Over the years, the meal kit and meal delivery industry has had its ups and downs. When first introduced, meal kits like Blue Apron and HelloFresh seemed to be everywhere. I can remember a time where nearly every podcast I listened to had an advertisement for them. However, as time went on, the luster of these simple dinner-only meal kits faded. People wanted more than just a few dinners per week, so the industry started becoming more competitive.
Today, there are meal kits that fit nearly every consumers taste—diet meal kits, inexpensive meal kits, and even entirely pre-made meals delivered right to your door. Yet, there is still a long ways to go before meal kits are adopted by the majority of consumers as an efficient and affordable way to have mealtime.
Having reviewed nearly every single US meal kit and meal delivery service on the market, I’ve seen my fare share of companies come and go. What makes or breaks a meal kit usually comes down to adapting to what the consumer wants.
Here’s how the meal kit industry will evolve over the next year and what trends to look for in 2021…
A large amount of comments I receive regarding meal kits generally revolve around the fact that people want more control over what they’re ordering. For example, many meal kits these days do not allow you to have direct control over the amount of meals you can receive. You choose one of their plans and you’re stuck with that amount of meals. What if you want to eat more than just those meals? What if you’d rather have a different meat than the recipe uses?
We’re starting to see some meal kits, like Home Chef, adapt to this by giving customers the ability to customize certain aspects of their weekly box. For example, with Home Chef, you can swap meats in certain recipes and even double up on them, if you want. Then there are others, like HelloFresh, which give you the option to add on additional meals, like quick lunches.
We’re likely to see much more personalization come in to play in the next year as meal kits are able to scale their services and properly adapt to what their customers really want.
More Diet & Food-Allergy Options
Today, the word “diet” encompasses much more than just eating to lose weight. There are a variety of niche diets that have gained in popularity—vegan, keto, paleo, Whole30, and more. While some view them as fads, for others, they’re a way of life. Many meal kits and pre-made meal delivery services have begun offering plans that serve those aforementioned diets, such as Green Chef, but those are just the tip of the iceberg. Many people these days are following diets because they have to, not because they want to. Diabetes, celiac disease, crones disease, and food allergies affect a fair share of the population. These people cannot take a risk on a general meal kit plan where they could have an adverse reaction.
We’re slowly starting to see some meal kits adjust and offer meals for more niche diets and even food allergies. For example, Freshly is one of the only certified gluten-free pre-made meal delivery services currently on the market.
However, due to the scope of diets and food allergies, there are many more that need to be addressed for more customers to be able to enter the meal kit market. This is likely to become a focal point of how meal delivery services will eventually distinguish themselves among the competition.
A big pain point of meal kits that’s frequently brought up is the amount of waste they create. Even if they do help you cut down on your trips to the grocery store and reduce food waste, there is a lot of packaging involved in bringing the meals to your front door. Thankfully, consumers are starting to demand to see improvements.
The issue right now is that improving packaging can lead to significantly more costs, which can be a problem when every meal kit is trying as hard as they can to reduce costs to compete in an already highly competitive market. With that said, we are starting to see some improvements being made. One of the most promising environmentally-friendly packaging elements that’s just begun being used by many meal kits is called Green Cell Foam. This insulation is specifically made from corn and can be dissolved in water or composted, making it biodegradable.
We’re very likely to see an industry-wide adoption of environmentally-friendly packaging once the costs come down even further.
Full Week’s Worth Of Meals
You’d think that meal kits and meal delivery services would all offer food for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks to fill in the gaps. Surprisingly, as of publishing this article, very few meal kits actually allow you to order 3 square meals or more. This may have to do with the logistics of scaling a meal delivery service to the point where it’s feasible and even profitable offer all of these selections.
We’re slowly starting to see meal kits evolve and begin offering more than just the dinner options they provided in the past. For example, Sun Basket now has a multitude of add-ons whereby you can include foods such as pre-made breakfasts, snacks, and even additional meats to your box.
Drop In Prices
Another point of frustration that often gets brought up by consumers looking for a meal kit is the cost. Excluding promotions/coupons, meal kits can be around $7 to $10 per meal (depending on the plan that you end up going with). The bigger the plan you choose, the lower the per-meal cost.
Some consumers struggle with paying around $10 per meal, even if it's pre-made, when they could either go to the grocery store and possibly make something a bit cheaper. One way to remedy this would be to bring the average cost per meal closer to $6-$7, while still having “premium” meals available as add-ons.
We’ve slowly started to see this implemented with brands such as HelloFresh offering “premium” meals that cost a bit more, while keeping their regular meals around the $7-$8 per meal mark. We may also see a rise in more inexpensive "bare bones" meal kits like EveryPlate and Dinnerly. Both of those meal kits offer meals under $5.
More Single-Serve Options
The one group of people that have been almost completely ignored by the meal kit industry are people that live alone. None of the most popular nationally available meal kits offer single-serve meal plan options. This is pretty shocking considering that 35.7 million people live alone.
The reasoning behind it makes sense though. Considering the margins are already razor thin for the smaller meal plans and every meal kit is fighting for your subscription, the costs are already as low as the market will allow. Any lower than what the 2-person plans cost and the meal kits could actually be losing money.
As prices for materials, packaging, food, etc. go down, there may be a time in the near future where it’s financially feasible for meal kits to offer single-serving meal plan options. Until then, there are some great pre-made meal delivery services (such as Factor Meals and Snap Kitchen) and frozen meal delivery services (such as Mosaic) that could work well for those living alone.
Although the meal kit industry has been on a rollercoaster ride over the past decade, it hasn’t shown signs of giving up. In fact, more companies seem to be popping up each year. It’s an exciting time to be trying these different options, whether you’re simply looking to cook a delicious meal or you want to stick to a particular diet.
For help finding your perfect meal kit, feel free to check out our reviews here or our YouTube channel, where we unbox, taste test, and provide full reviews of every meal delivery service on the market.
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