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Going from Zero -100 Overnight for Meal Kit Food Delivery

Blue Apron

The meal kit industry was launched in Sweden by Kicki Theander and it was called Middagsfrid back in 2007. In 2012, Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and Plated debuted in the US. Home Chef began in 2013. By 2015, meal kit food delivery services hit 1 Billion dollars. There are now over 150 meal kit options for consumers to try.

By 2018, many were speculating on the future of the meal kit delivery industry. The space became much more crowded and the novelty wore off. Many felt as though having the service was great in that it reduced food waste. Packaging was not ideal as it produced too much paper and plastic. In a nutshell, it was doomed to fail and many speculated it would.

NPD group food analyst Darren Seifer says there are two main reasons customers abandon their meal kit subscriptions, and the first is that they’re too expensive once the initial coupon or sign-up promos run out. Second is that people want more spontaneity when deciding what they want for dinner.

The Market Grows

Grandview Research published a study, Meal Kit Delivery Services Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Offering (Heat & Eat, Cook & Eat), By Service (Single, Multiple), By Platform (Online, Offline), By Region, And Segment Forecasts, 2020 – 2027.

They report:

Multiple kit delivery services are expected to register the fastest CAGR of 13.0% from 2020 to 2027. With inflating lifestyle, it’s common to have families with working parents who face time crunch in cooking. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report published in April 2019, among married couples in 2018, 48.8% of families had both employed husbands as well as the wife. Similarly, among married couples with children, 63% of families had both employed husband and wife. This trend is expected to expand the scope of meal kit delivery services in families.

COVID Pandemic

Once the pandemic hit in March of 2020, the meal kit companies exploded. When consumers were unable to get the food they wanted at their local grocery store, meal kits subscriptions became an option. They created a fun, DIY activity that the entire family could do together. Many people who didn’t even know how to cook, all of a sudden were tasked with this chore at the end of a long day full of Zoom meetings and virtual learning for the kids. It made sense.

Some of the companies were not able to keep up with the demand. I personally tried three subscriptions, Home Chef, Hello Fresh and Gobble. Out of the three, Home Chef was my favorite. I needed to give it up however, because of the issues in delivery. I started with Tuesday delivery and then week after week it wouldn’t come until Wednesday. That was not a huge issue, but when it did come, it came almost at room temperature. The ice packs were 3/4 of the way thawed. When I called, they assured me they would look into the issue with the delivery company and get back to me. They never did and I cancelled. Hello Fresh’s portion size was small and over priced in my opinion. Gobble was packaged the best. They also offered extras like cookies and even breakfast options. I didn’t care for the meal options however.

The Struggle is Real

Today I read an article in LinkedIn about the struggles Blue Apron had during the Pandemic.

The meal-kit delivery company saw customers drop off by 7.5% during the third quarter as it struggled to meet an earlier surge in demand. While it’s expanding fulfillment centers and paring menu options to simplify production lines, those changes won’t be completed until next year. 

An employee’s viewpoint was shared on the post:

Friends,

The past 6 months were the most stressful months of my entire life.

On March 19th, my work at Blue Apron completely changed overnight. Thousands of customers coast to coast flocked to Blue Apron in a time when their local grocery stores sold out of food, everyone was locked down, and Blue Apron was their only option. Given the overwhelming demand, that meant I worked a lot overtime on nights and weekends. I probably worked 6 weeks with no days off, no weekends, nothing. To be honest, it’s been the duty of a lifetime. I’m proud of my work, and I’m really lucky to be able to continue this work to today.

What do you think? Can meal kit subscription companies make it in the long run? Customer service will be key.

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Choosing a new vendor? Three Tips to Consider

Selecting a Vendor

Selecting a vendor for your business can be time consuming and stressful. You are making an important choice that will not just impact you, but an entire department or business. The goal should be to create a partnership with your vendor. Price is important, but it should not be the only thing to consider. Here are three tips that are worth noting.

Communication

Communication is my number one tip. How they respond during the sales process is important. Do you feel as though they are interviewing you? While it is perfectly understandable for a sales exec to pre-qualify a lead, it is also important to treat the person with respect. The tone of a person’s voice, their demeanor, level of patience when answering questions are all important. This sets the tone for how the relationship plays out over time.

