Friday, April 27, 2018

Meal Kits? Not for me, thanks.

The latest trend in how to buy groceries may be meal kits. As everyone knows, these boxes of pre-measured ingredients plus recipe, delivered by mail or UPS, allow you to cook without premeditation, but with quite a bit of expense and commitment. I've never tried them, and probably never will. I keep a very fully stocked pantry and can follow a recipe (and know many without looking), but the idea interests me anyway.

Many articles have indicated is that instead of being ordered and delivered, meal kits are coming soon to a market near you! Why? Because customers who try meal kit plans usually drop out quickly, so the various food-kit-providers need a new way to sell their product. As the Wall Street Journal says: "Blue Apron Holdings Inc. will try to give its struggling business a boost by selling meal kits in stores, acknowledging that its subscription-only model isn’t enough in an intensifying fight to fill people’s dinner plates." (link)

1944 Kraft Dinner Ad.
Curious about the trend I looked on, to see if their partnership with Whole Foods was trying to fill this niche. I found no Amazon or Whole Foods branded meal kits -- but I was incredibly amused to see a "sponsored" link to the good old days: it offered me Kraft Dinner Mac and Cheese. I guess that actually is a kind of meal kit: everything you need in one box.

This got me to thinking. Twentieth-century food manufacturers really offered lots of "meal kit" products that enabled quick preparations from packaged food and didn't require a fully stocked pantry. Some were complete, some required the addition of meat. (The same is true for some of the meal kits now offered on Amazon.)

For example, from a newsletter for the food industry, I read:
"Meal kits for years have been a way to quickly prepare a family meal. The first packaged meal kit was most likely Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, created in 1937. Hamburger Helper was introduced in 1971 in response to a meat shortage and escalating meat prices." (source)
Curiously, I looked for ads for familiar "meal kits" from the past.

OK, you had to add meat -- but here's a coupon
for seven cents off the price of Hamburger Helper.
Chun King Chop Suey "meal kit" of cans dates from 1940s.
This painfully racist ad for a chop suey kit from La Choy
dates from 1955. My mother was a customer: I remember the little bottles
of soy sauce that would stay in the refrigerator forever. (source)
1960s ad for Rice-a-Roni, invented in the 1950s.
What more can I say?

1 comment:

Jeanie said...

I'll have my occasional Lean Cuisine or in a pinch Bob Evans mashed potatoes (which are surprisingly good) but overall, there is so much more satisfaction in going to the store, choosing the best meat or veggies and making it yourself. It's nice to have conveniences and we probably all use them, but it's not nearly as good a feeling when all is said and done!