Meal Kits Successfully Get Fresh with Consumers

Meal Kits Successfully Get Fresh with Consumers

Meal kit delivery services company Blue Apron has filed an IPO, becoming the highest-profile player in the fresh food meal kits industry to go public. The company’s filing signals a shift in the increasingly populated meal kit delivery industry, as do Unilever’s investment in Sun Basket and Campbell Soup’s investment in Chef’d.  The meal delivery service delivery industry has matured as consumer success kicked in and me-too competition ratcheted up.

As reported in Packaged Facts’ upcoming (July 2017) edition of Meal Kit Delivery Services in the U.S., three-fourths of U.S. adult food shoppers are now aware of meal delivery services, and two-fifths have tried a fresh food meal kit meal. In a highly fragmented market, according to current Packaged Pacts survey data, Blue Apron claims around 15% of meal kit delivery subscribers, with Hello Fresh, Home Bistro, and Green Chef rounding out the top tier of providers.

The meal kit delivery services industry has exploded over the past few years, acting as a bridge between takeout and home meal preparation. Consumers can save time and stress by avoiding shopping and meal planning, burnish their cooking skills and expand their culinary horizons by following well-illustrated recipes, and enjoy quality, often internationally tinged meals made from fresh, whole foods and individually packaged ingredients. This nexus of benefits, with the emphasis on fresh, whole foods, which consumers increasingly perceive as the key to healthier editing, has allowed meal kit delivery services to carve out an industry niche with remarkable speed and disruptive effect. 

Profitability in the Meal Kit Delivery Services Industry

Blue Apron’s public filing is in line with the market outlook analysis in the first edition of Packaged Facts’ Meal Kit Delivery Services in the U.S. (April 2016), which predicted that robust growth for meal kit delivery services would see the biggest players going public.

But no one is claiming that profitability comes easy in the meal kit delivery services industry. Establishing new facilities, hiring workers, enticing new customers through heavy advertising and deeply discounted trial offers, and shipping costs and delivery snafus when dealing with perishable foods all mean that it takes time for meal kit services to begin making money, if they reach that point at all. Packaged Facts survey data show that a significant share of customers have had a fresh meal kit delivery service that they were subscribing to go out of business.

There’s also the threat that as core customers sharpen their cooking skills and gain culinary confidence, they might choose to rely less on meal kits. Moreover, competition is pouring in from all sides—retail grocers, e-tail grocers, packaged food companies, restaurants—both singly and in combination, as evidenced by Tyson Tastemakers meals delivered through Amazon Fresh. 

Even so, the gauntlet has been thrown down, and meal kit delivery services are destined to grow into a multi-billion dollar industry.  As indicated by Blue Apron’s filing, the company saw its 2014 revenue of $78 million jump to $341 million in 2015, doubling to almost $800 million in 2016.

Despite spikes in revenue, Blue Apron lost $55 million in net income due to increased marketing expenditure, accounting for almost 25% of Blue Apron's net revenue in the first three months of 2017.  Albeit expensive, Blue Apron’s marketing has put it “ahead of the crowd” compared to other meal kit companies. Beyond just offering discounts and other profit cannibalizing gambits to attract new customers, for example, Blue Apron has shrewdly targeted Hispanics with Spanish-language TV commercials placed on Hispanic TV stations. Packaged Facts’ Meal Kit Delivery Services in the U.S. (April 2016) had noted that 30% of all meal kit delivery service users are Hispanic or Black, such that meal kit delivery services were missing out on sales opportunities by not targeting these specific groups, depicting these communities on websites and in advertising, and placing ads in Hispanic or African-American media.

Emerging Meal Kit Market Trends

Looking forward, a healthy and potentially profitable future for meal kit delivery services lies in establishing unique marketing angles such as organic, paleo, veggie-centric, specialty dietary restriction, or farm-to-table home meal preparation, allowing savvy marketers plenty of room to thrive in the maturing meal kit industry.

Packaged Facts survey data show that meal kit delivery subscribers are much more likely to strongly agree that they are health-conscious about what they eat (at 57%, vs. 31% of U.S. food shoppers overall), are aware of the government’s “myplate” dietary guidelines, and try to eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fresh fruit for health reasons.

According to David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts, “In the grocery battle between the center store of packaged foods and the perimeter of fresh, whole foods, meal kit delivery services have expanded the fresh foods perimeter into the ecommerce, smartphone app, and social media hyperspace.” 

View more information about Packaged Facts’ coverage of the meal kit delivery services market here. You can also visit our 'Meal Kit Delivery Services' page, Packaged Facts' all-in-one resource on meal kit delivery. 

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