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Grocery stores may be feeling the pinch right now as coronavirus fears drive people to stockpile their carts (and fridges at home), but as supermarkets struggle to keep up with demand for fresh meats and produce, a number of meal delivery services are helping to fill in the menu.
“We’ve seen a very dramatic increase in demand from both our current subscribers as well as our new subscribers,” says Vanessa Meyers, SVP of Growth at Sun Basket, which offers home delivery of both full meals and individual items for “all-day healthy eating” (think: protein bars, jerky, nuts and crackers).
Meyers says the company has “seen an uptick” in orders during the past couple of weeks and continues to fulfill deliveries as new customers come in. “We have food available for delivery, and weekly boxes are continuing to be delivered as normal,” she assures.
Sun Basket, and other meal delivery services like it, were always a novel idea for individuals or families looking for convenience, or wanting to show off their best Top Chef skills. But with lineups forming daily outside of grocery stores and even common items, like fruits and vegetables quickly becoming a scarce commodity, meal delivery kits have become an easy way for people who may not be able to get to a grocery store to access fresh meats and produce. These services are also a great way to send groceries and meals to quarantined family members, or elderly neighbors who may not have a way to shop for food otherwise.
Organic meal delivery service, Trifecta, says it has seen a 25% increase in sales over the last two weeks while hiring 100 new employees to work at their Sacramento-based kitchen to help keep up with the demand of orders from people seeking safer food options. The CDC’s current guidelines state that “there is very low risk from food products that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures.”
Trifecta’s fully-cooked meals come vacuum-sealed, so they’ll stay fresh in the fridge for up to ten days, or in the freezer for up to three months. Their belief: that meal delivery services are now “significantly safer when compared to grocery stores or ordering food delivery from local restaurants.”
The company, founded on the “mind, body, social” as three principles of health, offers clean, wholesome foods, with options for vegans, vegetarians and those following a keto and paleo diet too (in addition to regular, health-focused meals).
See full menu options and pricing at Trifecta (use promo code RS40 for 40% off your first delivery)
Rastelli’s, a direct-to-consumer service that delivers restaurant-quality meats and seafood, says business has gone up “over 1000% in orders and revenue since last week.”
Rastelli Foods Group Vice-President Ray Rastelli III, says the rise in demand correlates with a “dramatic shift” in consumer demand towards staples. “To match this need,” he says, “we made a shift in our online offerings, focusing on a product catalog of basic staples – ground beef, chicken breasts, salmon filets, to name a few.” The key: all of Rastelli’s products are vacuum-sealed and blast frozen, allowing the meats and fish to keep for up to a year if necessary.
See full menu options and pricing at Rastellis.com (use promo code ROLLINGSTONE10 for 10% off)
At HelloFresh, which touts itself as “America’s Most Popular Meal Kit,” a spokesperson says the company has long prepared for scenarios like this, which allows them to meet fluctuations in demand. In a statement, the spokesperson confirms that “there are currently no disruptions to service,” adding that HelloFresh is “working very closely with our network of suppliers and partners to ensure we keep delivering fresh and reliable meals to our customers.”
HelloFresh offers customers 20 recipes to choose from each week, and orders can be personalized based on the number of people you’re feeding, and any dietary restrictions. Pre-portioned ingredients for each meal are then shipped in a single box (one box/week), along with recipe cards and serving suggestions.
Sun Basket, meantime, currently offers three types of deliveries: oven-ready or microwavable meals (no cooking required), pre-prepped meals (which are designed for you to cook quickly with no dicing or peeling), and classic meal kits, with pre-portioned ingredients and recipes to cook yourself. The company offers organic produce, wild-caught seafood and antibiotic and hormone-free meat. They also offer paleo, vegetarian and gluten-free meals — all of which are still in stock.
