A meal kit is a subscription service–foodservice business model where a company 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 has been cited as an example of the personalization of the food and beverage industry that has become more popular[where?] and widespread.
A meal kit is not to be confused with convenience food, which is actually cooked and "prepared" at a kitchen facility before shipment—typically in a refrigerated container.
The business model 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 simultaneously 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 grow 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 notable meal kit services
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.
- "The Best Meal-Kit Delivery Services of 2017". PCMAG. Retrieved 23 May 2017.
- "Capitalizing on convenience: The rise of meal-kit services and what it means for grocers". Food Dive. Retrieved 17 September 2018.
- Segran, Elizabeth (6 August 2015). "The $5 Billion Battle For The American Dinner Plate". Fast Company. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
- Konrad, Alex. "The Swedish Meal Kit Startup That Inspired Blue Apron, Plated And HelloFresh Speaks Out". Forbes magazine. No. 14 October 2015. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
- "Meal Kit History- infographic".
- "Martha Stewart New Meal Kit Partnership With Amazon Gives Users More Than Just Convenience". inc.com. 17 March 2017. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
- "Why Meal Kits Haven't Delivered a Cooking Revolution—Yet". TIME.com. 19 July 2017. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
- Leonhardt, Megan (20 July 2017). "These 2 Charts Show Just How Popular Meal-Kit Services Are". Money.com. Archived from the original on 11 May 2021. Retrieved 28 November 2017.
- "The Truth About Meal-Kit Freezer Packs". motherjones.com. 4 June 2017. Retrieved 5 July 2017.