Online Services Offer Consumers Ready-To-Cook Ingredients

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Blue Apron offers consumers fresh foods ordered online and delivered to their doors.

Blue Apron offers consumers fresh foods ordered online and delivered to their doors.

Busy consumers feel like they have less time than ever to do the basics, like meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking. To solve this problem, some innovative new online services have taken the gruntwork out of meal-related tasks, to help consumers enjoy healthy, home-cooked meals without the hassle. They put together meals based on consumer lifestyles and diets, the number of people who need to be fed per family and location. Then, they ship the box of ingredients to your door with a meal recipe. All consumers have to do is put the meal together.

Each service offers optional automated, weekly delivery with no minimum obligation and allows customers to skip weeks they don’t need deliveries.

BlueApron.com

With meals starting at $9.99 per person, Blue Apron keeps the options healthy, at 500 to 700 calories per serving. Most meals take 35 minutes to prepare, on average. Pre-portioned ingredients save time and reduce waste, and each meal includes easy-to-follow, printed recipe cards

Blue Apron says it offers “Premium seasonal ingredients from artisanal purveyors, with an emphasis on sustainable practices.” It claims its meals include specialty ingredients consumers can’t find on their own, that are “fresher than the supermarket.”

It delivers to the eastern and western halfs of the U.S., including 25 states and parts of 15 states.

HelloFresh.com

Delivering to the entire Eastern half of the U.S., including 30 states, Hello Fresh offers Omnivore and Herbivore meals starting at $9.08 per person. It also provides opportunities for e-Giftcards, so customers can send meals to others. HelloFresh has been in business since 2012 and has delivered more than 10 million meals since then.

Its website touts food waste as a reason to subscribe to its services:

“Did you know that the average American throws away 40 percent of the food they buy? With HelloFresh we eliminate excess waste by providing you with the exact, premeasured ingredients you need to make a complete meal. We deliver everything from the first pinch of spice, to the last garnish of herbs! Not to mention we save you from aimlessly purchasing extra food at the grocery store!”

Plated.com

Delivering to 80 percent of the continental U.S., Plated meals are slightly pricier, at $12 per plate. As a perk, members get discounted plate pricing, saving $3 per plate.

Plated emphasizes social responsibility and sustainability by using local and seasonal produce, and sourcing meats from local, family-owned purveyors. It partners with sustainably responsible companies like Sea to Table to make sure its fish is always fresh, and wild-caught when possible.

Recipes come in a 100 percent recyclable, biodegradable box, with ingredients packed fresh and pre-portioned to cut back on waste.

Could These Be Your Customer Or Your Competitor?

Most of these services boast that they use fresh, sustainable and locally grown or produced ingredients. Could they be potential customers for greenhouse veggie growers?

Another option: Cut out the food miles for these delivery services and and join forces with local meat and fish producers to create your own recipes and offer wholesome, pre-packaged meals. You could sell at farmers’ markets or local retail grocers. Throw in a local brew or bottle of wine to increase your margin.

Laura Drotleff is editor of Greenhouse Grower.
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