Meal Kits Pile Up At The Front Door And Brands Need To Differentiate

Like the explosive growth in online shopping, video meetings, virtual doctor visits, and distance learning, meal kits also got a big boost during covid. And why not. The risks of Covid transmission in a public place, the burden of at-home school responsibilities, and zoom fatigue are the perfect storm for a new category adoption that answers the 4:00 pm question of “what’s for dinner?”

The Food Institute is calling it “a tectonic shift in the industry as consumers avoid restaurants and grocery stores and eat in more. Meal kit providers, in turn, expanded operations, adjusted offerings to meet increased demand, and grew their businesses substantially.” And big it is. The meal kit delivery services market is estimated at $2.3 billion for 2020 in the U.S, $8.3 billion globally, and is expected to reach $17.8 billion by 2027.

A few statistics about the meal kit customer:

  • “17% of consumers in America have subscribed to a meal kit service at some point.” –Linchpin SEO
  • “Adults 25 to 44 are twice as likely to be subscribed to a meal service than other demographics.” –Packaged Facts
  • “81% of Americans believe that home-delivered meal kits are healthier than eating at a restaurant.” –USAToday

The brands all operate with similar business models, but they do vary by price point, ethos, and demographic target. However, in a rapidly expanding category it will be increasingly difficult to distinguish one brand from the other. Comparing the values expressed online about this selection of brands can give you a sense of their growing ubiquity in the market and the subsequent ways that brands may need to differentiate.

The values of Deliciousness, Fresh, and Convenience are universally expected for a meal delivery service, and they trade the first, second, and third spots in the analysis for each of the brands. However, there are a few standouts:

  • Meal kits can be expensive, particularly those that offer options for special diets. But Value–the relationship of price and usefulness–shows up for EveryPlate (lowest prices), Blue Apron (great entry point), and Purple Carrot (one of the few for vegans/vegetarians).
  • Blue Apron highlights unusual ingredients as a learning opportunity and helps with advice for big entertainment events, earning the value of
  • Gobble offers ideas for taking the stress out of holidays, earning the value of
  • Several online reviewers gave Freshly high marks for Health and nourishing options.
  • Green Chef was named best organic option and best keto service by some reviewers, giving Choice one of the top 5 value spots even though some of the other services offer more options/choices.

Opportunities:

  • Sustainability: The criticism around packaging issues for meal kits is growing. How will the industry address this? Brands offering organic options should give that feature more attention.
  • Choice (Customization and Personalization): Meal kits are a perfect example of giving customers the ability to customize and choose exactly what they want. With growing dietary issues, family member differences, and the effort these services put into their offerings, this marketing buzzword should be emphasized.

This overview is just the start of how brands should be evaluating how they are perceived. In a fast-growing category, companies can’t rest on all the effort that went into the brand strategy. Brands must continue to analyze how their brand is situated in the marketplace and adjust accordingly.