What’s for dinner? Meal boxes.

Micro Trend – What’s for dinner? Meal boxes. – Evaline Vlaanderen 13-09-2016

Too busy to buy groceries? Always tempted to buy unhealthy food? No inspiration for dinner? The new micro trend of having pre composed meal boxes that are delivered to your home is playing right into the needs of many busy Dutch adults. Food that is delivered to your home has become a popular trend in the Netherlands these last few years. A recent research from Multiscope shows that one in ten dutch adults have at least once ordered a meal box. (Emerce, 2016) The market for meal boxes in the Netherlands is already worth €225 million. (Distrifood, march 2016)

In the last few years a lot of new companies with the same concept popped up. Namely, receiving a box with ingredients and a recipe you have to cook yourself. The concept of meal boxes is completely new and has not been repeated yet, it can be called a trend and not a fashion. Companies such as Hello Fresh, Marley Spoon, Albert Heijn, Mathijs Maaltijdbox and Bee Box deliver fresh ingredients and recipes every week for a fixed price. You subscribe to one of the pre composed boxes the company offers and choose what day and time it is delivered. You can verify how many meals, for how many persons and (sometimes) what kind of meals you would like to receive.

One of the upsides of this trend is that the boxes contain food that is pre-portioned. This ensures that people don’t over eat, and that there are no left overs or food wastes which is good for the environment and your wallet. (Wisebread, 2015) This means this meal box trend is attractive to people who follow bigger maxi trends such as the health trend, or the environmental trend.

Technomic Inc., a food industry analyst, predicts that at the current rate of adoption, the United States meal box market could grow by as much as $5 billion over the next decade. (The New York Times, April 2016) And although a subscription to a meal box is a new way of doing groceries, critics say it will not effect or eliminate supermarkets. Retail expert Paul Moers believes that the market for meal boxes is limited. (NOS, 11, may 2016) “People like to shop in supermarkets. They want to smell and feel the products and make the decisions themselves. Many people also want to shop in a supermarket so they can profit from discounts and special offers. That is something people miss out on with a subscription to a meal box.” (NOS, 11, may 2016) However, he expects the meal boxes market will continue to grow. Especially in two-income households, there are still a lot of customers to win over,” thinks Moers.

Some analysts say meal boxes do have some critical points that show signs of a bubble that may already be leaking air. If you compare the trend of meal boxes to the rise and fall of the grocery delivery service Webvan (which appeared in the first wave of the tech boom) or meal assembly storefronts. These kind of companies once opened at a rate of 40 a month in the early 2000s but have faded from view. (The New York Times, April 2016) This is the reason the meal box trend can be called a micro trend. Although this trend is (as seen from the trend pyramid) still happening in the present, its popularity will be expected to fade within a few years. Once all the fuss and ‘newness’ is over it will become integrated in society. Only people who are using meal boxes as a part of their daily life will still use them, but all the one-time hype users will be gone.

A question for you: What do you think meal box companies can do / change to appeal to a broader audience for a longer period of time?

Emerce redactie, Emerce (10 march 2016), Maaltijdbox valt in de smaak,

Retrieved 10/09/2016 from:


Andrea Cannon, Wisebread, (15 December 2015), Are Meal Prep Subscription Boxes Worth It?,

Retrieved 11/09/2016 from:


Joep Meijsen, Distrifood (29 march 2016), Markt maaltijdboxen is €225 miljoen waard, 

Retrieved 11/09/2016 from:


NOS redactie, NOS (11, may 2016), Waarom maaltijdbox-verkopers jou lastigvallen,

Retrieved 11/09/2016 from:


Kim Severson, The New York Times (April 2016) It’s Dinner in a Box. But Are Meal Delivery Kits Cooking?
Retrieved 13/09/2016 from:


2 thoughts on “What’s for dinner? Meal boxes.

  1. An interesting trend and a nicely written article I could clearly understand where it came from. And you clearly explained why this is a micro trend and not a meso.

    I myself have tried one of these foodservices as well it funny that food services now let you cook yourself. Yet it’s many times easier you don’t have to look for ingredients. And how many times didn’t you forget to by all the ingredients at the grocery store. It nice and simple everything you need is in the box kind of similar to Ikea.

    What do you think meal box companies can do/change to appeal to a broader audience for a longer period of time?

    I personally find their dishes lacking. Its always interesting to eat new dishes you never heard of but off the 3 dishes I tried, there was only one I really liked. If you put something more familiar in it I think will have more success. Like for instant a lasagna everyone knows its but there are many different type’s like whit tuna or vegetables. I personally believe you will appeal to a broader audience that way.


  2. I think what’s needed in general is the opportunity to variation. If the orders can be made out of more options it will suit customers in a wider range. For example there need to be a wider supply for vegetarians, vegans and for those with different allergies.

    Maybe the foodboxes can be pre packed in the grocery store? Then you can be more spontaneous with your decision to buy one. Instead of ordering online, you order a pre packed dish of your choice (within a few options) over the counter in the grocerystore. Then there could be the possibility to see, touch and smell the products – at the same time as you still can buy other products in the store. And the food boxes can still work as an easy way to get grocerys for dinner, without spending too much time in deciding what to eat.

    But I also definetly agree with Hidde. I think that alot of companies selling mealboxes try to make their dishes more special and attractive than what’s necessary for the customers. They try to be appealing with unknown dishes, unfamiliar flavours and ingredients. But I think people in general, especially families with younger children, wants the dishes that are more familiar, which they know they like and kind of have tasted before.


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