Online grocery and meal kit delivery

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    By Terry Schaaf
    PREVIEW Columnist
    Online food ordering and delivery services have been, and continue to be, a growing trend. Without leaving the house, consumers are able to order groceries delivered to their doorstep and now order assembled meal kits for delivery and easy preparation at home.
    More and more companies are entering this market and it will likely continue to grow, fueled by convenience, lack of culinary skills and the rising costs of meals at restaurants.
    Grocery delivery
    Some brick-and-mortar supermarkets allow you to order food online and then either get it delivered or pick it up. Other supermarkets partner with other business instead, which employs independent contractors to buy and deliver groceries in the same way that ride-share companies employ drivers.
    Internet grocers are also popping up and offer home delivery. These options allow the consumer the convenience of not leaving their home to purchase groceries, yet they still need to select the groceries they want and find ways to prepare and consume them.
    Meal kit delivery
    Meal kit delivery has boomed in the last year. Some grocery stores have also started offering their own meal kits to compete in this growing market.
    Meal kit delivery is a little different than grocery delivery in that the consumer selects among the meal options available and the company provides ingredients, step-by- step recipes and instructions for a complete meal to be prepared and cooked by the consumer at home. Some kits provide everything pre-cut and measured, while others require chopping and a bit more preparation. Few even offer menus that cater to different dietary requirements, such as vegetarian or gluten-free.
    In addition to being convenient, it is possible that meal kit and grocery delivery services could have a positive impact on a consumer’s health. Ordering groceries online may help some people choose healthier options, by eliminating the tempting, and often less healthy, end-cap or point-of-sale displays.
    Have you ever walked into a grocery store and seen a big display of cookies or chips right at the end of the isle, or a large cart of candy and treats as you check out? Even if you go to the grocery store with a list, you may end up with extra treats in your cart. In fact, a few studies have shown that shopping online could reduce purchases of unhealthy foods, possibly because seeing images of foods online is not as tempting as seeing the actual food in the store. There is also a longer delay between buying the food and eating it, eliminating instant gratification.
    Meal kit services can reduce the number of meals eaten from restaurants, which are often not as healthy as home-cooked meals.
    Additionally, meal kits expose some participants to healthy and new ingredients, recipes and cooking techniques. A consumer’s experience with the meal kits can help build their cooking skills and boost their confidence. Improved cooking skills and increased confidence may increase the likelihood that a consumer continues to cook for themselves and possibly even eliminate the need for a meal kit, relying on their own food, meal and recipe selections.
    Food delivery could improve access to food for some populations, including for those who have limited mobility and cannot easily go to the store. Some delivery services are only available in certain cities, but others are mail-based and are widely available. Additionally, such services could improve access to healthy foods in so-called “food deserts,” areas void of fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished parts of the country.
    Yet, cost may be a barrier. These services do not come without an extra cost. While there may be a minimal cost for gas or public transportation for consumers to go pick up their own groceries at a store, it is likely more cost efficient than ordering for home delivery. Meal kits average $9-$14 per meal, which is less than a comparable meal served at restaurants, but significantly more expensive than a comparable homemade meal.
    While it comes with additional costs, grocery and meal kit delivery is a growing market that may have potential to improve food choices and cooking skills as well as fit busy schedules and save time.