Meal kit services began to gain popularity in the early 2010s with the launch of major players in the industry like Blue Apron and HelloFresh. These companies offered subscription-based services that delivered pre-portioned ingredients and recipes to customers' doorsteps, allowing them to prepare meals in the comfort of their own homes without the need to shop for groceries. In other words, meal kits simplified home cooking. Thus, they were lovingly welcomed by busy professionals and families who wanted to eat healthy meals but did not have the time or energy to plan and shop.
However, it was not until the pandemic that ‘meal kitting’ became a household name. Worldwide lockdowns and the growing trend of home cooking fueled their popularity. Despite the huge churn rate, the industry was projected to grow up to 64.3 billion by 2030.
Now, over a year after normalcy has been restored, things have changed. The traction towards meal kits has waned and people are moving further away from them. In this article, we uncover the reason behind their rise and fall.
What worked for Meal Kits?
Meal kits offered convenience to busy consumers. They allowed families and young professionals to eat healthy without putting much time or energy into planning and shopping for ingredients. Meal kits provided them an opportunity to try new recipes and ingredients without committing to large quantities of unfamiliar items. Also, since they delivered portioned and prepped ingredients, meal kits were sustainable. Let's explore what made meal kits such a phenomenon.
1. They were convenient
Meal kits offered a high level of convenience for busy people and families. With pre-portioned ingredients and recipes delivered to their doorstep, customers didn’t have to worry about planning meals or shopping for ingredients. This saved time and eliminated the need to visit multiple stores or prep ingredients. Provided one had a well-functioning kitchen, they could simply unbox, read the recipe and start cooking.
2. They provided nutritious meals
Meal kits provided customers with healthy meal options that were often lower in calories and contained fresh, whole ingredients. So, it appealed to those who were trying to break ties with fast food and take-outs but didn’t have the time or energy to cook from scratch.
3. They had variety
Meal kits offered an assortment of recipes and ingredients. This allowed customers to try new and different foods that they might not have otherwise considered. Besides, since the ingredients were portioned and (sometimes) partially cooked, preparation was much easier.
4. They helped customers sharpen their cooking skills
Meal kits helped novice chefs by outlining step-by-step instructions to prepare each meal and even did some of the grunt work themselves. This was helpful for those who did not have experience with cooking techniques or were unfamiliar with ingredients.
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5. They were sustainable
Meal kits helped reduce food waste by providing customers with precisely measured ingredients. They eliminated the need to purchase large bags of groceries that would lie forgotten. Additionally, meal kit delivery has a less negative impact on the environment than retail distribution. Thus, meal kitting appealed to the responsible consumer.
Meal kits changed the food-tech space for the good. So, it was surprising when their popularity slumped.
8 Major Drawbacks Causing the Decline of Meal Kits
Despite their initial success, meal kits have been facing several challenges over the past few years. Firstly, they are relatively expensive when compared to grocery shopping and cooking from scratch. This can be a significant deterrent for consumers, especially in a tough economy. Also, there has been a growing concern about the environmental impact of meal kits, as they require a lot of packaging and shipping. Let us discuss more reasons behind the fall of meal kits.
1. They are expensive
Here’s the catch; once a customer exhausts the initial offers, meal kits turn out to be way costlier than purchasing ingredients from a grocery store and preparing meals from scratch. Even the grocery delivering subscription services charge much less than meal kit services. This can make them less accessible, particularly for those on a tight budget. There are many reddit users who have been echoing the same sentiment - "I can no longer justify the expense since the value just isn't there any more."
2. They are associated with huge packaging waste
Meal kits come with a lot of packaging, which can contribute to waste and harm the environment. While meal kit companies are making efforts to reduce their environmental impact, which is much less than buying groceries through retailers; the quantity of packaging used is still a major concern.
3. They are rigid
Meal kit customers have less control over the ingredients used in their meals. While several services attempt to accommodate specific dietary needs and preferences, they are not as flexible as a grocery store. Most meal kit plans are not planned around an individual, meaning it’s inconvenient for single people to meal-plan and order as per their own consumption needs.
4. The industry faces shipping challenges
Meal kit delivery can be challenging, particularly in areas with extreme weather and limited delivery options. This can lead to delayed deliveries or spoilage of ingredients, resulting in food waste. Delayed deliveries of meal kits is more common than you may think - urging more and more people to go back to grocery shopping or begin considering other options.
5. They follow a rigid schedule
If you plan on cooking an extra meal one week or decide to skip a delivery, you just can’t! You need to inform them in advance, which is not possible every time. You end up having less control over your food, than you did earlier.
6. They don’t ease cooking
While meal kits offer convenience and a chance to cook, one still needs to prepare. This can be a drawback for individuals who don't have the time or desire to cook and for those who are looking for a quick and easy meal solution.
7. They don’t eliminate grocery shopping
These services generally take care of only 2-5 meals a week, so you have to plan and shop for the rest. Well, that’s a bummer.
8. They are simply not the most efficient
They are now facing fierce competition from grocery delivery subscriptions and prepared meal delivery services. Also, AI-powered cooking robots have become affordable, providing a more efficient alternative to meal kits.
Meal kits have several disadvantages, including cost, packaging waste, lack of control over ingredients, shipping challenges, and preparation time. These drawbacks can make meal kits less appealing to some consumers, having led to a decline in their popularity in recent years. A lot of these issues have urged regular meal-kit to question the reliability of its service.
Is there a better way to simplify home-cooking?
The inconsistencies of meal-kits have driven people to readopt workable meal planning, meal-prepping and batch-cooking methods to prepare their everyday meals. While they are far more efficient, tried and tested; the burden of home-cooking still exists.
People who do not have the tools or the inclination to cook, may not likely ever warm up to the idea of cooking everyday. And even if they did, they may be unsatisfied with having the same meals on rotation.
Meal kits offered the way out of this predicament, however could not quite live up to their customers’ expectations. This begs the question if there really exists an end-to-end home-cooking solution.
Nymble: A Better Alternative to Meal-Kitting
Keeping note of all issues related to daily meal-prepping and cooking, we envisioned a product that would do it all for you. Something that would bear the total onus of cooking. Imagine having your own private chef (minus the mind-boggling fees) that will cook what you want, when you want, and exactly how you want it.
Nymble is a fully-automated end-to-end cooking robot. It comes with 500+ recipes, which are customizable according to your likings and can remember your tastes and preferences. All you need to do is select recipes, load ingredients in its compartments and relax while Nymble cooks you a delicious meal. You can track real-time recipe progress and get notified when your recipe is ready. With Nymble, you can seamlessly pre-plan your weekly eating routine without any sort of disruptions to your work schedule.
Here's a video of how Nymble works:
And here's the best bit - we have MasterChefs and other prestigious chefs who have created their own recipes on the menu. So you can bet that eating at home will be as grand as ever when you have a chef-approved kitchen robot whipping world-class dishes for you on demand.
Nymble’s Recipe Collaboration with MasterChefs:
MasterChef US, Season 10 winner - Dorian Hunter, talks about Nymble:
Trust us, this is only a small preview! To learn more about our nifty robot chef, visit here.
Here’s what Nymble users have to say about their private chefs:
You may also sign up for a virtual or an in-person demo to watch Nymble in action and taste some robot-cooked goodness.