What does 2016 Hold for Meal Kits?

f482d9a047cffbed4fc45904bffc824992dcbc63_christmas-4.jpgMeal kits and recipe delivery services exploded in 2015, with promises of convenience and easy access to all the joys of cooking. Services like Blue Apron, Plated and Hello Fresh (all available nationally), along with a number of more local startups, offer customers customizable subscription services to bring pre-portioned ingredients to your door, along with a (hopefully) easy to follow recipe selected from the frequently updated options on their sites. Many of these companies tailor their recipes to focus on specific health concerns or responsible ingredient sourcing, with the goal of providing subscribers with all the pride of a fully home-cooked meal. One plant-based version of the model even attracted the legendary Mark Bittman to their team.

Understandably, these companies have already seen some blowback from their surge in popularity, on both the environmental side (the extra packaging used to deliver a single meal’s worth of 5 spices may not be the best thing for mother earth) to the cultural (is some part of the joy of cooking lost for the sake of convenience?) But that hasn’t stopped the venture funding from flowing in. Even if the bubble doesn’t burst, some meal kit companies may face growing pains in the coming year, as competition increases and newcomers try to expand quickly. Good Eggs, a grocery delivery service with over $50 million in funding, recently laid off nearly half their employees and closed operations in all cities but San Francisco.

One important test will be how these companies take advantage of the holiday season, and increase their reach through either gift subscriptions or holiday offerings. Most sites already sell gift cards, and some offer holiday meal kits to make party-hosting easy. Blue Apron, for example, wants you to “Host a Blue Apron Christmas!” and Atlanta-based PeachDish sold out of their Christmas dinner for four, but are offering it for New Years as well. According to their website, “You provide the champagne and we’ll provide everything else for your New Year’s Eve party!” Of course, you could always get the champagne delivered too and call it a night.

To read more, click here.

Antibiotic Use in Livestock Linked to Obesity

According to an article published by The Atlantic this week, conscientious carnivores may have a new reason to opt for antibiotic-free meat in grocery stores and restaurants. The ubiquitous use of antibiotics on livestock, which has long been linked to poor animal health, questionable farming practices, and the rise of resistant superbugs, now seems to be responsible for at least some of the obesity epidemic as well.

The Atlantic cites a growing body of scientific research pointing to the importance of intestinal flora (the “good bacteria”) in maintaining a healthy weight. These studies suggest a two-way street: obese individuals can improve their insulin resistance and overall health by receiving a balanced dose of gut bacteria, but individuals with a lower BMI may be at risk of “contracting” obesity if their intestinal biome is disrupted. And the greatest threat to that biome, especially among those who do not take antibiotics frequently themselves, is the ever-increasing use of such drugs in our farm animals.

70% of antibiotics used in the U.S. go to farm animals, and the vast majority of those are intended either to prevent infection (rather than treat it) or increase body weight. It now looks like that increase in weight could be passed along to the consumer – unless the connection becomes common knowledge, and demand pushes more and more farmers toward antibiotic-free practices.

To read more, click here.