Meal-kit startups are springing up everywhere (part of a larger movement of “kits” in general, including those catering to outdoor buffs, crafters, etc.). Elizabeth Segran (@LizSegran) writes an incredibly smart and substantial piece for Fast Company, investigating the meal-kit phenomenon. Will it change the way we eat?
Like many in her generation, Elizabeth Segran has a high degree of awareness about food. But she identifies something important, which might reflect a larger cultural trend: “…this love of food hasn’t translated into a love of cooking.” She also notes that “millennials spend more on food outside the home than any other generation, averaging $50.75 a week.”
Some research indicates that cooking at home may be healthier, and it can certainly be easier on our personal economy. Plus, cooking can be an enjoyable experience. To achieve some of those goals – and to develop cooking skills – Segran and her husband began subscribing to a boxed meal service from a regional provider in the Boston area. She writes:
“Every Sunday, we receive a box full of individually wrapped and labeled ingredients for five dinners complete with detailed—and, fortunately for me, idiot-proof—recipes. Just Add Cooking, the service we use, exclusively serves the Boston area and uses largely local produce; it saves us time planning meals and shopping for groceries, an especially gruesome task during winters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. While we do not have much choice over the meals we receive, our box is slowly helping us to acclimate to our kitchen (for purposes other than document storage, that is). Although my mother laments that we are paying far more for each meal than she ever spent on groceries for our family, we’ve calculated that we spend slightly less than we would if we were eating out for those meals.”
Segran notes she’s not alone:
“Technomic, a food-industry consulting firm, predicts that the meal-kit service segment of the market will grow to between $3 billion-$5 billion over the next 10 years based on current adoption rates. People like me are the reason venture capitalists are fire-hosing money at the space in a fairly spectacular fashion: Since boxed-meal startups Blue Apron and Plated launched in 2012, they have raised $58 million and $21.6 million, respectively; the Wall Street Journal recently reported that Blue Apron is in talks to raise a huge new round from investors that would value the company at $2 billion. And HelloFresh, a European meal-kit company founded in 2011 and backed by notoriously competitive startup copycat Rocket Internet, just closed $126 million in Series E funding with the goal of making incursions in the U.S. market. Blue Apron delivers more than two million meals a month, and HelloFresh claims it’s already doing twice that volume.”
The article also delivers a terrific overview and history of the meal-kit in Europe and the U.S., information about some of the leading providers and more. Segran even explores how the companies are grappling with the “cultural of regional resonance of food.” This is an in-depth, fascinating and incredibly helpful read.