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Meal Kit Wars: Innovating For Long-Term Growth

February 5, 2021 Carolyn Harding

The meal kit craze has seen its ups and downs throughout the last several years, with the pandemic acting as the spark that lit the meal delivery fire perhaps for good. As consumers were stuck cooking at home, brands like HelloFresh, Sunbasket and many more capitalized on the increased demand for their seamless and convenient offerings. Now, as the potential for “normal life” inches closer, meal kit brands are reevaluating their advertising strategies in order to maintain brand awareness and demonstrate clear differentiation.

Whether through strategic partnerships, brand expansions, deals and discounts or targeted offerings, major meal kit brands are upping their games in order to remain competitive in a crowded marketplace and maintain an upward trajectory throughout 2021.

Blue Apron Helps Create The Traditional Game-Day Experience For This Year’s Super Bowl

blue apron super bowl

In preparation for the upcoming Super Bowl, Blue Apron recently partnered with Stella Artois to give football fans all the necessary food items to make the perfect game day meal at home. Called “Stella Stadium Bites,” Blue Apron and the popular beer brand created a four-course menu of Blue Apron food items – enough to serve six guests – paired alongside four Stella Artois glasses. Tapping iconic football stars Eli Manning and Victor Cruz to help with the campaign, the retired players gave customers who purchased the Stella Stadium Bites a tutorial on the meal kit recipes in what Blue Apron and Stella Artois called the “Stella Sessions cooking show,” which was available for streaming on the Blue Apron website and Stella Artois social channels. Blue Apron attracted consumers to the new offering by promoting its game day landing page, which shared further details on the meal kit package. Customers who ordered the special addition meal kit received their orders by the first of February, giving them adequate time to prepare for the Super Bowl game.

With this year’s Super Bowl gearing up to be unlike any other, Blue Apron is spotlighting its brand value in a big way. 

Home Chef Kicked Off 2021 With Biggest Deal Ever

Home Chef joined the “new year, new me” trend by kicking off 2021 with a generous meal kit promotion. Perfect for consumers who were looking to start the year off with a fresh, healthy start, Home Chef began offering its biggest deal to date, giving new meal kit subscribers $90 off their first order through the month of January. The hefty discount is spread throughout customers’ first four boxes, taking $30 off the first and second boxes, followed by $15 off the third and fourth deliveries.

In a growing and competitive market, meal kit brands, like Home Chef, that promote enticing deals and discounts have a strong likelihood of engaging new customers that they can nurture throughout the year. 

HelloFresh Launches Digital Series With Celebrity Influencer

hellofresh Mindy Kaling

HelloFresh announced, at the end of 2020, its plans for a new digital video series, in partnership with actress Mindy Kaling, on all things home cooking. Officially launched in January 2021, “Meals with Mindy” took a comedic approach to the struggles of cooking more at home (as a result of the ongoing pandemic) while juggling work, family and other daily tasks. The “Meals with Mindy” series promotes the usefulness of having recipes, like those offered through a HelloFresh subscription, on hand.

HelloFresh has seen continued success as consumers spend more time inside and subsequently cook more meals themselves. In addition to a reported 120% year-over-year (YOY) sales spike during Q3 2020, the meal kit service is gearing up to “double its capacity over the course of the next 15-18 months,” according to a company press release. Marketing Dive reporter Sam Silverstein notes that HelloFresh “believes its revenue will grow a further 20% to 25% [in 2021].”

Sunbasket Expands Beyond Original Meal Kits

Sunbasket is taking its meal kit business to the next level, now transitioning into a “full-service food delivery” company. The meal kit brand shared in a press release that its newfound identity will aid in “empowering every consumer to lead a healthy lifestyle.” The healthy options from Sunbasket will range from breakfast items to snacks to pantry staples, resonating with the growing number of consumers that continue to shop for everyday food items and meals online. “The onset of COVID-19 forced consumers to quickly adopt new habits when it came to food, and Sunbasket was inspired to reflect on our company's values to better serve our customers,” said Don Barnett, Sunbasket CEO.

The new Sunbasket offerings are also strategically geared toward the growing number of consumers that have prioritized health and wellness in recent months, with Sunbasket promoting organic and healthy options in its announcement of the brand expansion. “The company highlighted 99% USDA-certified organic fresh produce and dairy; wild-caught, sustainably sourced seafood; and antibiotic-free proteins as examples of its new pantry offerings,” noted Marketing Dive reporter Rosie Bradbury.

FreshlyFit Targets The Health-Conscious Consumer

freshlyfit meals

Freshly is targeting consumers looking to fuel their healthy lives with the launch of FreshlyFit, a new line of prepared meals that “focus on a lower-carb, protein-powered nutritional profile to help fuel workouts, optimize recovery, maintain muscle mass and support weight management.” Created by professional nutritionists, FreshlyFit meals are designed for the consumer looking to maintain that healthy lifestyle, but who wants the ease of meals delivered right to their door.

“In the past year, more than 60% of customers have expressed interest in lower-carb meals. With FreshlyFit we’re tripling down on these offerings to make it easier to jumpstart a sustainable healthy lifestyle,” said Freshly founder and CEO Mike Wystrach. “The pandemic has brought on a renewed interest in nutrition as people are seeking new, creative solutions to stay healthy and active at home.”

According to Grand View Research, the meal kit delivery industry “could reach nearly $20 billion by 2027.” However, Marketing Dive reporter Jessica Dumont notes that “some experts expect that online meal kit sales will take a hit in the post-pandemic period as customers gravitate back toward brick-and-mortar stores and restaurants.”

There is no denying the meal kit industry has successfully capitalized on strict stay-at-home orders, limited grocery availability and new consumer trends, like cooking more at home, throughout the pandemic. However, in the increasingly crowded meal kits market, as we return to normal, brands will have to work harder to acquire and sustain their customer bases. Innovative digital advertising and customer service will play a big role in building brand awareness and generating loyalty.

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About the Author

Carolyn Harding

Carolyn Harding is an Associate Manager of Communications at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), the fastest-growing independent digital performance marketing company. DMS helps its clients accelerate growth by deploying diversified and data-driven customer acquisition solutions that deliver scalable, sustainable and measurable marketing results. DMS performance marketing solutions connect the right consumers with the right offers at the right time to achieve the marketing objectives of our clients. DMS is continually innovating to provide new and emerging media and technology solutions that minimize waste and maximize results across the most competitive industries. Since its inception, DMS has demonstrated incredible year-over-year growth which has earned recognition on the Inc. 5000 list in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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