How to Successfully Introduce and Market a Meal Prep, Delivery and Meal Kit Subscription Business
The Power Of A Healthy Meal
When you sell a ready-made meal, a meal delivery kit or a meal prep subscription, you are selling convenience. You save someone the time of going out to eat, introduce someone to the joys of home cooking, or to rapidly look up a recipe that will satisfy their kids. Also, you are ideally giving them a cooking and dining experience they can’t get anywhere else.
Also, you love to cook, but you are avoiding the stress of the modern restaurant or kitchen. Why submit yourself to the lowly commis chef life when you can be an executive chef instead, and own your business to boot? Delivering your own meals means that you control the recipes, and every step of the process. And you save on the costs of renting retail space that requires a dining area as well as a kitchen.
You are doing these consumers a service by reducing their cooking time and giving them an incentive to try healthy alternatives. Good food is therapeutic and can melt away daily stresses.
When you deliver meals or meal prep, you provide more than caloric intake. You are providing an experience, that will brighten someone’s day or night. They will remember that. And that is why you must market well.
Market Overview: Meal Kit Delivery Systems
The meal kit delivery market started in the United States in 2012 and in Europe in 2007. By 2025, Hexa Research estimates that the global meal kit industry will hit $9.84 billion USD while the American market will reach $4.0 billion USD. It is growing at a rapid rate, and North America is estimated to be the highest meal kit consumer for a country. Hello Fresh currently owns 33 percent of the market.
People seem to prefer fresh food and gluten-free options the most in the meal kit market. Companies that provide gluten-free such as Blue Apron and Green Chef are luring in more customers. The number of customers in those niches will only increase.
The main challenges lie in high startup costs, product freshness, and shipping. First, you need to buy cooking equipment that can prepare the meals or kits, as well as any packaging and sealing that you need to purchase before orders arrive. Many chefs swear by hundred-dollar knives, and a good set of pots and pans can go a long way while costing a high amount in the short run. A business permit or LLC certification will cost a thousand dollars minimum, so you need to factor that cost in as well. The fixed costs will start a negative cash flow
You do need a kitchen or a facility to prepare your products. What’s more, these facilities need to be able to pass inspections and abide by regulations, depending on the food safety laws in your state. The health department needs convincing that your facilities will make good food. If you lease, prepare for rent ahead of time. If you buy, make sure that you have a steady mortgage plan and insurance in case of an emergency.
Product quality is also key. If non-food products that aren’t ingested go wrong, they’re less likely to cause food poisoning. With meal kits and meal deliveries, you cannot deliver substandard products. Consumers will know. So will their stomachs and fingers when they type up reviews. You need to make sure that none of your ingredients arrive rotten because that leads to liability and a loss in reputation.
Perception of Meal Delivery
Critics call meal kits a “fad” that won’t last. Supporters point to how the market has rapidly grown in less than a decade. People worry that Blue Apron will hit the red and fold against the competition. Others cite the company’s advertising campaign to reassure consumers of its longevity.
Whether or not the positive or negative opinions are true, perception for investors matters when you want them to buy stock in your company. The right or wrong words in the news can also affect consumers’ perceptions of your product. Currently, there are market fluctuations.
What does that mean for you? You have to take advantage of any potential vacuums in the market. If Blue Apron goes under, that means that you can fill the gap in the market. Also, you have to control your image when selling meal delivery kits. This doesn’t mean going all Gordon Ramsay and yelling on camera at your chefs or yourself. Controlling your image means convincing consumers that you are relevant, and your products can feed them. The right amount of good food can make all the difference.
Also, don’t cater to the whims of investors, unless they’re buying your product, and manage cash flows to ensure they are positive. Blue Apron’s issue lies in venture capitalists cashing out on their stock, and bailing on the company. Money can buy food, but the right meal can win a customer for life.
You can change how your target market views your products. Just like how the aroma of a freshly cooked chicken dinner can ease worries after a long day, the right ad or meal can reassure them. Once you do that, investors will follow suit. That means that you can get some veritable capital in the long run.
