“To me, meal kits sound like cheating, not cooking,” Dirt Candy’s Amanda Cohen wrote in the opinion pages of The New York Times last month. Cohen expressed some healthy skepticism over meal kits and their profusion in American homes, insisting they were too scientific to encourage experimentation, guided by recipe cards that were more constricting than freeing.
Though I saw some grumbling over Cohen's piece, I’d say she was pretty even-keeled in her assessment of meal kits, her piece almost acting as a summary of the varying opinions that meal kits have inspired. Are they a hindrance to really learning how to cook, or necessary aids for those of us who'd like to feel more confident in the kitchen?
Earlier this month, Morning Consult, a company that measures customer satisfaction through surveying, polled 2,191 adults across the country to better understand their relationship to meal kit services. The company released the results earlier this week. Morning Consult asked respondents if they’d ever tried a home delivery meal kit service—say, Blue Apron, HelloFresh, Plated, Sun Basket, Martha & Marley Spoon, PeachDish, Green Chef—or if they, at the time of polling, still subscribed to one. Among those surveyed, 19 percent (419) had tried a meal kit service, and, of those 419, 62 percent (260) had canceled their subscriptions for one reason or another.
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Of that group of respondents who no longer used meal kit services, an overwhelming majority cited the price point as the main reason they didn't continue. Of those who’d previously subscribed to a meal kit, 49 percent canceled their subscriptions because they found the kits too expensive. (For reference, a family meal plan from Blue Apron sets you back $8.99 per serving. A family plan from Hello Fresh is $8.74 per serving. Quite a wad of capital!) The second most common reason people canceled their subscriptions was that they didn’t like the recipes offered (13 percent).
Pricing was also a deterrent for those 1,772 respondents who never even subscribed to a delivery meal kit service in the first place—59 percent claimed the price point was the main hindrance, while 15 percent said these meal kit services didn’t deliver to their areas.
I’d read the survey results in full to find some other compelling nuggets, particularly about the demographics of those people surveyed. I’m wary of extrapolating too much from this poll, but, at the very least, the results point to where this slightly confused industry may be headed, or confirm moves that’ve already been made. Take a look at Marley Spoon’s Dinnerly, the just-launched $5 per serving meal kit box that's billed as “the only affordable meal kit on the market.” Maybe Amazon will change the game.
Do you use a meal kit service? If you did but no longer do, why did you quit? Let us know in the comments.
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Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.