For busy parents, meal kits can be a godsend when struggling to think of new meals to feed their hungry flock, and for professionals with little time to plan their weekly meals, they can be a money saver when trying to eat out less. All around, meal delivery services can really improve your eating routine – but it’s important to choose a service that works for you.
Two of the most popular meal kit companies in the U.S. today are Blue Apron and Home Chef. Founded in 2012 and 2013 respectively, they’ve both established themselves as market leaders in this relatively young, yet crowded industry. And as 2 of the most trusted brands, they have a lot to live up to.
So if you’re wondering which one of them is better suited to your needs, read on. Here’s our head-to-head comparison of the 2 companies.
Having been around for more than half a decade, Blue Apron and Home Chef have developed into 2 leading examples of what a meal kit delivery service should look like. Both offer varied menus, packed with fresh meal ideas available every week, both have a simple and flexible ordering process, and both sell numerous add-ons including a retail section with cooking utensils and pantry items.
Of the 2, Blue Apron is arguably the slightly higher-end service. Its recipes are globally-inspired, with interesting flavors and ingredients, and its add-ons include things like wine and cheese. The company seeks to expand its service beyond that of its competitors by offering recipes approved by WW (formerly Weight Watchers) and including Beyond Meat products on its menus. Blue Apron also puts huge emphasis on reducing its environmental impact both in terms of the sustainability of its food distribution process and its packaging. In short, it’s a service that suits consumers conscious of the impact of their choices beyond their dinner table.
Home Chef, meanwhile, as the name suggests, is a bit more homey. It’s aimed at the home cook looking for simple and time-saving ways to keep their dinner routine varied and interesting without being too flashy or exotic. Its biggest appeal is the ease and convenience of its service, which ranges from the customer’s ability to select their meals up to a month in advance, to oven-ready meals that require virtually no prepping at all. Home Chef offers a big variety of recipes and promises to save its customers time, help to reduce their food waste and bring people together around the dinner table.
Variety is the spice of life, and one of the biggest selling points of a meal kit delivery service is the variety of meals it offers. At Home Chef there is a selection of 18 different dishes to choose from each week, including quick, 5-minute lunches, oven-ready dishes and Chef Express meals that are ready in 15 minutes.
The recipes are easy to follow and some of the ingredients even arrive pre-cooked, which not only simplifies the process but also saves time. Home Chef also caters to a number of different dietary requirements by providing vegetarian, nut-free, soy-free, wheat-free and dairy-free dishes. The meals themselves are homey, not overtly flashy or exotic, so the ardent home cooks out there won’t be picking up any new skills.
By comparison, Blue Apron offers significantly less variety with just 8 different recipes with its Signature Plan, and 6 with its Family Plan. It too caters to vegetarians and serves Beyond Burgers – the plant-based alternative protein – but there are no special meals for food intolerances.
The recipes provide step-by-step guidance as well as tidbits about the ingredients. Overall Blue Apron’s meals are a bit more sophisticated — but Home Chef wins thanks to the much larger number of dishes to choose from.
Winner: Home Chef
As 2 market leaders, Blue Apron and Home Chef both pride themselves on providing high-quality ingredients. But Blue Apron goes a lot further than its competitor.
The company is committed to working with farms that apply sustainable farming practices and states that it has a network of more than 100 family-run farms, fisheries and ranches. All of its ingredients are non-GMO and it uses organic produce whenever possible, while all its meat and poultry are free of hormones and antibiotics and its seafood comes from sustainable sources.
Home Chef on the other hand doesn’t give much information about its ingredients or where they come from. On its website the company simply states that it cannot guarantee organic produce but sources “responsibly as often as we can.”
Winner: Blue Apron
Both Blue Apron and Home Chef ask customers to complete a brief survey to establish a general flavor profile so they can recommend dishes based on their preferences. However, we’re unsure how accurate these flavor profiles really are as both companies recommended pork dishes despite pork having been excluded in my selection process.
With Blue Apron you can’t customize your recipes beyond the number of servings, but you do have the option of adding on items to your delivery, including wine at $10 a bottle or $65.99 per month for 6 bottles, and a seasonal cheese collection at $79.99.
Home Chef, on the other hand, offers a huge amount of customization: With its “Customize It” feature, you can personalize your meals by swapping proteins, doubling the amount of protein, and adding extras such as bacon to your dishes, and you can also order extras such as snacks, smoothies, salads or desserts.
Winner: Home Chef
Consumers are more conscious now than ever before of the ethical and environmental impact of goods and services. This too affects the meal kit delivery industry, both in terms of ingredient sourcing and packaging.
As an industry pioneer, Blue Apron is at the forefront of this environmental push. The company states that it is working to build a better food system, through sustainable sourcing and distribution. Plus, all of its packaging is 100% curbside recyclable: from the box, liners and ice packs to the food wraps and containers. If you’re unable to recycle the packaging yourself, you can either ship it back to Blue Apron free of charge or have it collected from your home.
Home Chef also uses 100% recyclable boxes, gel packs and plastics but says very little about its ingredient sourcing policies. Both companies work hard at reducing their environmental impact, but I feel that Blue Apron is just a little bit ahead of the game.
Winner: Blue Apron
Last but not least, let’s take a look at the price difference between these 2 companies. After all, the cost of a meal kit delivery box is one of the most important considerations when choosing a service that is right for you.
Blue Apron’s pricing is pretty straightforward: a subscription of 2 meals for 2 people costs $47.95 per week, which includes a shipping fee of $7.99, while a subscription of 3 meals for 2 people costs $59.94 per week and shipping is free. With a family plan shipping is always included 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).
In comparison, Home Chef charges the same amount per serving regardless of the size of the selected meal plan and a shipping fee of $10 is applied to all orders below $49. The cost is $7.99 per serving for 5-minute lunches and $9.95 per serving for main meals. This means that for a meal plan of 3 dinners per week you pay $59.70 for a couple and $119.40 for a family of four.
The price comparison may seem a bit bewildering but the bottom line is that for couples, Home Chef works out slightly cheaper while for families, Blue Apron gives you more bang for your buck. However, due to the simplicity of Home Chef’s pricing structure and the availability of cheaper quick meals, Home Chef wins this category.
Winner: Home Chef
As 2 of the market leaders, there’s a lot that sets Blue Apron and Home Chef apart from the rest. Their ability to offer a flexible service with numerous add-ons gives customers a food experience that goes beyond just the recipes.
Both companies offer quality ingredients and focus on straightforward recipes that are suitable for all home cooks regardless of their level of skill. But when compared with each other, Home Chef provides a more rounded product than Blue Apron, with a much bigger variety of recipes to choose from each week, more options for customization and a slightly lower price point.