Dinner is shipped? A look into modern day meal prep


We take a looks into the recent popularity of the world of shipped boxed dinners. You know, the kind with some assembly required.

More from Home & Food

This generation of men and women in their mid 20’s and 30’s are busier and more distracted than ever, myself inlcuded. We want easy, convenient, and instant in pretty much all areas of life. Because of this evolution influenced by social media, there has been a dramatic rise of “meal services” popping up all over. From Blue Apron and Plated to Hello Fresh and My Fit Foods, pre-prepped meals are as accessible as fast food. With a click of a button, you have meals for a few days within 24 hours. To conform to the trend or not to conform. That is the question! Let’s take a look at the competition.

The big two are Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. The former is based in Berlin, Germany and was founded by Thomas Griesel and Dominik Richter in 2011. It is a food subscription company that sends pre-portioned ingredients to users’ doorstep each week. It enables anyone to cook “quick” and healthy meals designed by nutritionists and chefs. The overall subscription is a little more pricey than Blue Apron, but it also offers more options. You can choose meals for 2 or 4 people, plus there’s also a family option which serves 4 and has kid friendly recipes.

Though both services offer vegetarian meals, Hello Fresh has a full veggie box and charges less for this option, $59/$109 for 2 or 4 servings a week. The classic option will run you $69 or $11.50/person for meals 3x/week, and the cost per meal decreases with more frequent deliveries. To up their cred, Hello Fresh has also partnered with celebrity Chef Jamie Oliver to provide one of his recipes each week. Pretty cool! The company now delivers more than 7.2 million meals per month.

Very similar to Hello Fresh, Blue Apron was created in 2012 by cofounders Ilia Papas, Matt Salzberg, and Matt Wadiak. The recipes and perfectly portioned ingredients are packaged and delivered to customers within 24 hours so they could make and eat a fresh meal for dinner. Dinners can be ordered in couple portions ($9.99 per person) or later, for two-to-four person families ($8.74 per person). They now deliver more than 5 million meals per month.

Interestingly, one of the Blue Apron team members, Papas came in one day after spending hours first trying to buy the ingredients for Argentinean-style steaks and then learning how to cook them on a friend’s borrowed grill. “Wouldn’t it be awesome if someone delivered you the ingredients in the right amounts?” he asked Salzberg, who did some research. He found a company in Sweden, Linas Matkasse, that was selling meal kits. In fact, it had reached 45 million dollar revenue by 2012 despite operating in a country with fewer than 10 million people. Salzberg and Papas decided this was the opportunity and started building a Web business they called Part & Parsley.

A few blocks away Josh Hix and Nick Taranto–Harvard Business School classmates with Salzberg–were also playing with startup ideas. And they, too, had spotted the Swedish meal kit company. They decided to launch their own site, DineIn Fresh, which would soon become Plated.

Both Blue Apron and Plated went operational in the summer of 2012. Though none of the principals will comment, there has been chatter on Silicon Alley about who had the idea first. Drama!

I have tried Hello Fresh a few times and have seen Blue Apron meals, and I was impressed by the quality and taste, but not the whole package. First of all, you get enough ingredients for “two people.” I say that with air quotes because the portions are NOT big enough for a woman and a man to be satisfied. My husband and I both felt pretty hungry post meals.

Second, it is not cheap. It’s basically $20 for a meal for two people with no leftovers or complete satisfaction. Third, the meals take at least 30 min to prepare and can be quite complicated. More time and brain use than I would like to spend after a long day of work. Last, even though they give you the recipe to follow and maybe recreate in the future, I never have and know I wouldn’t because the majority of meals I have tried require a lot of different ingredients, a pinch of this, a dabble of that–again more complicated than I would like.

Next: Check out more in Food from Culturess

All in all, the food was good but I wouldn’t try it again because of the price, small portions, and too much effort that goes into preparing each meal.