Last week, I had the chance to try one of Amazon’s new meal kits — currently only available in the Seattle area.
Here’s a spoiler: I liked the Amazon meal kit, which was Chicken Tikka Masala, quite a bit. And while they all offer a much simpler cooking experience, and they’re all pretty tasty, Amazon offers some significant benefits over those other guys.
You can watch me try the meals below:
All of our meals were pretty good. Still, by my reckoning, the Amazon meal kits had two key advantages, with the caveat that I only watched them being prepared. My gracious hosts did the cooking themselves.
How to get them
The first is how easy the Amazon meal kits are to get, comparatively. Right now, they’re only available in Seattle, but hopefully they will spread out sooner rather than later.
When you go with Blue Apron or HelloFresh, you have to commit to getting 2 to 4 meals every week, at a cost of around $US60 to as much as $US140 per week. That’s fine, as far as it goes, but it also locks you in to eating whatever came in your delivery for that week, or else the food (and your money) is going to waste.
With Amazon’s meal kits, you can just order one or two or six feasts-to-be at your leisure. Each kit is between $US18 and $US20 for a two-person meal. It works out about the same price per serving as the competitors, but the flexibility is clutch: If you know you’re going to be eating out a bunch on a particular week, just don’t buy any.
There is, of course, taking advantage of this flexibility comes with a huge catch. You need to be an Amazon Prime member, plus you need to sign up for its AmazonFresh grocery delivery service at $US14.99 a month. And if you don’t spend $US40 on your AmazonFresh grocery order, it’s a $US9.99 delivery fee.
The upside is that AmazonFresh carries much more than just meal kits, so you can do your regular shopping, too. Amazon is clearly betting that its meal kits will just be one part of your overall grocery order, not a whole business unto itself.
How to cook them
HelloFresh and Blue Apron have their advantages. The HelloFresh meal of panko-breaded chicken tenders and potatoes was simple, but tasty and plentiful. The Blue Apron meal of Chicken Marbella was both decadent and Instagram-worthy. But both meals required significant prep work, with potatoes to be diced and so on.
Amazon’s Chicken Tikka Masala was far easier. Everything is pre-chopped and pre-apportioned. Even the rice was already cooked; it just needed to be heated in the pan. It made cooking so much easier.
Don’t get me wrong, the others have their place. Blue Apron, in particular, feels like it could be a real learning experience for a dedicated foodie who wants to pick up a few new tricks. If your main goal is cooking dinner for your friends and family, though, Amazon is truly easy mode.
Ultimately, I think Amazon has the right idea in the meal kit industry.
It’s my personal suspicion that the reason why Blue Apron is struggling so much on the public markets is because people try one or several, learn a few new recipes or techniques, and then take the much more cost-effective route of buying the ingredients themselves. That would suit Amazon just fine: Thanks to its Whole Foods buy, Amazon is in the grocery business for the long haul, so either way, it wins.