TORONTO — Celebrities like Beyoncé, Oprah Winfrey, and NSync’s Lance Bass are now in the meal kit business, and for some that’s a sure sign the online subscription-based food startup phenomenon has hit its peak.
A plethora of the new e-commerce meal companies have popped up in Canada and the U.S. in the last couple of years, and subscribers have been joining the services in droves.
While the biggest player in the space, New York-based Blue Apron, does not operate in this country, a number of meal kit services are available locally and nationally for Canadians seeking a quick meal fix: Chef’s Plate, Goodfood, MissFresh, The Jolly Table, Cook It, Kuisto, Fresh City Farms, One Kitchen, Dinnerlicious, Fresh Prep and Germany’s Hello Fresh, to name a few.
There’s even a subscription-based startup for breakfasts, Montreal-based Oatbox, which delivers granolas, ‘overnight’ oats and granola bars to customers.
The convenience factor is undeniable. For about $10 to $13 per meal, customers receive a box of chilled, portioned food and recipes for an easy meal assembly.
The whole industry in the U.S. was founded on mommy guilt
Home chefs are able to cook dishes that evoke an au courant restaurant menu in less than half an hour: lentil mushroom tacos with jicama carrot slaw; mint sumac chicken with sautéed snap peas and carrot, parsnip and cucumber salad; Cajun tilapia over quinoa with a corn and tomato succotash.
But two recent initial public offerings by meal kit companies — including Blue Apron, the biggest player in the United States and Montreal-based Goodfood Market Inc. — ended up looking like a failed soufflé. Skeptics have drawn parallels between the spate of subscription startups and the faddish dot-com failures of the early 2000s.
Indeed, on Friday, Blue Apron announced it is cutting almost a quarter of its staff as it struggles to become a profitable business.