Meal kits are a growing trend in the west, but it is North America that has really taken to the idea. Meal kits are a bit like if you combined grocery shopping with a restaurant menu – you scroll recipes, select the ones you like the look of, and voilà, your chosen meals have arrived on your doorstep.
They’re not cooked already, though this is a service you can also find. Instead, the ingredients are measured for you ready to go, and in some cases, fully prepared. You can find meal kit companies all around the globe, and their trend looks set to continue and challenge major supermarkets on every continent.
This article will cover the top companies in North America, such Hello Fresh, Chefs Plate and Blue Apron. Despite Blue Apron choosing not to expand to Canada, we will explore how and why these companies are thriving in NA, and what are pros and cons of each.
- Population sparsity
Both Canada and the USA share something in common that not many other countries do – land is plentiful. With only modest population figures yet huge land, their population is sparsely covering a large land mass. This makes grocery shopping a very different experience compared to somewhere like Europe.
In Europe, it is common to go to grocery shops a couple of times a week. Often a short walk around the corner, or at most a 10-minute drive, food is accessible. However, in North America it’s not uncommon to only shop once every ten days or so for food. Clearly, the latter culture is more suited to online meal kit deliveries.
- Awareness of healthy eating
North Americans are, in general, quite health conscious. Gyms have become a cool place to hang out and healthy plates of food have become a staple of the Instagram feed – a bit like how fitness has become fashionable in the past half decade. YouTube and podcasts have also played a huge factor in providing information to North Americans regarding health and lifestyle, something they have an appetite for.
Meal kits go hand-in-hand with this. Those wanting to learn how to cook can do so by ordering the ingredients without the extra hassle, and are provided an instruction list.
- Higher disposable income
Both Canadians and Americans have one of the highest disposable incomes in the world. The spare money is essentially an opportunity to start paying for more time. Given that we are all constricted by time, those with enough money can buy some of it back.
On top of this, meal kits offer fresh, organic ingredients. This high-quality produce isn’t always easy to find in supermarkets, so this becomes the higher quality, more costly alternative. It’s very unlikely that the poorest in America are paying for meal kits for much the same reason why meal kits aren’t a thing in developing countries.
- Long work hours
The US tends to have longer work hours and fewer days off than many European countries. Their culture of high work ethic means that there are millions of Americans who have little free time, and decide that opting for convenience is important to freeing up what little time they have left.
Time and convenience are perhaps the biggest reasons for meal kit companies’ demand. Though, with the abrupt lockdown restriction last April, it was likely the obstacles that faced Americans when shopping, that led to online alternatives.
Do meal kits exist outside of NA?
Meal kits do in fact exist outside of NA. In particular, they are rising in popularity in Europe for much of the same reasons as above. There is a rising culture of being health conscious (partly from American Instagram influencers), as well as a middle class who are looking for convenient, healthy cooking in a time of a pandemic.
Europe has many of the same companies that NA has, though there are many of their own too. Gousto, Square Meal, and Feast Box in particular are popular in the UK. Hello Fresh, which is perhaps the largest meal kit company in the US, Canada, and the world, is a German company.
Which are the biggest meal kit companies in North America?
The US and Canada share many of the same meal kit companies. The biggest is arguably Hello Fresh, as mentioned earlier, which is valued at over $10bn. With over 30% market share, Hello Fresh is the go-to for many people wanting reasonably priced, good quality recipes and a reliable service.
Home Chef is perhaps the next biggest North American meal kit company. This is a 2013 company founded in Chicago, and is owned by Kroger. Home Chef is rated the best company by many reviewers, with its great recipes, fresh ingredients and easy service.
Blue Apron is also a big hitter, but they do not operate in Canada. In fact, they were struggling for many years until the pandemic struck, where they then saw their best growth in a long time.
Freshly, EveryPlate, Sun Basket, Green Chef and Purple Carrot are some of the other noteworthy meal kit companies, who each have their own pros and cons.
For example, Freshly offers ready-to-eat meals, so there’s no actual cooking required. This takes meal kit convenience to a whole new level, but of course at the cost of freshness. There’s no way that the meal can taste as fresh when reheated, though you could argue the ingredients are of the same organic quality.
As we can see, there is no single best company. It’s worth trying a few different ones before settling, as you can decide which suits you best. On top of this, you can make use of the promotional offers for new sign ups, meaning each company can be rinsed of their discounts before you consider paying full price.