Meal kits, the food industry’s latest attempt to reinvent itself and in the process hopefully boost profits with a ‘value-added’ product, have, in a few short years, already been tried, sometimes repeatedly, by a slowly growing segment of the U.S. population — some three percent within the past year, according the NPD Group, a market research firm.
A small step for meal kits, a giant leap for Millennials’ attention-getting ability.
They, to a large degree, are the target market for the several national and numerous local meal kit-offering services – they and others who might be prepared to push the cost of a prepared-at-home meal from, say, $4 per person to $10 or more by having all of a meal’s ingredients pre-measured, pre-packed and delivered, with clear cooking instructions included.
Peach Dish is one of several national meal kit providers.
Those using meal kits, NDP Group says, in a new report entitled Thinking Inside the Box: A Fresh Look at Meal Kit Delivery Services, “are generally satisfied, and two out of three kit users are extremely or very satisfied; But price may be a barrier for continued use and adoption by others.”
Their study says that saving time is the top reason used for using meal kits, and consumers also say that using them “makes dinner easier to prepare”; And many add, the kits provide variety beyond the usual repertoire of someone who’s been working all day, is tired, and wants to simply through together a familiar dish or two, using well-tried recipes.
But the freshness of meal kits’ ingredients appeal a lot to young adults, many of who truly have limited recipe repertoires and limited time and/or patience for venturing further afield, cuisine-wise. And they certainly don’t have either the time or interest to shop often for a specific meal, so their ingredients are bound to be less fresh than the kits’, which are selected, prepped, packed and delivered daily.
But the kits’ cost is a concern of many users, because while they are used to replace a home-created meal, their per-person is closer to that of a restaurant meal.
Oddly, price didn’t come up as an issue in a laudatory Forbes article on meal kits in March of this year.
“Every single meal turned out as expected and given the potential for user-error in my house, that is an impressive statistic,” said author Katie Kelly Bell, who said she “scouts the world for the best experiences in food, wine and travel.”
That reinforces the belief of Darren Seifer, NPD Group’s food and beverage industry analyst.
The cost issue aside, he said, “there are opportunities for continued growth – for meal kit providers to market around the reasons their customers are satisfied, for manufacturers to get in the kit box, and for foodservice operators to leverage their ability to provide on-demand delivery and meal variety.”