Meal kit cook off: a side-by-side comparison

As a youngish professional spending most of my time in Manhattan, I find myself in food deserts from time to time, or move to move as it were. Each new move can spur a renewed exploration of meal kits, which have proliferated as a consumer offering in the last 5-10 years. A lot of listicles like Reviewed.com rate the mail-and-cook kit options, without factoring in the changing face of grocery. Thinking outside the FedEx box means recognizing that Whole Foods is in on the game now, and it’s not just Weight Watchers selling ready healthy meals anymore. Below is a side-by-side comparison sampling one of each of the three mealkit styles:

  • Blue Apron representing mail-and-cook

  • Amazon Meal Kits debuting pick-up-and-cook

  • Freshly repping mail, heat and eat

Amazon Meal Kits: I’m impressed

Amazon always does everything a little differently. In this instance, they’ve priced each meal kit differently, ranging from $15.99 to $19.99. This makes sense when the ingredients range from chicken to shrimp, and departs from the typical meal kit practice of flat pricing.

Also distinctive is the short, simple instructions and minimal number of ingredients. This meant that the 30 minute cooking time was a true 30 minutes! I tried the pork dish, and appreciated the fresh crunch and flavors, likely aided by the fact that I cooked it the same day that I bought it.

Freshly: full of flavor

Freshly caught my eye with a promotion, and now they have me sold. Six single meals for $60 gets you imaginative dishes like “Aloha Chicken” and wild-caught mahi. I had my doubts about microwave dishes, but the spices and the fresh ingredients mean there is only a little added softness from the microwave steaming. It’s all a huge upgrade from the panini and chicken salad sandwiches of downtown delis.

Blue Apron: light on flavor, long on time

I gave up on Blue Apron last year. The long recipe descriptions and amount of chopping for a knife-skills novice meant that the “30 minute” prep times were usually more like 60 minutes – that’s 100% overage! Also, they seemed to think salt, pepper, and olive oil were all you need to make a dish pop. It got a bit boring after a short while. And even with all the cooking time, I didn’t become a significantly better cook. Hence my back-tracking to the simpler options above.

The final evaluation: price, time and flavor

So who wins the a battle of price, time, and flavor? I’ve conveniently plotted price vs. time performance of these three options below, and plotted flavor against prep time in a 2×2 below.

 Price vs. prep time for 3 types of meal kits
Price vs. prep time for 3 types of meal kits

When evaluating flavor against prep time, we see Amazon and Freshly are in the lead.

 Plotting each meal kit on the amount of flavor and the amount of prep time each offers.
Plotting each meal kit on the amount of flavor and the amount of prep time each offers.

Using the Net Promoter Score scale for each of the three, rating how likely I am to recommend each kit on a scale of 0 to 10, here’s where I personally land on ratings for Amazon, Freshly, and Blue Apron.

Bon appetit!

The Index Card Summary of “The Mom Test: How to talk to customers & learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you”

The graveyard of Silicon Valley is littered with dead startups that launched based on false positive feedback. How does one avoid the misdirection of enthusiasts trying to avoid awkward hurt feelings? Rob Fitzpatrick offers a cheat sheet of cardinal rules of informational interviewing while refining your business concept in The Mom Test. Below is the index card summary of the Rob’s rules for collecting honest feedback.

The Index Card Summary

1. Avoid mentioning your idea.

2. Avoid the “premature zoom”.

3. Ask terrifying questions that force you to focus.

4. Lower the stakes.

1. Avoid mentioning your idea

We are a social species – we like to be liked! As a result, if you signal to someone that it’s important to you that they like your idea/product/approach, you are biasing that person towards positive feedback. But soliciting only positive feedback, even if this is not your intention, will impede your ultimate goal of improving your idea/product/approach. So how to avoid bias? Ask questions related to the problem you want to solve rather than the solution you have in mind.

2. Avoid the “premature zoom”

Fitzpatrick calls jumping to tweaking your idea before validating it the “premature zoom”. You need to validate that the problem you are trying to solve is a real problem. Validate that your interviewee cares about the problem before you collect feedback on the nuances. Ask if they like ice cream before you ask if they prefer chocolate or vanilla (and don’t assume strawberry is out of the running, intuitive, though it may seem). This may sounds simple, but it’s actually very hard. Because we all carry many implicit assumptions with us. To succeed in a new venture, we need to identify all assumptions explicitly, and test each one.

3. Ask terrifying questions that force you to focus

Pre-plan up to three key questions for each of the stakeholder groups that will affect the success of your idea/product/approach. These might include customer segments and investors, managers and teammates, etc. Many of these questions should be ones you’re a little scared to hear the answer to.

If you get feedback all over the map, it may mean you haven’t meaningfully defined the use case of your idea/product/approach. You should have a specific user segment in mind. If your feedback is scattered with no common thread, you may be trying to cover too much.

4. Lower the stakes

Not every conversation needs to feel super high stakes. If you have your key questions at the ready, you can ask them whenever you bump into anyone connected loosely or tightly to your idea/product/approach. Don’t save all of your key questions for one big meeting with one critical stakeholder. This would make you vulnerable to perfectionism and procrastination.

Making good feedback less hard to come by

From 360 reviews to side hustles, we all need feedback; we can’t operate in a vacuum. Yet it can be easy to do so, to stay in our comfort zone of wanting to think our ideas and our work are 100% awesome all of the time. Unless you care more about results than your ego. And the easiest way to get there is to start asking the right questions early and often. So go forth and solicit feedback!