Amazon has reportedly started trialling a meal delivery service, after trademark registrations prompted speculation that it was closing in on the booming category.
According to GeekWire, the technology giant has started offering 17 different meals to existing users of AmazonFresh – its grocery delivery service.
Amazon Meal Kits are only available in select locations in the US, but documents from the United States Patent and Trademark Office raised suspicions earlier in the week that the company was planning on taking the service nationwide.
It filed trademarks for various versions of the same slogan – “We do the prep. You be the chef.” – and described a service involving ‘prepared food kits’ with a combination of meat and fish, fruit and vegetables, sauces, and seasonings.
It’s easy to see how meal kits could be bolted on to Amazon’s mainstay delivery business, including the AmazonFresh service.
It comes a month after Amazon acquired retailer Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, which analysts said was a sign that Amazon intended to delve deeper into conventional food retailer and a possible concession that it will need physical stores in order to do it.
It had already trialled a brick-and-mortar convenience store, dubbed AmazonGo, with payment through smartphones and touchscreens in store.
GeekWire reported that the meal boxes were available for between $8 and $10 a person, with the company claiming the recipes can be cooked in 30 minutes.
That proposition puts it in direct competition with the likes of Blue Apron, which has been affected badly by Amazon’s trademark filings and a failed IPO.
Vegetarian options like the veggie burger with harissa aioli and smoked eggplant were the cheapest. Other meals included roast chicken with tarragon and mushroom sauce, plus steak au poivre, and wagyu burger with bacon jam and sweet potato fries.
Amazon reportedly markets the boxes as “easy-to-follow, chef-designed recipes” with “perfectly portioned fresh ingredients”.
The US meal kit delivery segment is currently booming, as consumers recognise the balance between convenience and fresh quality.
The largest player is Blue Apron, but major companies like Nestlé, Campbell’s and Unilever have all invested heavily in the category in recent weeks.
According to research from Walker Sands – yet to be published but seen by FoodBev – online grocery shopping is on the rise.
Nearly one in five consumers (19%) say they’re ‘extremely likely’ to make an online grocery purchase in the next year, with another 26% saying they’re ‘somewhat likely’.
Online grocery is especially ripe for millennial adoption: one in five consumers aged 26-35 prefer buying groceries online, and a quarter of them already have some kind of grocery subscription, or branded recipe or meal delivery.
But consumers still have some reservations when it comes to ordering groceries online. They say they’re wary of the cost of delivery, distrust the freshness of the product, and think that the per-portion cost is often too expensive.
The arrival of Amazon, then – as well as major names such as Campbell’s and Unilever – may help ignite growth in this nascent category.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019