Meal kits of­fer hol­i­day help

Ser­vices of­fer a va­ri­ety of op­tions for a main course, sides, dessert

Albany Times Union - Sunday - - BUSINESS - By Dee-ann Durbin As­so­ci­ated Press

Sub­scrip­tion meal kit ser­vices can take some stress out of week­day din­ners. Some may even help you fill your hol­i­day ta­ble.

A num­ber of com­pa­nies, like Hellofresh, will mail you pre­mea­sured in­gre­di­ents and in­struc­tions for a full hol­i­day meal. Plated and Home Chef will help you with hol­i­day side dishes. But oth­ers, like Blue Apron, don’t of­fer hol­i­day menus. They say they’ve found that cus­tomers pre­fer to cook their own tra­di­tional recipes.

Meal kit ser­vices have grown quickly in the U.S. since they ar­rived from Eu­rope six years ago. Nine per­cent of U.S. con­sumers — or 10.5 mil­lion house­holds — have bought meal kits on­line or in gro­ceries in the last six months, and 25 per­cent say they’d con­sider buy­ing one in the next six months, ac­cord­ing to Nielsen.

At the same time, the com­pa­nies are fig­ur­ing out what cus­tomers do and don’t ex­pect from them. This was the first year Berlin-based Hellofresh of­fered a Thanks­giv­ing meal kit, for ex­am­ple, af­ter cus­tomers re­peat­edly asked for one. Hellofresh has 1 mil­lion U.S. sub­scribers.

For $159, buy­ers got a turkey that fed eight to 10 peo­ple and in­gre­di­ents and in­struc­tions for gar­lic mashed pota­toes, cran-

berry and chicken sausage stuff­ing, green beans and ap­ple gin­ger crisp. Cus­tomers could also opt for a $99 box with just the sides and dessert.

Hellofresh won’t say how many boxes it sold, but it’s of­fer­ing two op­tions for Christ­mas. For $129, it will send cus­tomers a beef ten­der­loin that feeds six to eight peo­ple plus sides, sauces and dessert. For $159, it will send a turkey din­ner sim­i­lar to its Thanks­giv­ing box. The boxes will be avail­able for de­liv­ery start­ing Dec. 19. Buy­ers don’t have to sub­scribe to Hellofresh’s weekly meal plans to get one.

Vero, an Ital­ian meal kit com­pany founded by St. Louis-based chef Katie Col­lier, said it sold twice as many Thanks­giv­ing kits this year as it did in 2017. Its $195 Thanks­giv­ing kit in­cluded a cage-free turkey, shal­lot gravy and fig, wal­nut and sage stuff­ing.

For Christ­mas, Vero is sell­ing a

$65 kit to make lasagna, blood or­ange salad and tiramisu for eight to 10.

Life­style maven Martha Ste­wart also of­fers hol­i­day meal kits through her part­ner­ship with Mar­ley Spoon. For $159.99, cus­tomers could or­der a Thanks­giv­ing box with a 12-pound turkey and in­gre­di­ents for four sides — in­clud­ing herbed stuff­ing with dried cher­ries — and spiced ap­ple crisp.

Last year, Ste­wart also of­fered a $39 hol­i­day cookie kit for Christ­mas. A cus­tomer ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tive at Mar­ley Spoon said the cookie kit will be of­fered again this year, but de­tails haven’t been re­leased.

Some com­pa­nies are tuck­ing hol­i­day fa­vorites into their reg­u­lar meal of­fer­ings for sub­scribers.

Plated, a meal kit startup now owned by the Al­ber­ton’s gro­cery chain, of­fers 20 meal recipes and two desserts each week to its sub­scribers. For a fam­ily of four, two meals per week cost $79.60.

For Thanks­giv­ing week, Plated sub­scribers could opt for sides like pecan pie and sausage, sage and brioche stuff­ing. For the week of Hanukkah, it’s of­fer­ing potato latkes. For New Year’s Eve, it plans to of­fer roasted grape and brie cros­tini with a spinach and but­ter­nut squash salad.

Chicago-based Home Chef, which was re­cently ac­quired by Kroger, also of­fered Thanks­giv­ing sides like wal­nut maple Brus­sels sprouts as part of its weekly meal plans. Like Plated, two meals per week for a fam­ily of four cost $79.60.

Non-sub­scribers can also pick up Home Chef kits at Kroger, which charges $9 for a fam­ily-size side of roasted fall veg­eta­bles with cran­berry or­ange and wal­nuts.

But other meal kit com­pa­nies are opt­ing out. Pur­ple Car­rot, which of­fers ve­gan meal kits, didn’t of­fer any hol­i­day-themed meal kits but did send a Thanks­giv­ing recipe book­let to sub­scribers. Sun Bas­ket, which of­fers or­ganic pro­duce in its kits, has no hol­i­day-themed meals in its ro­ta­tion.

Blue Apron, which has 646,000 U.S. sub­scribers, of­fered a Thanks­giv­ing kit in 2016, com­plete with turkey and pump­kin pie. While cus­tomers liked it, what they were re­ally look­ing for was help with other meals around the holi­days, said John Adler, Blue Apron’s culi­nary chief.

Adler said Blue Apron de­cided to fo­cus on of­fer­ing quick, sim­ple dishes with non-tra­di­tional fla­vors — think Chi­nese or Mid­dle East­ern — for the days around the holi­days.

“You should to­tally have your tra­di­tional food mo­ment,” Adler said. “As op­posed to in­ter­fer­ing in that, we will solve ev­ery­thing else be­fore and af­ter.”

Hellofresh via AP

Some com­pa­nies, like Hellofresh, of­fer pre-mea­sured in­gre­di­ents and in­struc­tions for a full hol­i­day meal. Hellofresh and other sub­scrip­tion meal ser­vices are of­fer­ing op­tions for Christ­mas and Hanukkah.

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