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Food Trend or Food Staple: Which Meal Kit Companies Are Here To Stay

Only One Can Be On Top

A decade ago, if you would have told the average person that they could do all of their recipe hunting and grocery shopping through the mail, they would have told you that you were crazy.

Spoiled food, untimely deliveries, and high shipping costs all seemed like obvious pitfalls back in 2010.

However, coming up at the end of the decade, what seemed like the impossible in 2010 is actually one of the biggest food trends the U.S. has seen in the 2010s—meal kits.

In 2012, three meal kits introduced themselves to the U.S.—HelloFresh, Blue Apron and Plated—and after some initial buzz, many others followed suit.

Now? Meal kits are everywhere, all promising good home cooking without the endless amount of planning, prepping, or food waste. They even come in different variations, some like Green Chef having boxes for vegan, gluten-free, and ketogenic dieters.

The thing is, as meal kits phase-out of their cute "on-trend" phase, their offerings have to make more and more sense when comparing them to other food options like the grocery store and take out.

Some seem to have figured out their own secret sauce to staying afloat. Others…not so much.

We're taking a look at the three original meal kits to see how they stack up going into 2020.

Blue Apron, named after the apron given to French chefs-in-training, was the meal kit with the most initial buzz in the U.S. They created excitement by offering fancy ingredients and gourmet recipes that the typical home cook usually wouldn't think about trying. However, over the years, some customers have complained that the recipes take a lot of time and are difficult—going against everything a meal kit should be: convenient. They've seen their customer base and revenues declining, especially this past year, which could partly be due to this.

Plated, another initial frontrunner, recently announced that they are halting their mail order subscription model. They're pivoting focus on developing an in-store culinary brand, defeating the purpose of meal kits.

The ease and convenience of having everything you need to cook a delicious dinner delivered right to your doorstep has curb appeal, but supposedly wasn't working well for Plated.

Although Blue Apron and Plated seem to be slowing down, this isn't an indication that meal kits themselves are dying. Rather, it's a reflection of large corporations being out of touch with what the average person wants to cook at the end of a long workday.

This is where HelloFresh has stepped in. Now the largest and best-rated delivery service in the U.S., HelloFresh looks like it's only getting stronger, having announced 40% growth year-over-year in new customers (based on their Q3 earnings).

HelloFresh recipes aren't particularly fancy--just delicious, crowd-pleasing meals cooked to perfection.

Meal kits are meant to remove the difficult parts from cooking and leave you with the fun, and that's exactly what HelloFresh does. Nobody wants to come home after a long day and spend an hour cooking an overcomplicated recipe that requires every pot and pan in the kitchen.

Weeknights should be all about ease, and HelloFresh's recipes really speak to that. They offer paired-down perfection like Blackened Tilapia Fish Tacos that take around 35 mins to whip up or Mediterranean Couscous Bowls that'll be ready in about 25 minutes or under!

They even offer gourmet options for those who have the time and want to polish their cooking skills, as well as calorie-smart meals for those who are concerned that all meal kits are unhealthy.

HelloFresh's unwavering success is attributed to the fact that they are constantly evolving and listening to what their customers want.

They now offer 21 worldly recipes a week--a mix of elevated basics, top-rated favorites voted by their loyal customer base, and even a chef's choice--a hand-selected recipe from one of their top professionals.

Changing your plan to fit your lifestyle has never been easier, either. You can add an extra recipe or two on a week when you have visitors, and even add in delicious sides and desserts like garlic bread and cookie dough!

At a time where meal kits may be making headlines for the wrong reasons, HelloFresh has stayed consistent with good quality ingredients, delicious, easy to follow recipes, and a convenient, flexible subscription model that fits perfectly into the lives of busy Americans.

Update: CYBER WEEK SALE! The folks at HelloFresh are extending a special offer to our readers! Follow this link to get 9 Meals Free + Free Shipping!