Earlier this year, Jason shared a blog post introducing the phenomena of meal kits and the quick growth this market has experienced. I’ve heard a lot of hype about meal kits and finally decided to give one a try. Not only was I curious about their popularity, I also figured it would be great market research. By knowing the pros and cons of meal kit subscriptions, retailers can use this information to compete in this attractive market that’s taking dollars away from grocery stores.
The meal kit service I subscribed to is Plated. Pricing for this service is about $12 per serving and around $6 for shipping. Subscribers can choose to buy two to seven meals per week, each at two to three servings per meal. After filling out a quick survey on food preferences, Plated picks meals that it thinks you will like for the week; however, you can swap meals to match your personal flavor preferences from a choice of about seven to ten recipes.
Ingredients: I’ve cooked four meals so far, and everything I’ve made has been absolutely delicious! The ingredients Plated sends are fresh and preserved in a temperature controlled box. I pick the day of the week the box will be delivered and receive an email once it’s about to arrive. Even if I can’t make it home to my box right away, it’s guaranteed to stay fresh until midnight the day of delivery. All of this makes me feel good about the ingredients I’m about to consume.
Recipes: The recipes are easy to follow. They typically take 30-50 minutes to prepare, which is reasonable even on a weeknight. They teach me how to prepare foods I haven’t tried before or normally wouldn’t buy in the grocery store (even though the ingredients are there, I tend to be a creature of habit and buy the same things each week). These recipes introduce me to new spices and ingredient combinations that I’ve never used. This is exciting, educational and fun! Plus, each recipe is printed on a nice card that I can keep. If I like the recipe, I can head to my local grocer and buy the ingredients, so I can recreate the meal another time.
Pricing & convenience: Although I could make a meal for much less by simply going to the store, buying the ingredients and looking up a recipe online, the meal subscription doesn’t cost me any more than I would spend going out to a restaurant and leaving a tip. I personally wouldn’t choose to receive a meal like this everyday, but twice a week gives me something fun to do and a way experiment in the kitchen. It’s a fun bonding experience when cooking the meal with someone else (there are at least two servings in each meal) with an added sense of accomplishment at the end. It puts together recipes that I know will teach me something new, without being too challenging or overwhelming; I trust them to provide just the right level of difficulty.
The box is always delivered on time and all of the ingredients are perfectly measured out so that I don’t have to worry about buying a full spice container that I’ll never use again – plus it saves some time. If I know I will be gone a week or two, I just go onto the Plated website and skip the meals; no questions asked and no charge. I only pay for meals that are delivered. I can also cancel at any time.
As of now, I’ve seen very few. If I do need to skip a box because of prior engagements, I need to remember to logon to my Plated account and notify the company a week before delivery date. If I wait too long, it’s too late – my credit card will be charged and the box will come regardless.
The minimum subscription you can choose is two meals per week at two servings each. As a single person, that means I’m typically buying someone else’s meal every week unless I save the second serving for leftovers the next day.
Although Plated has provided me with excellent ingredients, other subscription services have been known to have poor quality food; these meal kits are usually lower-priced also.
What Retailers Can Learn
Offering the convenience, ingredients, recipes and pricing that Plated does should be no problem for grocery retailers. All of the ingredients are already available in the grocery store. Retailers can offer quick pickup services in-stores if they don’t want to deal with the logistics of delivery. They simply need to create the recipes and present them in a meal kit fashion that’s convenient and attractive to customers, while also providing quality ingredients.
Go back and read the blog post I referenced at the beginning of this post. There are great resources here to get started. Also, check out Happy Food Co., a meal kit service utilized by our own AWG retailers.