebrities to create exclusive recipes. Chrissy Teigen partnered with Blue Apron to create six dining options. Olympic gymnast, Aly Raisman, has teamed up with Purple Carrot to help the company promote an active and healthy lifestyle.
There is also an increase in alliances between meal kit providers and retailers. In some cases, grocery stores are creating their own meal kits. Kroger is testing out meal kit stations that are designed to allow customers to personalize their dinner. Their “Easy for You!” program allows shoppers to select from a variety of frozen entrees and side dishes to package and take home to cook. Blue Apron is piloting a partnership with Costco to offer the kits in-store and Albertsons purchased Plated in mid-2017.
Restaurants are also catching on to the meal kit trend. Chick-fil-A is testing its own meal kit with five recipe options that are straightforward and family-friend. Each kit can be prepared in 30 minutes and serves two people. Unlike other meal kit services, Chick-fil-A kits don’t require shoppers to pre-plan and commit up to a week before through a subscription.
Overall, the convenience of meal kits is extremely appealing but services face an uphill challenge of retaining customers. As more grocers and restaurants get in the game, competition will remain fierce.