For many of us, when it comes to making good decisions about what to eat – not a lot of emphasis (or desire) seems to be placed on planning.
You could cook healthy, or you could eat out. But what if you hate the grocery store and restaurants? What if you are tired of eating out and want to cook from the comfort of your own home, but don’t want to have to make “too many” decisions?
Health, wellness and food are huge industries. Within these, delivery is not a new concept, nor is online shopping. Delivery of restaurant food is available via a number of providers, including Seamless, GrubHub, and some smaller startups such as Eat Club. Healthy meal delivery (e.g., Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating, Munchery) is also available, and at the price points we’re seeing with boxed delivery. But straight delivery won’t provide with the connection to food that you get from cooking a meal in your own home.
Need to save the time it takes to do your own grocery shopping? Most local grocery stores will deliver or there are grocery delivery companies such as Fresh Direct in NYC , Peapod in Chicago, and Amazon Fresh, which has just expanded from Seattle to LA. Fresh produce boxes, such as Full Circle, and CSAs are generally local and good quality, yet limited in selection and access. Fresh produce delivery is also increasing, with startups such as Good Eggs. But what happens if this is still too much work for you? There are a number of companies that are betting on the ability to bridge the gap between your grocery store and your kitchen.
Specifically, over the past few years, there has been a boom in subscription boxes for all types of product, including food, are bringing fresh, ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat foods direct to your doorstep. Hate to research new products? There are boxes that will deliver new healthy snacks. Don’t want to have to measure out the ingredients or buy more than you need? There are boxed kits that include exactly what you need to make a dinner for 2 or 4, and no more.
But will these products truly compel you to cook, to connect with your food, to eat better?
With the two frontrunners having already received funding (Blue Apron recently with $5M in series B and Plated with $1.4M in seed), there are a number of “ready-to-cook” subscription boxes springing up on a seemingly almost daily basis. These boxes will provide you with exactly what you need to make a meal, but you have to plan ahead.
Current companies betting on ready-to-cook subscription boxes are Blue Apron (~$10/person), Plated (~$12/person), Hello Fresh (~$XX/person) and Chef Day (~$12/person), Munchberry, and Caviar. They all claim to cost less than purchasing at a grocery store, although I’m skeptical that they’re much less, they’re not too far off.
Similar to the Birchbox model of discovering new products (mostly cosmetics), there have been a number of food discovery kits related to snacks. Naturebox (~$20/mo) has led the way, securing $8.5M in series A funding last month. However, in the almost two years since they’ve launched, a number of similar companies have sprung up including Snack Box (~$24/mo), Graze (~$5/mo), Healthy Surprise (~$33/mo) and Vegan Cuts (~$20/mo).
SOME USER PERSPECTIVE ON CHANGING BEHAVIORS
Although these products help reduce waste, confusion, subtitutions and a lot of need for intuition, what will be the key distinguishing factors?
To investigate these questions, I sat down with some foodie friends to try and draw some user insights. There weren’t too many complaints with the snack boxes. Most of the concerns developed around the ready-to-eat delivery boxes and questions of quality and timing.
TIMING: PLANNING AHEAD VS. I-WANT-IT-NOW
There is a behavioral disconnect. For many friends, the main painpoint solved by these ready-to-eat boxes was the time saved and reduced planning. They didn’t have to think too hard about what to cook, how to make it, or taking the time to buy and measure out the ingredients.
But they had to plan to order these boxes and figure out how the meals would fit into their schedule. Most felt that if the boxes were available the day of or a day in advance, they’d be more powerful. As it stands now, you have to order several days to a week in advance.
Because of the shelf-life, the ready-to-eat boxes were received better. Most felt that they would likely develop a habit of subcribing to the ready-to-eat boxes because they knew it wouldn’t go bad after too many days of neglect. The fresh boxes sounded great, but most of my friends travel enough to make it hard to commit to a full subscription.
QUALITY: DIY VS. I-TRUST-YOU
Quality was another major concern, stemming from a desire to control selection and general concerns about packaging.
My foodie friends love connecting with their food, knowing where their food has been sourced, and the joy of selecting the specific ingredients themselves. Virtual shopping, at least in the short term, won’t be able to replace the experience, but it can provide more insight into the sources and the stories behind the producers.
This aside, the other concern was how these ingredients, such as meat, fresh veggies, etc., can be shipped at the same temperature and without any risk of cross-contamination. Currently, all the ingredients come in the same box, although they’re usually sealed in separate pouches. Regardless, it seems odd to receive chicken at the same temperature as scallions.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Which features of these subscription boxes work for you and which don’t in the quest to be healthier?
Ultimately, as these companies grow, I’m interested to see how giants like Amazon and other delivery grocery companies will react and try to enter/dominate the space. Does this mean that these companies will succeed on brand?
How do you see these subscription box startups succeeding?