Amazon can be kinda cruel.
Think about it: Blue Apron, arguably the biggest name in meal kit delivery, works for years to create a new way for consumers to make dinner, eventually becoming the most successful meal kit company in a crowded field and, just after they have an initial public offering to pay back investors and employees for all their hard work, Amazon waltzes in with a meal kit service of their own the same exact month to send Blue Apron’s stock tumbling downward.
Does that dude look like he means business? Yes. Yes he does.
But Blue Apron’s bad fortune is my luck since I live in the Seattle market, where Amazon tends to roll out new food initiatives first. When I read yesterday the company was already shipping its meal kits, I decided to order one.
So here is my review. Before I start, it’s worth noting I will be comparing my experience with Amazon’s meal kit to that of Blue Apron. Why? It’s what I know. I subscribed to Blue Apron for about seven months last year and, as a result, Blue Apron is my main point of reference when it comes to meal kits.
The Order Experience
When I learned that Amazon is already shipping their meal kits in the Seattle market, I went to the site and checked out the meals available. And while I didn’t expect to eat an Amazon meal kit for dinner last night, when I saw the company offered same day delivery on their meal kits, my dinner plans suddenly changed.
A few observations about the order experience. First, I counted a total of sixteen available meal kits. I liked having the choice of that many meals, something I didn’t get with Blue Apron in a specific week, which gave me the choice of four meals to choose from every week, two of which they would ship to my house.
Second, same day delivery is a big deal. With Blue Apron, I needed to pick my meals roughly a week in advance to give the company enough time buy, prepare and ship the meal to me by early the next week. With Amazon’s meal kits, I ordered that morning before 10 AM, and it was on my porch before 5 PM.
For those of us who often don’t plan that far in advance, this is a nice feature. It also gives me more flexibility since I can order one meal or five meals in a given week. Blue Apron subscriptions offered only two options: a two-person meal plan with three meals per week and the family plan, which is two meals a week.
One advantage of Blue Apron is they offer family meal kits (a serving of four). All of Amazon’s meal kits, at least currently, are portioned to serve two people. While this could be a problem if I want to cook for my family of four, I figure it’d also be easy enough to order two Amazon meal kits for one meal. But more packaging means more mess, so I suspect Amazon will offer more portion options in the future.
Pricing is similar to Blue Apron on a per-meal basis. Blue Apron advertises meals priced at less than ten bucks per person, and that in line with all of the Amazon meal kits, which came in at $8-9 per person.
This is where things got exciting.
The meal kit arrived at my home in an Amazon Fresh bag, inside of which there was a package wrapped in an insulated bag.
When I opened the insulated bag, I saw a single box with multiple ice packs.
When I pulled the box out of the insulation bag, I was surprised at how small the package was. Granted, it was a serving for two, rather than the family meal four-person servings I would get from Blue Apron, but I was surprised nonetheless at the small size of food box.
Below is a video of my “unboxing” of the meal kit.
Let me emphasize that the packaging and presentation of the Amazon meal kit was probably the most impressive part of the whole experience. I liked that all the food was packed tightly in a well-designed box. Contrast this with Blue Apron, where ingredients are, for the most part, packed loose in the big insulation bags.
Another small observation, but possibly an important one. The chill packs in the insulated bag were fully recyclable. The plastic exterior of the chill packs had a giant recycle symbol. Verbiage below that said the contents inside is plain old water and that I could empty and recycle the bags. I like that idea because other meal kit services (not just Blue Apron) often have some chemical concoction inside that is not recyclable.
Next, I assessed the ingredients. Much like Blue Apron, the number of ingredients I had to work with always surprises me. I guess this is in part because if left to my own devices, I often cook simple meals and when I do cook with recipes and a bigger meal plan, I find it it’s a lot of work to assemble everything I need. With a meal kit – whether it’s Amazon or Blue Apron – the hard work of shopping and assembling ingredients in the right portions is already done.
You can see below what my unpacked box looked like:
The main difference I noticed with my Amazon meal kit and a Blue Apron meal kit is Amazon has done more of the work by chopping the vegetables. Blue Apron kits come with whole vegetables, and you chop them according to the recipe instructions. Some meals had me chopping five or six vegetables to prepare a meal. For this meal, which included sweet potato fries, a bacon jam with onions and a cole slaw, all the vegetables with the exception of the pickle were already chopped.
Whether this is good or bad comes down to personal preference. If you prefer whole, fresh food or like doing more of the prep work for your meal, Blue Apron makes sense. If you want to save a little time or find chopping veggies tedious, then I would suggest Amazon’s meal kit service is better in this regard.
Time To Cook
With my ingredients ready to go, it was time to cook.
Much like Blue Apron, Amazon includes a good looking instructions and ingredient card with their kit. The card, with ingredients on one side and cooking instructions on the other, was smaller than the Blue Apron cards.
Here’s the Amazon instruction card for my Wagyu beef burger meal:
At first blush, the meal I chose looked really simple. After all, how hard can making a burger be?
And while it was straightforward, I found the extra flourishes Amazon put into the recipe to make this, as they put it, a “burger for a true gourmand,” enjoyable. They had me make a bacon jam with onions and maple balsamic, finish the burger in the oven, and toss the sweet potato fries in a delicious seasoning blend. In general, it wasn’t too much work, but enough to make me feel like I could say I cooked something.
And just like Blue Apron, I found the 30 minutes of promised cook time was action packed. Once I finished one thing, I was onto the next and, all along the way, I was using timers (Alexa, naturally) as I orchestrated the cook.
In 30 minutes or so, I had the meal ready to plate.
Here’s the plated meal:
I was feeding my son, who isn’t a fan of onions or cole slaw, so his was more basic. Mine was, more or less, as pictured on the instruction card.
It was good. Wagyu is high-quality beef and, add in the artisanal bun, the bacon jam, and the premixed burger sauce, and it was one tasty burger.
It was also a very big burger. The meal kit included a full pound of ground beef for a two person meal. I normally don’t make half-pound burger patties, but I decided to go for it, and it resulted in a very fat burger that was hard to get my mouth around (that’s a good thing).
While I think one meal is too small a sample size to generalize about Amazon’s meal kit portion sizes, if my meal is any indication, Amazon is not scrimping. Blue Apron four-person portions sometimes felt a bit light when it came to the main course, but satisfying. One thing I will be watching for as I sample other meal kits is if generous portions as part of Amazon’s overall strategy.
Despite the size of the meal, I will say it was good enough to finish the plate in its entirety.
Bottom line, I was happy with my Amazon meal kit and will be trying other meal combinations and recipes.
Last night’s experience tells me Amazon has put in a lot of time to fine-tune this product. The purchase experience, delivery time, packaging and presentation, cooking experience and quality of meal were all high-caliber.
Combine that with company’s strength in online commerce, customer loyalty, delivery infrastructure and – as of last month- their move into brick and mortar grocery delivery, and Amazon’s move into meal kits should be worrisome for Blue Apron and any other company in the meal kit space.
Join The Spoon editors and folks creating the future of the kitchen at the Smart Kitchen Summit.