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The State of the Meal Delivery Space: Who’s Thriving, Who’s Been Bought Out, and Who is Closed for Good

Over the past few years, the meal delivery space has matured from a quirky idea into a booming industry. 

CNBC reports that more than 150 companies are competing “nationally, regionally and locally, all fighting for their share of the $1.5 billion market.”

If you like to stay up to date on the latest industry trends, or if you’re thinking about trying a new meal kit yourself, here are three things you should know about the state of the meal delivery space.

1. Grocery stores have joined the party.

Photo: I5 Design & Manufacture

When early movers like German-based HelloFresh and U.S. competitor Blue Apron burst onto the scene, grocery stores saw them as a threat. Meal kits were promising a simpler way to serve home-cooked meals — by delivering pre-portioned ingredients right to your door. 

But as the industry has matured, grocery stores have actually proven to be very synergistic with meal kits. It turns out, while many people can’t break the habit of driving to the supermarket, they do love the idea of easy-to-prepare meals with pre-portioned ingredients. This has led many supermarket chains to actually start offering meal kits in their stores. 

For example, Publix created their own Aprons line and Costco ran a pilot program selling Blue Apron kits. 

In May of 2018, Kroger went so far as to acquire Home Chef, in a deal reportedly worth $200 million “with an additional $500 million in incentives if certain targets are met.”

And Plated, a meal delivery service that got its start on the TV show “Shark Tank,” sold to Albertsons for a rumored $200 million plus growth-based “earnout payments.”

2. Lots of niche services have sprung up.

While the more traditional meal kits (HelloFresh, Blue Apron, Home Chef, and Plated) continue to enjoy success with mainstream customers, numerous smaller services have popped up, targeting niche audiences. 

  • Sun Basket and Green Chef both offer organic ingredients, with specialized menus like Paleo, Keto, and Gluten Free.
  • Purple Carrot is an all-vegan meal kit that was able to convince legendary food writer Mark Bittman to leave his 13 year column at the New York Times and join their content team for a 6-month stint.
  • Takeout Kit promises to transform your kitchen into a global café, scouring the planet for “hard-to-find ingredients and authentic recipes.” With each meal, you learn about the culture and background behind the dish, and the company even suggests music playlists and drink pairings to enhance your experience.
  • Dinnerly and EveryPlate have stripped away the frills and are instead competing for the title of cheapest meal delivery service, with prices per serving beginning at only $4.99. 

And as meal kits continue to grow in popularity, so does the spin off delivery industry of fully prepared meals. Freshly is a mainstream leader with lots of meal options to choose from. Veestro offers fully prepared meals for vegans. Factor75 features paleo and keto friendly meals. And MealPro is targeting fitness junkies. Because fully prepared meals usually come in single serving sizes, they’re a nice alternative for solo diners, since meal kit dishes almost always serve a minimum of two people. 

3. Many companies have been struggling.

Photo: Chris Campbell

With so many meal kits springing up, several companies have been struggling to survive the fierce competition. Two significant examples are Chef’d and Munchery. 

Munchery, a provider of fully prepared meals that differentiated itself by offering same day delivery, announced they were shutting their doors in January of this year. This came less than a year after a significant round of layoffs, despite raising over $120 million and reaching a valuation of $300 million.

Chef’d, which made a name for itself as one of the first meal kits to not rely on a subscription model, abruptly ceased operations — laying off over 350 employees. This happened even after the company raised $35 million in funding and announced a pilot distribution partnership with 30 Duane Reade and Walgreens locations in New York. 

Two more casualties are high-end food delivery service Sprig and also Din, which partnered with popular restaurants for recipes and delivered customers the ingredients they would need to recreate their favorite restaurant meals at home.  

And it isn’t just smaller companies that have struggled to grow sustainably in this highly competitive environment. Over the last year, even Blue Apron has seen its stock price drop from a high of $58.80 to an alarming $6.79 per share. 

There’s never been an easier time to start a meal delivery service — or a harder time to sustain one. 

4. What to expect moving forward. 

With over 150 players in this space, we can expect more consolidation to come. In early 2018, mainstream delivery giant HelloFresh bought out Green Chef, an organic meal delivery service designed for more health-conscious diners. This follows in the footsteps of the restaurant delivery space, where early mover Grubhub merged with Seamless and acquired Eat24 along with a slew of smaller companies. 

The good news is, as the demand for timesaving services continues to grow, it looks like meal delivery will be around for decades to come, and meal kits will become increasingly available through retail partnerships. 

We don’t yet know which brands will survive and which will come crashing down, but the future looks bright, tasty, and convenient — filled with easier ways for consumers to serve home-cooked meals and stick to health goals. Good for us. 

Feel Good Health News Packaged Food

Hormel Just Created Meal Kits Designed For People With Swallowing Disorders

1 in 25 adults today suffers from dysphagia, a term given to a range of disorders that affect your ability to swallow. It is especially prevalent among the elderly and those who suffer from multiple sclerosis, dementia, a stroke, or injuries to the head and/or neck.

Today, according to Hormel Health Labs marketing director Tim Garry, most of those people get their nutritional needs through “baby food.” Those products are at the right consistency and texture for those with dysphagia to eat, but are often seen as poor quality-of-life options.

Hormel Health Labs has a new range of products that look to improve on that, with over 30 new items available in their Thick & Easy meal kits, designed for folks suffering from these conditions.

Photo courtesy of Hormel Health Labs

The meals can be simply steamed or microwave to reheat and eat, and were chef-crafted to make sure they capitalize on flavor. Each pureed meal kit comes with over 30 different items, enough for six lunch or dinner meals. Breakfast meal kits are also available, with enough food for nine different meals as an option. Choices include Maple Cinnamon French Toast, Roast Turkey with Stuffing and Green Beans, or Italian-Style Beef Lasagna, as examples.

For those with dysphagia, these meal kits could represent a way to get taste and more crafted nutrition back into their lives while being able to control what they eat more.

Hormel Health Lab’s meal kits are available through most major healthcare distributors, but can also be ordered online by the individual kit or as part of a subscription program.

Hit-Or-Miss News Packaged Food What's New

Spoon University and Chef’d Are Making Student Meal Kits

Ramen noodles and Hot Pockets may need to take a back seat for a while.

Spoon University, the food journalism site for students, announced a couple of days ago that it is teaming up with Chef’d to create college student meal kits.


Photo: Spoon University

Starting next year, these meal kits will be shipped out to students looking to cook but lacking the time to go grocery shopping. They will contain everything from ingredients for recipes (enough for 4 meals), sets of 6 grab-and-go meal products, 10-packs of snacks or beverages, or even care package-themed meal kits.


Photo: Chef’d

College students who spend all of their time studying will find these a relief from the fast food and more processed meals that they’re used to consuming. These meal kits are supplied with great, tasty products that students can use not only to enjoy eating, but to get back in the kitchen as well.

For now, Spoon University is offering a sign-up sweepstakes promotion. Those who sign up to learn when the meal kits are ready to go will be entered in a snacks care package giveaway!

Make sure to sign up for the sweepstakes and get ready to enjoy these creative, college-oriented new meal kits.