Pros and cons of the booming home meal kit business

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Thursday, February 15, 2018
Meal prep kits gain in popularity
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Meal prep kits - you still have to do the cooking.

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- The meal delivery business is booming. Whether it's Blue Apron, Plated, Hello Fresh, Home Chef, Sun Basket or any of the other brands, millions are clamoring for these ready to make at home meals delivered to your door.

The industry is now topping five billion in sales in the U.S., according to Packaged Facts.

ABC11 had Raleigh Personal Chef Kathleen Bonner, also known as Katt In The Kitchen put a few meal kits to the test to find out some pros and cons of this business.

"One of the great things about these boxes is, you try things you haven't tried before," Bonner said.

"People that don't normally cook have some fun with it. There's really easy ingredients, really easy directions, everything is simply prepackaged measured out spices all there you don't have to second-guess anything, it's awesome," she added.

Bonner points out anyone with dietary restrictions needs to be very careful with the kits for ingredients.

She prepared meals from three brands - pork carnitas tacos from Hello Fresh with pickled onion and Monterey jack cheese, katsu style wild Alaskan Pollock with cabbage slaw and rice from Blue Apron and a seared steak with red wine jus and crispy parm potatoes from Plated.

All three were taste tested by Bonner, a few staff from ABC11 and some family members.

In the preparation department, Bonner felt the tacos would be a great meal to prepare with a helper as there was a lot of chopping.

"Taste-wise, it was great!" Bonner said. "Freshness-wise, it was great, you just need to know what you are doing with the cooking so it could add to the time. For prep involved, I give it a 7.5/10 and overall I give it an 8," Bonner explained.

For the fish, Bonner was excited to test out a new ingredient for the sauce, black garlic.

"I've never used black garlic before and it was sweet, very cool," she said. "It was very straightforward, very easy, the flavors were amazing, exotic ingredients. Overall for this one, I give it a 9/10," Bonner said.

The steak meal was listed as a special Valentine's meal, so Bonner felt it would be a great meal for two to cook together as she found the meal a bit more difficult to get right.

"It was a little harder to follow but the end result was pretty good. There was a lot of chopping, so the time was a little off," Bonner said.

"I give it a 7.5/10 for prep and overall, an 8."

The taste testers agreed all three meals were delicious, but, the fan favorite was the fish from Blue Apron.

Bonner added that the bottom line with these kits is customers need to know there is a learning curve and you are still cooking so there is time involved in preparing the meals so you should plan for that prep time.

"I'd say give it a try, every one of the companies out there will let you do one and try it at a reduced rate for the first time.