A meal kit refers to a subscription service that sends customers pre-portioned and sometimes partially prepared food ingredients and recipes to prepare homecooked meals. Services that send pre-cooked meals are called meal delivery services. This subscription model is an example of personalization in the food and beverage industry that is becoming more popular and wide-spread.
The business model was originated in Sweden, and conflicting sources credit either Kicki Theander's launch of Middagsfrid (roughly translated as “dinnertime bliss”) in 2007, or Linas Matkasse, launched in 2008 by siblings Niklas Aronsson and Lina Gebäck. Middagsfrid quickly spread to several other Northern European countries, and inspired a range of competitors. Three meal kit companies entered the U.S. market roughly contemporaneously in 2012: Blue Apron, HelloFresh (which was already operating in Europe), and Plated.
According to Inc Magazine, as of March 2017 there were over 150 meal kit companies in the United States. As of July 2017, according to Time Magazine, the meal kit business was estimated to be USD$2.2 billion globally, which represents under 1% of the estimated $1.3 trillion food market. The industry is expected to grown tremendously and estimates show that it could make up 1.3% of food and beverage sales by 2020. Supermarkets have tried to combat meal kits popularity by making their own kits sold at store's locations. Blue Apron was the service most used by customers surveyed by Morning Consult in 2017, followed by HelloFresh and Plated. Although companies and the category have enjoyed rapid growth, they face a substantial challenge in retaining subscribers: many customers only use the services once, lured by offers of free meals, and few people continue past the 5-8 week mark: just 6% of customers surveyed by Morning Consult were still subscribed to most meal kit services after 3 months (although Blue Apron did much better than average at 12% 3-month retention). Subscribers are mostly young, overwhelmingly urban, and skew male and upper-income.
List of meal kit services
- Amazon Meal Kit
- Blue Apron
- Five Point Four
- Fresh Meals 2 U
- Fuud Canada
- Global Belly
- Green Chef
- GoodnessMe Box
- Gym Food Australia
- Kroger Prep+Pared
- Home Chef
- Lite n' Easy
- Marley Spoon
- Mindful Chef
- Muscle Meals Direct
- My Food Bag
- Progress Prep
- Purple Carrot
- Sun Basket
- Takeout Kit
- Terra's Kitchen
The industry has come under criticism for the difficulty recycling the freezer gel packs included with the kits to keep meats and dairy products refrigerated during shipping. The active ingredient in many gel packs is sodium polyacrylate, a non-toxic powder that can stay cold when saturated with water and frozen.
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