Food by Subscription

I was recently interviewed by the Atlanta Tribune for a story they were running on subscription-based services that deliver meal ingredients to your home.  

It was a bit ironic that this interview request came at this time because my family had recently been trying out one such service: HelloFresh.  Here's what I had to say about why we tried it out:

My wife spent a large amount of time each week menu planning (i.e., figuring out what to cook for the week), and then even after getting the week planned out sometimes our local grocery store wouldn’t have all the items she needed. So, recently, she signed on to HelloFresh as a way to cut down on time spent searching for recipes and traipsing about town for different ingredients.

Why is the market growing?

In general, it’s hard to separate a short-term fad from a trend that has staying power. One thing to look at is the underlying economic forces and see whether there is reason to believe a larger market could exist.
Demand for convenience has grown. Demand for quality has grown. The subscriptions boxes offer convenience and quality, all in the comfort of one’s home. Typically one had to choose one or the other (e.g., I could have convenient but that would mean low quality or eating out), but boxes are an innovation that has broken down that traditional constraint.

On whether the market will continue to grow

Hard to say. It will depend on the ability of the box services to continue to offer competitive offerings with grocery stores and restaurants, and it will depend on how these other food service outlets respond in turn. For example, restaurants already offer take out. And, what’s to stop Walmart or Kroger from offering their own boxes ready for pickup?

Isn't this just a frivolous expense?

Whether something is a “splurge” depends on one’s budget. . . The box service my family uses winds up costing us about $10 per person per meal. We could easily spend that amount if we went out to eat at a sit-down restaurant, and fast food is only slightly less expensive. Cooking from scratch would be less expensive in terms of food cost, but would require “hidden costs” in more time planning, shopping, and cooking. It’s unlikely that boxes are the best option for every family, but they’ll likely make sense for some families some of the time.