Plated joins bigger players like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh to bring millions convenient meal kits
Cooking from scratch isn’t dead, it’s just becoming a lot easier.
Coming up with inventive-yet-easy recipes, and giving people the precise ingredients to do it with in under 40 minutes or less, is a full time job for Elana Karp, the head chef at meal kit delivery service Plated.
“Cooking is definitely having a resurgence, and we’re helping to facilitate that,” Karp tells Moneyish.
With Plated, like many other meal kit delivery services, eaters subscribe to the service online, choose how many people they’re looking to serve for a meal, browse through recipes and get preportioned ingredients delivered. Now it’s becoming even more mainstream. The company, which was founded in 2012, was acquired by supermarket chain Albertsons — which has more than 2,300 stores nationwide — last September, enabling even more consumers to buy the meal kits in stores.
Gen Z and millennials seem to be cooking more than their parents. According to a survey of 1,000 households conducted by The Spoon, 95% of people aged 18 to 29 cook weekly at home, compared with 92% of those aged 30 to 44 and 93% of those aged 45 to 59.
Karp, a teacher turned Le Cordon Bleu trained chef, is in charge of crafting up hundreds of these meals people can make on the fly at home from shakshuka-stuffed peppers and rosemary roasted chicken with parsnips to carrots or spinach salad with mushrooms. She’s taken the company from five different meals a week to 20.
Some of her meal prep inspiration comes from elevating the meat and potatoes recipes she grew up eating as a child. Brought up in a single parent household, her mother always made time to cook meals from scratch, even if they were really simple ones.
“I always remember her cooking baby lamb chops. She would just put salt and pepper on them and roast it in the oven and serve them with tater tots,” Karp recalls, adding: “I remember it fondly, but that can get a little boring after some time.”
But meal prep is a lot different for millennials and younger generations compared to their parents today.
“Our parents and grandparents used to go to the store a few times a week, pick ingredients to prep a meal and that’s it. With our generation [millennials], people are so busy and working late and have such full schedules. We just don’t have the time to meal prep. [Plated] gives you the time back and still enables you to cook a great meal for yourself,” says Karp, adding: “You’re making so many decisions and choices all day at work it’s nice just to have it be ready for you.”
Meal kits are now a $2.2 billion business and continue to grow, according to the Chicago-based food industry consulting firm Pentallect, which predicts that annual growth will be 25-30% over the next half-decade. One out of four American adults have purchased a meal kit in the last year, and 70% of them are still purchasing them after the trial offer is over, according to a Harris poll conducted in December. What’s more, 81% believe meal kits are healthier than prepared foods from local grocery stores, according to Harris research.
Blue Apron, one of the cheapest meal kit options, is among the most popular with the largest market share of sales among U.S. meal kit companies (43%), according to a 2017 report from Second Measure, a company that analyzes debit and credit card purchases. HelloFresh came in second with 28.4% market share followed by others like Sun Basket and Plated.
Even big-named celebrity chefs are feeling the pressure to partner up to stay relevant with younger consumers. Martha Stewart teamed up with meal delivery service Marley Spoon to serve up ingredients to make her signature recipes for dishes like Chicken Scarpariello, Mediterranean shrimp scampi and carrot soup. And Bobby Flay invested big money in the frozen meal delivery service Daily Harvest.
So Karp’s approach to curating recipes for subscribers is being able to add fun, obscure ingredients like Moroccan spices and flavors that you wouldn’t find in your kitchen cabinet, and feeding the need for a growing demand. One of her favorites is a savory recipe for pan roasted chicken with seasonal veggies.
“The reason I love it is because it’s a great technique that once you learn you can customize it yourself. It’s a quick protein that’s easier to make on a weeknight,” she says.
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