Ask yourself, “Will I want to turn to this person with a problem or issue down the road?” How well they communicate & how quickly they respond will tell you a lot. Pay close attention to their genuine willingness to solve your problem or provide a solution that will benefit your business. How well do they listen?

Social Media

One area I always look at when considering a new vendor is their social media marketing. When I check it, I am looking for several things:

  • The date of their last post. I see so many businesses start social media, run it for a few years, and then drop it. How current is the last post? If it is over a year ago, it may be a red flag.
  • What do they post? Do they post relative information that provides their readers with useful tips and news within their industry? Sharing is caring in social media. Pay close attention to what they have to say.
  • Number of followers play a role as well. Too small of an amount may mean that not enough effort was put forth. Too many unevenly distributed between following/followers may suggest a bot was used. Many companies use bots, and while I don’t feel it is a negative, it is worth noting.  
  • How do they respond to customer service issues within their profiles? This is a very important area to take a look at. Unhappy customers many times will go to social media when they can’t get the right answers from normal customer service channels.

Flexibility

How flexible are they to change? As much as we all try, there are times when we need something handled and we need it yesterday! I remember a payroll vendor of ours once telling me that she was going to discount something for me because over the years, we never requested customer service. By looking over our account and determining we had been a good, quiet customer, she rewarded us. Kudos to the company for empowering her to make that call.

Be sure to ask about their customer service turnaround times. Is it within 24 hours of placing a call or inquiry via the web? Be sure to understand this before a problem comes up.

Proper vetting can save you a lot of time in money down the road. The added effort is well worth it.

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COVID-19 Customer Service

ecommerce

Customer service adjustments. During the last several months we have all had to make a lot of changes to our lives. We all have our own personal story on hardships as well as new opportunities. Working from home for the first time. Working while trying to home school kids for the first time ever. Getting accustomed to wearing a mask for the first time. Social distancing all while trying to work and take care of our families.

During this time I think that most consumers have shown appreciation for the essential front line workers and we understood when our Amazon order took 2 weeks instead of 2 days. We appreciate those hard working people sacrificing for the well being of others.

Are Things About to Change?

While for the most part, people continue to have patience. Some people are showing a great deal of resistance to mask wearing and retailers and restaurant owners have had to quickly train employees on how to handle an unhappy guest who didn’t want to comply.

My concern is more along the lines of people using the pandemic a an excuse for poor customer service. I have two examples of what I am referring to.

Local Steals and Deals

I am located in the Charlotte, NC area, and I see their commercials daily. Sometimes as part of my local evening news (slower news days). They have a spokesperson who is very compelling and does a great job selling products. Their About Us section on their website states the following:

Local Steals and Deals is operated by Knocking (www.knocking.co) in association with Cox Media Group.

We connect the best brands with Cox Media Group’s audience, offering exclusive deals.

I like the concept. However what I wasn’t impressed with was the customer service. I placed an order 2 months ago and never received my purchase. I honestly think I would have forgotten about it altogether if it were not for the commercials! After emailing the company, I found out that the product is no longer available. It left me wondering how many people placed orders and then forgot about them? Automatically refunding customers on out of stock items, should be part of any e-commerce site these days.

Website Hosting

A quick chat with my hosting company regarding a log in issue I was having kept me busy for over an hour trying to trouble shoot with them in a chat. Finally, I was told my issue would be escalated and that I should try again in a few hours. Good enough. I did what he said and even waited until the next day. Still had the same problem. Got on the chat with them again, knowing full well that I would have to start from the beginning. Sure enough. When I asked if my issue was escalated as I was told, I received an awful reply. I was told that because of COVID19, they were working with reduced staff. Really? You are working on a computer from your home office, I would bet. How could COVID be affecting your customer service?

Don’t Neglect Your Customer Service

Times are hard and budgets are tight. Now is not the time however to neglect your customer service standards. In fact, I believe it is the time to make them an even more important priority. Evaluating what is happening when a customer engages with your business or brand is more important than ever before. People will remember the businesses who came through for them during this time.

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