With the highstreets slowly dying out, pub culture in decline, and online shopping becoming the norm, it’s no surprise that restaurants are suffering the same fate. Meal Kit companies are the beneficiaries of this trend towards eating at home; something that was accelerated by the temporary closures of restaurants during lockdowns.
When looking at the 10 meal kit reviews by bigdaddykreativ.ca, we can see how competition has grown fierce since pre-pandemic. Of course, meal kits existed before then, and they will exist afterward, but it’s no secret that they have enjoyed the fruits of the public being scared to leave their house.
What are meal kit companies?
It’s likely that you’ve already guessed what meal kit companies are just from the name alone. They are designed to deliver groceries but in the form of meals. So, customers choose some nice recipes from a menu list, and the providers send the ingredients. Already weighed, and sometimes already chopped, the customer is receiving the precise measurements for a given recipe and no more.
As you can imagine, the allure of this is that customers feel as if they’re being treated to a nice meal, only they have to cook it themselves. Without having to seek out recipes, find the right ingredients, and manage the quantities of them, this is a very quick shortcut to home cooking.
How the pandemic helped meal kit companies
The closure of restaurants certainly led to many people itching to spend their disposable income elsewhere. Meal kits aren’t exactly encompassing the social aspect of eating out, but they do feel like a treat. With high-quality ingredients and unique recipes, it becomes a way for customers to get a restaurant-quality experience in their own home whilst eateries were temporarily closed.
Of course, meal kit delivery is great for social distancing too. People saw going to the grocery store as a risk, and meal kit companies could be delivered in a contact-free way each week. It doesn’t completely remove the need for grocery shopping as meal kit companies do not offer breakfast-related meals, and often cap their maximum weekly meals at 4 or 5 days’ worth.
Generally, though, people used the time of lockdowns to try out new things. Some people used their newfound savings to invest in meme stocks, whilst others tried out running. Many, it seems, viewed meal kits as a way to improve their cooking skills, the freshness of produce they consume, and the convenience of their weekly shopping.
So, why are meal kits on decline 18 months on into the pandemic?
If meal kits were a lockdown phenomenon only, we would be seeing a dramatic decline around now. Restaurants have been open for a while now in North America and Europe, and very few people are still scared of social contact given the vaccination rollout.
Yet, meal kit companies are still relatively full-up with orders being limited so everyone can use the service. In fact, industry leader HelloFresh is expanding their production, with strong sales growth forecasted.
The likelihood is that the pandemic essentially caused more people to try meal kits. Many people can benefit from them – though they aren’t suitable for everyone – and the pandemic was the exposure that meal kits needed. It’s likely that new sign-ups will not remain at the high levels of 2023, but retaining customers hasn’t been too difficult.
The routine of meal kits has been a big factor in this customer retention. Making it easy for customers to place automatic orders each week, without being full-on (i.e. simply 3 meals a week), has meant it’s a convenient service that is conducive to routine.
A Dalhousie University study found that 12.8% of the 7,000+ people surveyed were receiving meal kits, though many expressed they’re looking forward to going to a restaurant when allowed. It seems the worst is over, as restaurants have been open a while now, so that itch is well and truly dealt with. We are deep enough into post-lockdowns to see that this demand for meal kits is somewhat more permanent than a lockdown stop-gap.
A move towards sustainable consumerism
If the pandemic wasn’t enough, there’s another global catastrophe that may also help meal kits… Global warming and environmental issues.
It’s not that meal kit companies are being opportunistic, as their prices and service haven’t really changed in response to these issues, but environmental problems could see another surge towards meal kits.
The reason for this is that meal kit companies have a good selling point for this: their packaging is generally recyclable and conscious of the environment, having food delivered has fewer emissions than customers driving individually to stores, and the produce is generally considered to be ethical and of high quality.
Many meal kit companies go a step further and only provide locally grown produce, something that is appreciated in response to the harm of factory farming. Fresh produce is generally considered to be more organic, and there are tonnes of vegan and vegetarian options too, which can help onboard those experimenting with different diets.
The future of meal kit companies
We are likely to see further expansion and innovation within meal kit companies. For example, Ocado in the UK, whilst not a meal kit provider per se, is using a hive grid machine with thousands of robots in a warehouse to sort grocery products.
We may see a more on-demand approach from some meal kit companies, too. With the rise of Uber Eats and Wolt, we may see ingredients for a single recipe being delivered within the hour – though this will be difficult to achieve in many parts of Canada and the US.
This would be great news for tourists and the AirBnB customer base, who visit new apartments but without any groceries. The last thing they want is to order 1Kg for flour and such for a 1-week stay, nor do they want a rolling weekly meal kit subscription.