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The Truth about the Meal Kit Industry: Where it’s Going, and What We Can Expect

Meal kits have taken the world by storm in recent years, and their popularity is said to be driven by parents who are too busy to prepare complex and elaborate meals when they get home from work yet still want to make something appetizing for their brood.

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For single individuals who would like to eat healthy (read: a meal with an entrée and a side dish of vegetables), meal kit delivery has also proven to be a worthy deal. But the meal kit industry, while growing, is facing its fair share of challenges which can affect its growth in the future. But these hurdles can merely be seen as bumps on the road if meal kit delivery companies acquire a better knowledge of their market and what their market needs. So, what is really happening in the meal kit industry? How is it relevant today, and what does the future hold? Here's the truth about the meal kit industry: where it's going, and what we can expect.

Why it can work

First of all, what is a meal kit, anyway? A meal kit is a set of ingredients and recipes which are pre-packaged in a precise quantity and then often shipped to someone's home by a meal kit company. For many, the appeal of a meal kit delivery service is obvious – imagine going home and not having to scrounge around in your refrigerator for a sad-looking meal which you only half heartedly prepare. The meal kit allows you to prepare your meal within minutes without any of the hassles associated with cooking (such as prepping and chopping) and enjoying a delicious, hearty, and nutritious meal in the end. The meal kit industry works by appealing to consumers who are conscious about healthy eating and nutrition yet who are too busy (or tired) to come up with a filling meal on their own.

The meal kit industry: where it is going

Meal kit companies have certainly found a niche, and according to statistics, meal kit deliveries generated a whopping $1 billion in revenue in 2015. By the year 2020, the meal kit industry is projected to make as much as $10 million. So, it is a lucrative industry indeed. Other numbers show the real deal: according to Nielsen, 9% of consumers in the US (about 10.5 million US households) have purchased meal kits in the last six months.

The average meal kit costs around $12 per plate or serving, which, for many, is a much better alternative to having food delivered from a restaurant. If you opt for meal kit delivery, the cost is projected to be between shopping for the ingredients at the grocery yourself and going to an actual restaurant. Let's give you a more concrete example: a chicken Marsala meal kit from Chef'd will cost around $12.45 per plate, but if you go to a nice Italian restaurant in your local neighborhood, the same chicken Marsala meal can easily cost you around $18 – making the $12.45 cost of a meal delivery kit 30% less expensive than your restaurant meal.

Competition is out there

Nowadays, competition is rife, with a lot of companies (heavyweights like Walmart and Amazon) jostling for position with smaller meal kit enterprises like HelloFresh, Home Chef, Sun Basket, and Plated. So, what does this mean for the average consumer? For the average consumer, this could only mean one thing: more accessible meal kits. Grocery retailers are now jumping onto the bandwagon and featuring meal kits on their shelves, and if you make a visit to your neighborhood grocery store, you could probably see a smattering of meal kits yourself. Having meal kits readily available in local grocery shops is a big draw to customers – they can see the kit right in front of them rather than go online to buy it.

Meal kits are simple, easy to prepare, and, let's face it – they're tasty as well. The future looks bright, and although the industry may face some challenges, the journey should be interesting for us consumers who want to try something novel, fresh, and unique.

Tom Van Cauwenberghe is a freelance writer and travel aficionado who loves to write, read, cook, and play with his Akita-English sheepdog, Einstein. He has tried preparing his own meal kits and is quite delighted with the results.

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