Meal Kit Industry Relies on Star Power to Survive

Meal kit companies

Posted: Aug. 06, 2018

Can celebrities help meal kit companies attract more customers? The industry is betting on it.

Meal kit companies make the promise that their customers’ lives will be enriched through their service. No more boring grocery shopping or meal planning. Instead, they promise to turn consumers into passionate and creative cooks that always eat well. There is a great deal of competition though, and companies are turning to celebrity affiliations to stand out from the rest.

Meal kits are said to be the new billion-dollar food industry. Consumers are trying out meal kits (instead of ordering takeout or experimenting alone) for a few reasons:

  • It’s healthier to cook at home.
  • Ordering or dining out regularly is expensive.
  • 26% of meal kit customers consider themselves gourmet cooks and like to learn more.

In 2016, meal kit sales generated $1.5 billion, and in 2017, rose to $2.2 billion—a number that’s expected to rise by 2021.

Their success thus far can be credited to their simplicity. Customers receive a box that contains all the ingredients and instructions necessary to make a delicious meal. The recipes are designed with the novice home cook in mind yet produce a final product that even a gourmand approves of. From start to finish, recipes are designed to take about 30 minutes.

It’s simple, it’s affordable, and it’s a smart solution for today’s fast-paced, modern lifestyle.

In 2018, there are some hiccups to contend with. Mainly, that there are many meal kit companies to choose from. To name a handful, there are Plated, Blue Apron, Purple Carrot, Marley Spoon, Green Chef, Chef’d and Home Chef. Each offers competitive prices and tasty meals, some even boast celebrity-chef-made recipes.

The meal kit concept is still fairly new for customers so it’s difficult to remain loyal to a single company. Brands are starting to feel the pressure to win over new audiences and in big numbers.

Measurement and analytics company Nielsen found that 9% of US consumers have purchased a meal kit in the last six months, and that in-store meal kits generated $154.6 million in 2017 sales. That would mark a growth of 26% from the previous year.

Nielsen also learned that 25% of US consumers would consider trying a meal kit in the next six months, while 9% have already purchased a meal kit in the last six months.

The biggest con for meal kits is the price point. They average about $10 a meal. At that price, the meal kit industry needs to find out if meal kits are a mass market product, and if not, make the necessary adjustments. As it is, Nielsen reports that 56% of consumers disagree that meal kit services are affordable for everyone.

Some analysts believe the meal kit industry suffers because consumer tastes are so different. While it could just be a matter of finding their own culinary niche, major companies like Walmart and Amazon are entering the industry, indicating that taste preferences might not be all that important. Instead, it might be all about brand names and celebrity associations.

Some companies are hoping that celebrity clout will distinguish them from the rest and attract new, loyal customers.

Take weight management company Weight Watchers. At the beginning of 2018, they launched their meal kit service Chef’d. Its focus is on convenience and health, and in a savvy move, their meal kits are available for sale at grocery stores. This means that customers can pick and choose meals when they want without the pressure of a subscription.

Backed by Oprah Winfrey, Weight Watchers has a mighty weapon in their marketing arsenal.

Purple Carrot also has star power and hopes it will help them gain credibility and new customers. This meal kit company focuses on healthy, plant-based “performance meals” that have lots of protein, are gluten free, and have limited soy.

Believe it or not, Purple Carrot views this as the perfect athlete’s diet. For that reason, they are working with New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady, who is said to have a mostly plant-based diet.

According to Andy Levitt, founder and CEO of Purple Carrot, Brady’s athletic career and personal diet makes him the ideal face of the brand. “I think of Tom as an incredible example of what someone can achieve by incorporating a part-time, plant-based diet,” he continues, “Tom adds another level of validity to what we’re doing and the importance of eating a plant-based diet.”

 

Celebrities do influence today’s consumer. Just look at the fashion industry, which is seeing more return on investment through social media influencers than via traditional advertising avenues. Meal kit companies might benefit from a similar marketing style that relies on familiar faces to convince consumers to try them out.

The meal kit industry might be the future of food delivery, and restaurants can get in on the action by offering their own meal kits.

 

 

Posted: Aug. 06, 2018 | Written By: Emma Alois

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