Blue Apron in a Retro Kitchen

Will COVID-19 Revive the Meal Kit Market?

Remember when Blue Apron was poised for a hot IPO? It’s only been three years, but it seems like a lifetime. Along with the rest of a flock of fledgling meal kit services, Blue Apron has been down in the dumps since its IPO. It seems that beautiful images and romantic notions of cooking with loved ones didn’t take them very far. That was pre-COVID. Now it looks like COVID – at least for now – is reviving the meal kit market.

Everybody’s Cooking

We don’t claim to be prescient. But even a stopped clock is right twice a day. Back in 2016, we suggested that restaurants should worry about the possibility that people would turn to cooking at home in large numbers and undermine the business. Back then, cooking at home was a hot trend and the meal kit market was taking shape. Little did we know that a new coronavirus was headed our way to perversely redefine what eating healthy means.

So now everyone is cooking at home on a scale we never imagined. Flour and yeast are hard or impossible to find because we’re all baking. And thus, meal kit marketers are having another moment.

A Sustainable Moment?

However, the real question is how sustainable will this moment be. Blue Apron stock shot up 700 percent in March when the lockdowns began. In early May, it fell back by half, when expectations for a meal kit bonanza came back to earth. For Blue Apron, it’s still not clear that they have a sustainable business model.

Many other competitors are out there, ready to deliver food in many innovative ways, including other meal kit offerings. Purple Carrot is one that stands to benefit in two ways. Meat shortages may be pushing us toward more plant based meals – and that’s what Purple Carrot is all about. CEO Andy Levitt says:

Right now, it’s a great time to be in the meal kit business. I wouldn’t have said that six months or a year ago.

Maybe it will last. More likely the interest will fall back to a more sustainable level. Or maybe the real winners will be CSAs and other direct to consumer food and meal concepts. But one thing is clear. Our relationship with food and how it comes to us is changing.

Click here and here for more on current events in the food kit market. For more on the stresses in our food supply and the pressure for change, click here.

Blue Apron in a Retro Kitchen, vintage illustration from Lori L. Stalteri / flickr

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May 22, 2020

2 Responses to “Will COVID-19 Revive the Meal Kit Market?”

  1. May 22, 2020 at 9:30 am, Cristy Gallagher said:

    We have survived the quarantine with our meal delivery kits from Gobble and Hello Fresh. But definitely have been ordering more meatless meals from them, due to what will surely be a meat shortage.

  2. May 22, 2020 at 12:22 pm, Mary-Jo said:

    Hopefully, some ‘leftover’ of more home-cooking will remain once the virus is more contained, a vaccine is available, and people start eating out again. Many dietitians, even before this pandemic, often encouraged more home-cooking from wholesome food by emphasizing easy, cost-saving, and tastier recipes, even time-saving dishes and meals, shopping tips, etc. We didn’t just harp on about the ‘health’ and nutrition aspects, although, there’s that, too.😊 Here in Holland, there’s less meal-kit delivery to homes than there are meal-kits in our supermarkets which are VERY popular, especially now, saving time spent in the public market. One doesn’t have to fetch each item from all over the store. For example, one get get a box with every single ingredient you need to make moussaka except the meat, and now, also suggested on the box, lentils, which I love! Similar kits available for burritos, Indian curries, pea soup (Dutch style, like a meal), Lasagna, and many other meals.