See full menu options and pricing at SunBasket.com (use promo code ROLLINGSTONE for $35 off)
But food availability isn’t the only concern these days. With the threat of COVID-19 in the air, meal delivery providers say they’re doubling down on safe handling of food and the safety of their delivery drivers. Sun Basket says it’s “increasing sanitization frequencies” in its offices and distribution centers, and offering no-contact deliveries.
New processes are also in place at HelloFresh, where a spokesperson says the company has “implemented additional safety measures such as more frequent hand-washing and sanitation of our facilities along with limited access to our production site.”
Rastelli’s says it has also taken “added precautions” to ensure food safety and employee wellness. Among the new initiatives put in place: “We’re screening employees, ensuring that anyone with any signs of sickness doesn’t enter the facility,” explains Rastelli. “We’ve gone from one ‘breakdown shift’ – where machinery is broken down to the bolts and cleaned – to three times per day. We’ve implemented the use of full-cover protective masks. And finally,” he shares, “we’ve increased the use of ozonated water, which is a highly-effective, chemical-free way of cleaning machinery, belts, and any meat that’s been exposed to the air.”
The Chrissy Teigen-approved Blue Apron, meantime, says it has a “comprehensive food safety program in place,” citing Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) at every step of operation. As a food facility regulated by the FDA, Blue Apron also touts its third-party certification to the Safe Quality Food (SQF) code, widely considered as one of the most rigorous and comprehensive food safety standards in the world.
(It should be noted that the most recent FDA releases show no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19).
Still, Blue Apron says it’s had to hire more staff and adjust its output to meet the high number of new orders coming in. “Over the last week we have seen a sharp increase in consumer demand,” says Blue Apron CEO Linda Findley Kozlowski. “As a result, we have had to make changes to recipes and box orders for a small portion of volume next week. We are increasing our capacity for future orders and expect to fulfill this increased demand by the next available weekly cycle, starting on March 30th.”
Blue Apron meals start at $7.49/serving and the site offers a different menu each week, essentially so that customers don’t get bored of eating the same thing over and over. In addition to vegetarian options, Blue Apron also offers diabetic-friendly meals and Weight Watchers-approved meals as well. They can also deliver wine from an extensive international wine list. New to the site is their “Blue Apron Market,” which delivers everything from pots and pans, to cheese, snacks and pantry items.
Even Martha Stewart has gotten in on the action with her “Marley Spoon” meal delivery kits. The lifestyle guru and TV personality teamed up with Marley Spoon in 2016 and the site now offers 22 recipes every week, with a focus on special diets (think: dairy-free, gluten-free, low-carb, vegan).
Like Blue Apron, pricing for Marley Spoon starts at $7.49/serving, and the company says all of its recipes can prepped and cooked in “six steps or less.”
Martha and Marley spoon continue to deliver delicious meal kits to you during this unfortunate crisis order online @Marley Spoon .com And please enjoy without having to go to the grocery store!!!!
— Martha Stewart (@MarthaStewart) March 18, 2020
Stewart tweeted about Marley Spoon last week, encouraging her followers to stay at home and get their meals delivered instead of going to the grocery store. Stewart says she worked with Marley Spoon to not only make it easy to get food, but to make it easy to get healthier food too. “You’re less likely to buy junk food if you know you have a fridge full of fresh ingredients at home,” the site says. “Healthy subscription boxes, such as Martha & Marley Spoon, make those convenient but usually high-in-sodium and unhealthy microwaved meals seem far less tempting.”
As millions of people around the world continue to wait out the coronavirus pandemic, meal delivery services are hoping to at least help to ease some of the burden when it comes to staying stocked up and healthy.
“Like the rest of the world, we’re anxiously watching the situation unfold and saddened to see the hardship it’s causing,” Rastelli says. “But we do take great pride in being a source of comfort for so many people by doing what we’ve always done – providing food to feed your family.”
Adds Blue Apron’s Findley Kozlowski: “We believe we are positioned to support home cooks across the country during this time and we are doing everything we can to serve our customers. We believe home cooking is important now more than ever, and we intend to continue delivering our customers fresh, delicious meals right to their door.”