Meal kit delivery popularity grows

Forget writing a list and going to the grocery store to purchase food for meals. Now, ingredients can be purchased and delivered to the front door with the simple click of a button, thanks to a growing food trend – meal kit delivery.

More than 100 options are available for meal kit delivery, ranging from vegetarian and southern to smoothies and East Coast food recipe options, said Andrea Graves, business planning and marketing specialist for Oklahoma State University’s Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center. The boxes come stocked with the exact portion sizes of ingredients and the recipe card to prepare the food.

“These meal kits are great if you enjoy cooking but need help planning,” Graves said. “It will still take time to cook the items and, like any home-prepared meal, clean up afterwards, but it is more convenient when you cut out grocery shopping and planning.”

According to the New York Times, “Like frozen foods or the microwave oven, meal kits may be a kitchen innovation that fundamentally changes how people cook at home.”

The food kit delivery companies have websites making it simple to sign up. They offer options from two to six people and a varied number of meals delivered each week.

Most of the websites offer weekly menus from which to choose, or one can allow the company to select the meal based on previous selections. Most of the companies also have phone apps to make it easier to access and make decisions.

One of the most recognized meal kit delivery companies is Blue Apron, which was founded in 2012. In the summer of 2015, the company ordered 3 million pounds of produce. According to an article published by Forbes in October 2015, Blue Apron was delivering 5 million kits a month, when 18 months earlier, the company was delivering only 500,000.

According to Blue Apron, the company sources its food from different suppliers and works with more than 100 family farms. The seafood comes from sustainable fisheries and the meat does not have added hormones or sub-therapeutic antibiotics.

However, Blue Apron is not the only company that is seeing the benefit of this trend. An Oklahoma City company is starting a new meal kit delivery service that will soon be available.

Nom Nom Lunch Club plans to create and distribute lunches tailored to youth.

“We provide three Lunchable-type lunches delivered to the subscriber’s door weekly,” said Hannah Sharp, co-founder of Nom Nom Lunch Club. “The meals will be customizable, health conscious and fun for kids to eat.”

The idea for Nom Nom Lunch Club originated when Sharp’s 4-year-old daughter had her first experience at the school lunch table.

“She came home every day, her lunchbox still full of the homemade and lovingly prepared lunch I packed her in the mornings,” she said. “Taking charge, as we parents so actively do, I went to school and ate lunch with her. It was then that I saw the landscape of the lunch table, and in one word, it was Lunchables.”

Sharp bought a Lunchable, emptied the contents and placed in each compartment the food she hoped her child would eat.

“I went to school with her to see how this faux-Lunchable played out,” Sharp said. “There she was, my beautiful big 4-year-old girl, conversing with the kids and eating her organic, protein packed, low-sodium and low-sugar lunch with a smile on her face. And right then and there, the idea for Nom Nom was born.”

Sharp said meal kits are the way of the future.

“Skip the trip to the store, skip the headache of lists and meal planning,” Sharp said. “It can all be done with the click of your cursor.”

Sharp and co-owner Camden Dunning attended FAPC’s Basic Training for food entrepreneurs. FAPC, a part of OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, offers the training to help food entrepreneurs understand the requirements of starting a food business. “We plan to grow regionally, and then eventually expand our reach nationally,” Sharp said. “We are looking forward to providing our service to kids who may not have access to nutritionally balanced meals. We hope to join the battle against child hunger and make a difference.”

Sharp said the convenience of meal kits attracts customers, but providing high-quality food to meet customers’ expectations will make the trend more widespread.

With any widespread trend, the food industry is going to be affected, Graves said. “This trend may continue to grow but I don’t believe it will ever completely eliminate restaurants,” she said. “People still want the experience of getting everyone together and the atmosphere at restaurants. Grocery stores are the ones losing sales, and they will need to step up their game with options.”