Competing Against Established Giants
Amazon has proven itself a formidable competitor to the meal kit industry with its expansive grocery business. The company has not invested in meal kits, but it provides alternatives. After purchasing Whole Foods, Amazon has reduced prices at the grocery retail for prime members and enabled delivery to consumers’ doorsteps. The corporation is using their supply chain and distribution power to increase convenience. You need to anticipate if Amazon will cut into your business.
Other corporations and businesses have taken steps to capture the market share. We have seen the homey Blue Apron ads on YouTube and television, but we also have DeliverLean, Sun Basket, Home Chef, Gobble, Hello Fresh, and dozens more.
Does this mean you throw the towel and strip off your apron? Far from it; chefs survive by being tougher than the meat they have to tenderize. You are tougher than your competitors, and you can survive. Blue Apron may have a first-mover advantage, but you can learn about their deficiencies and fill those niches.
The Products You Can Sell
As we have said, you are selling time to people, and convenience. You feed consumers who lack the time to prepare a meal, either because of long workdays or because of busy lives. They love your cooking or recipes, and you love feeding them. In addition, you can provide calorie counts and an ingredient list so that consumers know everything that goes on their plate.
You do not have to limit yourself to just cooking; we list several options below about what you can do for meal delivery or prep work:
If you want to get fancy, and you love cooking for strangers, you can sell these. Ready-made meals are exactly what they sound like; you deliver hot or cold food to order, on a regular basis. Some can be frozen and then popped into the microwave.
Obviously, the drawback of ready-made meals lies in the risk of perishable products, having fresh ingredients and consistent dishes. If you are selling frozen dishes, you need to make sure that they are stored without risk of thawing, otherwise, you will have e.coli frozen food.
Meal kits are boxes of prepared ingredients that allow consumers to cook their lunches or dinners with the right proportions. This saves on prep time, while also providing recipes on the concoctions that people can craft.
We do have the freshness risk, as we do with ready-made meals. You need to make sure these ingredients are stored well. No one likes food waste or for your ingredients to end up in the trash.
These are the expanded version of ready-made meals and meal plans. You should have subscriptions on hand if you want to have loyal customers who will buy in the long-term. Many meal delivery companies use this strategy to turn a profit.
The main risk with this is creativity; unless you specify otherwise, you have to deliver something new with each subscription box, which means new recipes and ingredient options. Creativity is a commodity, especially with food. Subscription boxes also mean maintaining customer loyalty on a regular basis.
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How to Market Meal Delivery and Prep
You have the stamina to survive the meal delivery system, and you have your products. Now you need one last crucial aspect: customers. Otherwise, you will be running at a loss. And lots of good ingredients for meals will linger in your refrigerator.
How do you compete with the other established brands, especially those with larger budgets to spend on promotion? Marketing is key and proving to consumers that you can deliver convenience and health to them.
Identify your Target Market and Niche
Since you have about a dozen competitors, and more as the number of passionate chefs channel their skills into meal delivery or meal kit delivery services, you need to know your market. Because of the time and labor put into meal delivery, you will have to put relatively high prices, unless you find ways to economize.
Know serving sizes as well, especially when delivering perishable products. Smaller servings mean fewer ingredients and less perishable ingredients, so you need to be economical in determining a cost per unit as well as storage. If your target audience is people who live alone, you want to sell smaller portions. For families, prepare three to four serving sizes at minimum and offer discounts on bulk if you can manage it.
Accommodating special diets is one way to find your niche. You can provide freshly-made gluten-free foods or ingredients that won’t trigger a celiac reaction. Or you can deliver frozen foods low in refined sugar. This is just one example, however; you can find other niches with a little bit of research into supply and demand, and into what consumers want.
Build Trust Over Time
When a person chooses to buy food, they are trusting you to sell them good products that will keep them healthy. That means your products have to be good quality, you need to provide accurate calorie counts, and live up to any written statements or branding.
