Monday, February 18, 2019

Positive Competitive Effects of the Meal Kit Wars?


Couples Cooking with Plated: Curried Lamb Tacos
with Cabbage Slaw and Cilantro-Lime Yogurt

Since I last wrote about meal kits--those boxes of goodness (recipes and ingredients, all shipped to your door)--they have continued to be in the news.  There's been some consolidation in the industry (referenced here), continued speculation about whether the industry is sustainable (for a negative view, see here), and ongoing interest in what meal kits are all about (here).  Now, there even is an industry information page dedicated to meal kits (here).

A central concern in much of what is being written is competition.  But I have my own perspective on competition in this industry: if enough of these firms can find a financially sustainable, cost-effective business model (and I certainly hope they do), I have a good feeling about the continued survival of a few of these firms.  Why?  Because each of the three firms I have ordered from--Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Plated--has evolved toward each other a bit as time has gone on, converging toward better service norms.  Among the areas of convergence: segregated ingredients (put in a separate bag or mini-box) and lower calorie/simpler preparation options.  In other words, the service elements of the businesses appear to be learning from each other's successes in meaningful ways.  I actually enjoy all three services.

Having said that, there are certain competitive service advantages, as I perceive them, that Plated has over Blue Apron and Hello Fresh. What are those important competitive features?  Bottom Line:  the fact that Plated has (1) relatively simple, (2) varied, recipe/meal choices--all of which are (3) just a bit more sophisticated than we normally would eat and (4) delicious--at (5) an affordable cost and are (6) available in a two-meal-a week-for-three-people format.  Basically, Plated has everything I want and need.  And the few deliveries that have not been perfect have either included a substitute for the unavailable item (with a message to that effect) or have been remedied by a discount off a future order.  (Honestly, I have been impressed by the level of customer service in all three firms when I have had a question or complaint.  Good for all of them.)

This does not mean that I do not still enjoy Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, but neither, for example, has a three-person meal option . . . .

Perhaps I will have more to say about this industry at some point in the future.  But this (finally) completes the three-part series I started and promised over a year ago.  Honestly, and I tell just about everyone this, other than general convenience and great food, one of the best things about getting meal kits delivered is just what my husband originally intended to give me in the first place when he began ordering Blue Apron for us: easy time with him in the kitchen creating a family meal together, glass of wine in hand . . . .

Food and Drink, Joan Heminway | Permalink


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