Consumer Demand for Meal Kits Surges

The meal-kit business is seeing a boost in demand as the coronavirus outbreak limits restaurants to offering takeout and delivery only and grocery stores reduce hours, reports Food Business News. In addition, self- and mandated quarantines are also driving consumers to avoid going shopping and order food directly to their home.

Blue Apron’s stock surged to a high of $16.25 on March 18 and the company has seen an influx of orders throughout the month. “Over the last week we have seen a sharp increase in consumer demand,” said Linda Findley Kozlowski, chief executive officer at Blue Apron. “We are increasing our capacity for future orders and expect to fulfill this increased demand by the next available weekly cycle, starting on March 30.”

Marley Spoon, HelloFresh, and HomeChef are also seeing order increases. “We have been seeing an increase in demand for which we have been well prepared,” a spokesperson for HelloFresh said. “We are working around the clock to deliver our boxes on time, and there are currently no major disruptions to our service. We are working very closely with our network of suppliers and partners to ensure we continue delivering fresh and reliable meals to our customers.”

The rapid rise in orders has led to minor disruptions in supply at some companies. A small portion of recipes at Blue Apron, for example, are being substituted due to increased demand. Marley Spoon is taking steps to safeguard against delays, including stocking shelves with ingredients from approved suppliers and ensuring appropriate substitutions can be made if necessary.

Companies are instituting measures to ensure delivery continuity and expect they will be able to meet demand. Several companies told Food Business News they have taken extra precautions to protect workers, including limiting access to production sites and bolstering sanitation protocols.

The outbreak has not had a significant impact on supply chains.

“We are carefully monitoring our supply chain and are in contact with our ingredient suppliers,” Ms. Kozlowski said. “We are not aware of any significant disruption to our supply chain to date as a result of coronavirus.”

Ms. Kozlowski cautioned that, like other companies, Blue Apron is operating with “imperfect information” around COVID-19 and its impact on business.

“The situation remains very fluid and various matters could affect our ability to serve our customers,” she said. “We are doing our very best to manage through these unprecedented circumstances.”

The long-term impact of the outbreak remains uncertain. Whether customers who signed up for meal kits during the outbreak will continue their subscriptions once it is contained remains to be seen.

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