Stay in constant contact. You want to study if customers keep buying your products and to advertise that you are available to listen.
Seek out feedback from your hungry customers. Listen to them when they talk about what could be done better. Record all or any complaints, and strive to constantly improve. Mistakes will happen, and consumers will appreciate you when you address those mistakes and fix them immediately.
Invest in your Website’s UX and UI
One way you can have a competitive advantage is by increasing online convenience for consumers and investing in a UI/UX focused web design. If your consumer can find you and your services online, as well as the information they need to make a purchasing decision, then they will appreciate that. They also will appreciate if they can search for your website on a smartphone, and explore it accordingly.
Develop an information hierarchy to educate new consumers, and to provide new options to existing ones. Make sure to have a contact page, and ensure that signing up for a one-time order or subscription is easy. Test your website functions regularly and pay your hosting service.
Why is mobile-friendliness important? Because most people conduct web searches on their smartphones and tablets. They’re often on the go when hungry. If they can’t access your website while searching for meal delivery kits, then they won’t buy your products. That is not acceptable.
Don’t Ignore SEO
SEO, or search engine optimization, is about ranking higher in Google search results for certain terms. You cannot pay Google to rank you higher; those would be paid-per-click ads. SEO is organic, and it’s based on the content you provide.
To maximize SEO, you need to incorporate keywords at a certain amount on the pages you want to rank. Do not go overboard, however, because Google will identify any “keyword stuffing”. The algorithm is trained to identify websites that fill their content with keywords, and nothing more. Much like you stuff a turkey with more than breadcrumbs, your website needs to have more substance than the trending keywords on Google.
So how does this relate to meal delivery? You want to be a top ranking for your meals, meal kits or ingredients, because that way hungry consumers will find you. That means identifying the keywords that you want your products to rank for, and to use the Google search engine algorithm. Unfortunately, online doesn’t allow for taste tests or free samples. You have to rely on delivering value on certain keywords.
In addition, you have to deliver more than food. While celebrity chefs can sell their personality via social media and television, you have to draft meaningful content for your website. People will appreciate that content and search accordingly.
If you have lists of ingredients, menus for meal kits, or other important text, make sure that it’s in HTML and not just on a PDF file. PDF files are great for displaying food items in a palatable manner; Google also cannot locate text on a PDF. That is a problem for search engines when you want to rank. You want to display the food you have, without making it inaccessible.
Prioritize Customer Retention
One potential risk of going into meal delivery involves customer retention. While customer acquisition is high, having them stay after that first bite is quite another story. There are no Michelin stars or newspaper restaurant reviews on a box of ingredients.
Why would a customer switch from your product? It would be if they can no longer afford it, or if the meal no longer delivers value. We don’t mean this literally because your ingredients still have nutritional content to them. It could be that the glamour of buying a meal kit has worn off. Suddenly the product no longer seems new or experimental.
More importantly, consumers don’t always take joy in preparing their ingredients. After a long day at work or with the kids, people want convenience. That means not having to take an hour or two to prepare dinner, by turning on the stove and cooking. If you can deliver ingredients that need only a few minutes’ preparations, or even a few minutes of heating in the microwave or oven, then you may have gotten a customer.
Regular restaurants use 15% of their marketing budget for email campaigns. With the food industry’s competitive nature, you have to do what you can to swim and not just tread water. The same strategies can work for meal delivery or meal prep businesses.
What does this mean for you? People are always looking for deals on good food. You can deliver relevant coupons or news on upcoming meals and keep your current customer base engaged with email marketing. For measuring customer retention metrics, you can track who opts into the mailing lists and who doesn’t. During holidays, suggest meal kit packages or subscriptions as gifts for special occasions.
How Optimum7 Can Help
Optimum7 always keeps on top of products and providing marketing for businesses that deliver value. We have twelve years of experience with promotion, content creation, and SEO techniques.
Reach out to us today, so we can help you with meal delivery. We know how to help you reach hungry consumers, so you can feed them. Let’s get cooking!