Meal kit delivery services have exploded since their introduction in 2012, bridging the space between home-cooked meals and takeout. Meant to solve the perennial problem of "what's for dinner?," the services offer people a convenient way to cook at home without having to do the meal planning and grocery shopping. Market research publisher Packaged Facts covers this market and its trends extensively in the report, Meal Kit Delivery Services in the US.

Online portals let consumers order meals ahead from picture menus showing beautiful photos of each finished dish, and the services deliver the pre-measured fresh ingredients along with recipes to their doorstep to help them cook chef-like meals at home. They are aiming for—and finding—a "sweet spot" with consumers who do not have the time, inclination, or know-how to shop for individual ingredients, find a recipe, and cook from scratch, yet do not want to eat yet another heat-and-eat prepared meal, order takeout food, or dine out.

Led by Blue Apron, HelloFresh, and Plated, more than 150 meal delivery kit services are now vying for this business in the United States, whether on a national, regional, or local basis. Over the past few years, meal kit delivery service startups have collectively raised more than more than $650 million in venture capital, finds Packaged Facts. Most meal kit delivery services target young professionals and busy families with children, especially Millennial urbanites.

Freshness is a huge selling point: these services claim their ingredients are fresher than those consumers can buy in grocery stores. Other major selling points of many kits are that they teach consumers cooking skills, help broaden taste buds, and make exotic ingredients available everywhere. Marketers also play up meal kits as being something fun to do and bringing people together. Critics of meal kits say they are "like paint-by-numbers," too expensive for most people, with an average cost of $10 to $15 per person per meal, and—by far the most common criticism—use too much packaging, much of which is environmentally unsound.

Meal kit delivery services have the potential to disrupt both the restaurant industry and the grocery industry because they allow people to cook restaurant-quality meals at home without going out to grocery shop. Rather than worrying whether meal kit delivery services will cut into their business, some grocers and food marketers are starting their own such services.

As a first edition report, Meal Kit Delivery Services in the US covers companies that offer and deliver to consumers' doors (or arrange for delivery of) a box or bag of fresh ingredients for one or more meals, along with a step-by-step recipe with photos showing how to cook each meal at home. The everything-in-a-box kits promise convenience by eliminating the need to plan meals, find recipes, and shop for groceries. Ingredients are portioned in just the right quantities for the recipe, and sometimes even prepped (pre-cut, marinated, packaged with pre-cooked sauce components, etc.) to speed and ease consumers' time spent in the kitchen. Excluded from this report are services that deliver completely cooked heat-and-eat meals, and services that deliver frozen foods.

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