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Is Delivery the Biggest Selling Point of Meal Kits?

October 26, 2016

Today, Whole Foods announced a new partnership with Purple Carrot, the vegan meal kit delivery service that made national news in November 2015 when cookbook author Mark Bittman left his position at the New York Times to join the company ( ...and then reappeared in headlines less than a year later, when Bittman decided to move on).

According to a press release, Purple Carrot meal kits will be carried at the North Atlantic’s flagship Whole Foods in Dedham, Massachusetts beginning today. It's the first time that any Whole Foods in the North Atlantic region has collaborated with a meal kit delivery service and the first time Purple Carrot meals have ever been sold in stores.

C.E.O. and founder Andy Levitt said that over "the last year, we’ve listened to the feedback of our busy consumers who also wanted to find our products on grocery shelves. With that in mind, we have created a new product so people can pick up their meal kits when they shop at Whole Foods Market."

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The irony is that many meal kit delivery services pride themselves on enabling consumers to escape that very place. According to Munchery's C.E.O. Tri Tran, who I spoke to for an article in May, his company must work hard to win over people who are used to the traditional way of shopping, "the number one pattern engrained in people since they were kids." But if Munchery succeeds, they "save customers from the supermarket."

And many meal kit customers want this freedom. In a write-up of Purple Carrot on Well and Good within a couple months of its launching, the author stated that "not having to hit Whole Foods (and its interminable lines) or cut veggies on a couple nights a week is a gift to a busy working woman without a sous chef or all the time in the world." If only she had known of the partnership to come.

With its Whole Foods collaboration, Purple Carrot is betting that even people who do brave the grocery store will still be enticed by a kit that takes more active time than purchasing prepared food but comes pre-measured according to a predestined recipe.

Perhaps the collaboration is a small example that the meal kit delivery service is not changing the grocery landscape quite as much as all the press that surrounds them may lead us to believe. As Darren Seifer, a food and beverage analyst at the market research company NPD Group told me in May, "I have a feeling that [this new model is] not going to fully replace how we get our groceries and how we prepare our foods." Here, then, is an example of a change in convenience that's incremental, within an infrastructure we understand (that is, the grocery store).

The kits offered at Whole Foods (Mongolian Seitan Stir Fry; Pan Seared Tofu and Black Rice Noodles; and Cashew Korma with Cauliflower Rice) will cost $19.99 per two servings (when you sign up for the delivery that includes three double-serving meals per week, you pay $68 total, or $22.67 per meal).

More news about meal kits services and Whole Foods:

The Whole Foods and Purple Carrot partnership suggests that the recipe-choosing and prepping are the biggest dinner burdens. What do you find the most time-consuming part of getting dinner on the table: picking a recipe, getting to the grocery store, doing the prep, cooking, or cleaning up? Tell us in the comments!

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