If your kitchen is a place where you do little more than heat up ready meals, chances are you’re either lacking the confidence to cook or the time to meal plan and shop for fresh ingredients. There’s no need to feel bad about it though — you’re certainly not alone and there’s plenty of help at hand. The best meal delivery services make healthy, home-cooked meals a reality for even the most unlikely cooks: They take the guesswork out of recipe planning and deliver everything you need to prepare tasty dinners right to your doorstep.
Among the plethora of meal kit delivery services available today, 2 of the most established brands are Blue Apron and HelloFresh. Both companies are listed on the stock exchange and deliver their kits nationwide, with German-based HelloFresh taking the prize for being the largest meal-kit provider in the U.S.
HelloFresh — as the name suggests — is all about the quality of its ingredients but being a German company, it also prides itself on efficiency. This means that unlike many of the meal kit delivery options on the market, such as the best keto meal delivery and the best meal delivery service for seniors, HelloFresh really limits the amount of processed foods it includes with its meals, such as premade sauces or spice mixes. But that doesn’t make recipes overly laborious and each meal is prepared in six steps or less and in no more than 30 minutes.
Blue Apron has become a household name and its offerings go way beyond boxing up ingredients. Its meals are varied and interesting, incorporating international flavors, unique spices and farm-fresh, non-GMO ingredients; and it also supplies useful add-ons such as cheese and wine, pantry items and cooking utensils. Something Blue Apron is firmly focused on is being a sustainable business, and that includes its food supply chain and distribution, as well as its commitment to providing 100% recyclable packaging. In summary, Blue Apron is a service for discerning consumers conscious of how and what they eat and how their decisions affect the environment.
So as 2 of the market leaders, can Blue Apron and HelloFresh live up to the hype? Here’s how they stack up:
No 2 households are the same, and each family has different mealtime wants and needs. Whether that’s the number of people who need to be fed, the number of meals required each week or the amount of time spent in the kitchen, convenience and flexibility are key so that you can get exactly what you want, when you want it.
HelloFresh offers slightly more flexibility, with 4 different meal plans for 2 or 4 people respectively and there’s a choice of 2, 3 or 4 meals per week. The plans include a mixed box, a veggie box, a family-friendly box and a box focused on low-calorie meals.
By comparison, Blue Apron also has a choice of 2 different plan sizes, for 2 and for 4 people, but the number of recipes available is limited to 2 or 3 per week, unless you order the family plan, which includes up to 4 meals per week. There is a signature plan of mixed recipes, as well as a family plan, a vegetarian plan and a WW Freestyle plan, which comprises recipes from WW, aka Weight Watchers.
Both companies let customers choose the day of the week that best works for their delivery, offering drop offs 7 days a week in most areas.
HelloFresh’s website is very user-friendly, which means skipping, cancelling or reactivating a subscription online is extremely quick and easy. Blue Apron also allows you to skip weeks online; but in order to cancel the service you need to either email or call them, which I felt was an added and somewhat unnecessary step.
Meal kits are not just about convenience but also about choice. The number of recipes available to pick from each week varies from one company to the next. If you’re someone who is easily overwhelmed by a wealth of options, less may indeed be more for you. But if you’re looking for a big range of possible dinner choices, then make sure the service you choose lives up to your expectations.
At Blue Apron there’s a selection of 8 different recipes with the Signature Plan, and 6 with the Family and WW Freestyle Plan. What’s not so great is that there are only a meagre 3 vegetarian dishes per week, and these are only available with the Signature Plan — so meat-free families and weight watching vegheads are not catered to. There are also no specific meals for dietary restrictions such as gluten-free or dairy-free.
At HelloFresh the number of recipes available each week is more than double that of Blue Apron at 19 different dishes. However, as with Blue Apron, that number decreases to just 3 recipes when choosing the veggie or low-calorie option, and there are also no special options for those with allergies.
While neither company really offers much choice to vegetarians or people suffering from food intolerances, both have a good selection of traditional meals. But with a bigger selection of recipes overall, HelloFresh wins on numbers.
Blue Apron is a market leader when it comes to the quality of its ingredients. The company is committed to “building a better food system.” It makes a point of working directly with family-run farms that adopt sustainable growing practices, and it has extensive partnerships with environmental experts to elevate overall standards for the food industry and its impact on the planet. Blue Apron’s ingredients include non-GMO and certified organic produce, meat and poultry that are free of hormones or antibiotics, eggs from pasture-raised hens and sustainable seafood.
Freshness is the guiding mantra at HelloFresh and this is certainly evident in its selection of ingredients. The company states that it works with trusted, experienced and sustainable business partners to ensure high-quality, seasonal produce is delivered at peak freshness. However, its produce, albeit fresh, isn’t organic. “Rather than focus on whether or not the produce is organic, we are trying to help our customers take the necessary steps to add in more fruits and veggies in their everyday lives,” the company says. That said, animal welfare and sustainability are integral, and all seafood is sustainably sourced and all meat and poultry is carefully selected from high-quality farms and is certified antibiotic free.
As both companies are focused on using high-quality, sustainable and responsibly-sourced ingredients, you can expect quality, fresh ingredients from whichever one you opt for. However, Blue Apron’s products have more certifications than HelloFresh and there’s more emphasis on organic ingredients.
Winner: Blue Apron
Both companies have relatively straightforward pricing structures.
With Blue Apron, the more you order, the cheaper the cost per serving. So if you choose a subscription of 2 meals for 2 people it will cost you $47.95 per week ($9.99 per serving plus a shipping fee of $7.99) and if you choose a subscription of 3 meals for 2 people it’s $59.94 per week ($9.99 per serving and free shipping). With a family plan, shipping is always free, and a 2-meal plan for four will set you back $71.92 (at $8.99 per serving), while a 3-meal plan is $95.88 per week ($7.99 per serving).
At HelloFresh on the other hand, a flat shipping fee of $6.99 is added to all orders. A subscription of 2 meals for 2 people costs $50.95 which works out to $10.99 per serving plus shipping; and a plan of 3 meals for 2 people is $60.93 per week at $8.99 per serving plus shipping. For families, a 2-meal plan for 4 will set you back $78.91 (at $8.99 per serving plus shipping), while a 3-meal plan is $96.87 per week ($7.49 per serving plus shipping).
The price difference per serving is marginal, but the fact that HelloFresh always charges for shipping puts them behind.
Winner: Blue Apron
This turned out to be a very close call. HelloFresh is in many ways the poster child of the meal kit delivery industry due to its size and international presence. The company offers premium ingredients, flexibility and variety — plus an extremely convenient and user-friendly online experience.
Nonetheless, while both companies offer high-quality ingredients, interesting meal choices and equally poor options for vegetarians, Blue Apron gets my vote in this faceoff. Blue Apron is a more wholesome service. It offers somewhat better pricing, exceptional ingredients, additional add-ons (such as cheese and wine) and demonstrates a real commitment to sustainability.