It was the instructions to take the food out of the plastic tray and place it on an actual plate that hooked my wife. I mean, she enjoyed the meal as well, but it was this little touch that made Freshly stand out compared with the other meal services we’ve been trying throughout the summer.
It had been almost a year since we last checked in with Freshly, so when they reached out to see if I wanted to test out their meal delivery service, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to catch up with the company. After enjoying a few of their meals, I got on the phone with Carter Comstock, Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer at Freshly this week to learn what the company has been up to.
“We’re finally a national company,” said Comstock, “We launched two more kitchens this year, that gives us national coverage.”
Freshly now has three kitchens across Phoenix, AZ; Linden, NJ; and Savage, MD. This broader geographic dispersion means that the company can now ship meals to all of the 48 contiguous states. When I asked Comstock about the demographic makeup of his customers, he said “We are even across the board from 23 [years old] to 65+.” Geographically speaking, Comstock said that Freshly’s customers map closely to population density across the country, so more in cities than rural areas.
Comstock also said that Freshly’s kitchens are now producing 600,000 meals per week, up from roughly 200,000 a week a year ago. For comparison, ICON Meals puts out 50,000 meals per week.
While Freshly focuses on dinner menus, Comstock said that due to customer demand, the company is expanding into snacks, which just recently launched for customers only. Unlike its meals, however, the snacks are not made by Freshly’s kitchens; instead, they’re a box of prepackaged snacks that the Freshly team curates.
But it wasn’t the snacks that I tried, it was the meals. Freshly sent me (and, subsequently, my wife) four meals to try. Like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, Freshly has a list of 85 banned ingredients that it won’t use in its meals. The list doesn’t go as far as to make everything organic and locally sourced, but the meals don’t have artificial ingredients or flavorings, and contain no added sugar.
Meals arrive chilled (not frozen) in an insulated box with ice packs. Like with any meal kit or meal delivery service, the packaging always feels… excessive, even though I know they have to keep their meals cool to prevent spoiling and food waste. The insulation material is 85 percent biodegradable (though you still have to throw it in the trash), and the plastic trays are recyclable. The company also says you can drain the water-soluble gel from the ice packs into the garbage once it thaws, and recycle that plastic as well.
The meals I received were summer chicken and zucchini, super pesto and veggie fusilli, cod cakes and steak peppercorn. To cook each one, you just pop it in the microwave for roughly three minutes and dinner is served.
A dinner which the packaging suggests you put on a plate. It’s a small thing, plating, but I don’t remember the other meal services I’ve tried suggesting that. It actually made a difference and using a plate elevated the experience, like I was eating something homecooked and not off of a cafeteria tray.
Each of the meals I tasted was excellent, and as with other meal delivery services, convenient. Freshly provided me with a meal I wouldn’t ever make for myself that tasted really good, and only took three minutes to make. Having tested Freshly, Kettlebell Kitchen and ICON meals this summer, I’d have to say Freshly is my favorite so far. The Freshly meals tasted, well, fresher than the other options and I would totally eat them again.
The hardest part with any meal delivery service is the price. You can order 4, 6, 9 or 12 Freshly meals per week. Prices are $12.50 per meal on the four plan, $9.99 per meal on the 6 and 9 plans, and $8.99 per meal for the 12 plan. This is sort of a Goldilocks pricing between ICON, which starts down at roughly $8 a meal and the more expensive Kettlebell Kitchen meals, which are roughly $12 a meal.
I mean, fifty bucks a week isn’t bad for four meals, especially if you’re the type of person who goes out to eat four times a week. But I eat at home mostly, and adding another $200 – $240 to my monthly bills seems excessive, and kinda lazy.
But it is tempting to try it in bursts. Rather than a sustained, ongoing habit, I may try it for one week out of the month, just for the convenience and variety. If you’re interested in meal delivery, I’d recommend trying out Freshly, just remember to use a plate.