Study Reveals the Most (and least) Wasteful Meal Kit Companies

The global meal kit industry witnessed a significant boom in response to growing consumer demand for healthy and convenient meals at affordable prices – with the industry expected to be worth $11.6 billion in the United States alone.

With household food waste accounting for around 27 million tons of waste per year, meal kits are growing in popularity with the idea they can be used to reduce food waste and even carbon footprints. However, while these meal kit services are helping reduce food waste, these single-serve meals create a different problem of packaging waste.

With this in mind, experts at US Packaging and Wrapping ordered three meals each from four leading delivery companies to find out which meal kits are the most (or least) wasteful.

To ensure the results were as accurate as possible, we made sure to choose three types of dishes (meat, pasta and rice) and all the recipes chosen had a similar number of ingredients.

We analyzed four key eco-conscious categories including the percentage of plastic packets, number of packets per ingredient, empty box space and percentage of recycled materials.

Of the four companies analyzed, Home Chef is named the most wasteful for their meal kits, with an overall score of 7/10. It scored poorly in three of the four categories including percentage of plastic packets (90%), number of packets per ingredient (2.38) and percentage of recycled materials (19%).

Following closely, EveryPlate (6.4), Hello Fresh (5.3) and Blue Apron (2.5) complete the four companies analyzed to reveal which were deemed the most wasteful meal kit service.

BHome Chef scored relatively well in the empty box space category, as the main box only had three inches of empty space, just beaten by Blue Apron with only 2.5 inches of empty space at the top, highlighting the company’s efforts to ensure the packaging is filled to maximum capacity.

Despite high levels of plastic pollution globally, across all four companies, the main form of packaging used in all boxes is plastic. In particular, Home Chef uses 90 percent of its packaging as plastic, this amounted to 56 packets across the three meals. Whereas, Hello Fresh used the least amount of plastic (66%), as they separated meals in recyclable kraft bags.

Another way businesses can reduce their environmental impact is by including recyclable material where possible. However, after analyzing the meal kits, none of the companies had more than 20 percent of recyclable materials in their packaging except for Blue Apron, which had 50 percent.

Astonishingly, Hello Fresh and EveryPlate had only nine percent and three percent of recycled materials used. In fact, EveryPlate only had one piece of recyclable material across all three meals in their box.

With 320 million tons of plastic produced every year and 40 percent of this is for single-use purposes, plastic pollution is one of the biggest environmental threats of our times. So, it’s important companies take the steps they can, to reduce the amount of single-use plastic being used in their businesses.

Some of the ways in which meal kit companies can cut the amount of waste they produce are:

  • Offer a variety of portion sizes depending on the size of the order so consumers are receiving the correct amount of food and minimizing waste
  • Meals with similar ingredients could be packaged together to minimize the number of ingredients needed to increase its plant-based food offerings
  • Continue to reduce the amount plastic packaging used and increase the number of recycled materials instead

Charles Haverfield, Packaging Expert at US Packaging and Wrapping commented:

 “Tailor-made meal kits not only save waste by providing people with precise amounts of fresh ingredients for chosen recipes, meaning leftovers are minimized and less food goes off before people have a chance to use it, but they’re also helping even the least talented cooks make fresh, home-cooked meals.

 “However, the packaging is killer if it’s single-use and thrown away, meaning all environmental benefits are lost. If meal-kit companies can improve on the packaging categories listed in our study, then we could start to see greater benefits for this service.”

  To view the full study, click here.

About Editor 2611 Articles
Lisa Baker is the Editor of International Business News. As the Owner of Need to See IT Publishing, Lisa is an experienced business and technology journalist and publisher.