Wednesday, August 17th: Everyother Group A
The other day I received an advertising mailer for a meal kit service called Hello Fresh. It’s tagline: “Ugh, Grocery Shopping. Eliminate the Hassle and Save Time.” (Sounds nice, right?) This is just another of several meal kit programs popping up, including: Green Chef, Blue Apron, The Purple Carrot, etc.
As an individual motivated to make sustainable choices, these programs seem like an awful idea. There is so much waste and such a huge carbon footprint associated with the home delivery of perfectly apportioned ingredients. Each meal is shipped and delivered in a cardboard box with each individual item packaged and kept cool with disposable ice packs.
And as much as I don’t like going to the grocery store, the price tag of these meal kit services are very expensive. Blue Apron costs an average of $8.75 per person per meal, while the average in-home dinner meal costs $4 per person.
So as an individual consumer myself, the environmental and pocketbook costs of these types of programs make this something I wouldn’t be interested in.
As a CSA farmer, however, I can’t simply throw the mailer out in disgust. This mailer represents an evolution of the CSA concept – albeit a super wasteful one. ‘Fresh’ ingredients in a box with recipe. These national businesses with fancy logistical software and corporate shipping agreements are competing with us as someone who helps put a fresh, healthy meal on the family table.
Should be worried about these colorfully named services?
At this point we aren’t super worried, as I think largely we are competing with different customer bases. For a couple of years we offered a meal planning service (at a great cost to us) and fewer than 10% of the membership reported actually utilizing this service. These meal services, at their price point, are largely competing with restaurant eating and for the higher end of the market. Though there is some crossover. My parents used to be CSA members of a farm in their town. Now they use Blue Apron.
However, I still think there are many things these services are providing that may change people’s expectation about convenience and ease of cooking.
We can’t provide the convenience of a fully proportioned meal delivered to your door.
We can provide fresh. We can provide healthy. We can provide recipes to put dinner on the table. We can assure you that the land is being taken care of responsibly. We can provide you a direct connection between farmer and eater. We can offer you a window into our lives as farmers. But what can we do as a CSA farm to try and stay relevant in this world of ever-increasing convenience without compromising our sustainability morals?
I don’t have a lot of answers right now. But I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be savvy to ignore these trends.
We need your help with ideas, suggestions, and comments regarding this issue. How does our CSA stay relevant?