THE BLOG
11/04/2016 06:35 pm ET Updated Nov 05, 2017

The Meal Delivery Service Industry Is Exploding: Here Are Some Favorites

Convenience has always been a priority for consumers -- especially when it comes to food. And the meal delivery industry is revolutionizing the way we receive (and eat) healthy, hearty meals.

Though this trend surfaced just four years ago, it's now a $400 million market -- and it's projected to grow tenfold within five years. Clearly, healthy, convenient meals arriving on doorsteps is something everyone can sink their teeth into.

More than 100 meal delivery services exist in the U.S, each with its purportedly unique spin, but here are five companies that stand out:

1. Metabolic Meals: Metabolic Meals alleviates the stress of planning and prepping meals by delivering fresh, high-quality dishes right to customers' doorsteps. In addition to being eco-friendly, the packaging keeps meals fresh from start to finish, no matter where in the continental U.S. customers live. In doing this, the company prioritizes customers' health, whether those customers are seeking convenience, aiding fitness goals, or trying to lose weight.

Metabolic Meals offers a variety of meal plans with menus that change weekly: Consumers can create their own or have the company's in-house chefs and nutrition specialists create plans for them. These plans can all be personalized based on an individual's health requirements and fitness goals, showing Metabolic Meals' dedication to serving its clients the nutrition they need. And the biggest benefit to ordering your meals through this service? Each dish is prepared with the freshest, healthiest ingredients -- everything is gluten-free and soy-free, and the brand uses grass-fed proteins. It also utilizes a wide variety of organic ingredients, which makes the flavor and quality of the meals excellent.

While its service is not yet available in Alaska or Hawaii, this limitation seems to be due to Metabolic Meals' commitment to the freshness of its meals.

2. Plated: For aspiring chefs seeking convenience, Plated delivers chef-created recipes and ingredients to your doorstep weekly. Customers can choose from nine portioned recipes that rotate weekly (and desserts are available, too).

In addition to selecting their own recipes, customers can skip weeks or swap recipes. The ingredients arrive fresh and flavorful, ready to be prepared as part of a high-quality meal. And the ingredients are often cheaper through Plated than they would be purchased at the store.
The wait time for ingredients can be lengthy, though, and the sometimes pricey options often lack seasonings like salt or pepper within the packaging. For consumers seeking an intro to cooking that eliminates the grocery shopping, Plated is a great option, but those looking for the full convenience of meal plan delivery may seek another service.

3. Freshly: Freshly, too, boasts a menu prepared entirely by professional chefs, with every dish ready to eat in just two minutes. Perhaps the biggest win of this meal delivery service is that entrées are gluten-free and all-natural; they include no processed sugars. While Freshly does offer a few vegetarian options, it unfortunately lacks vegan ones.

The meal service provides four separate plans, each offering a higher number of weekly meals than the last. And, like all the other delivery services mentioned, dishes arrive at your front door.

While most of the meals are pretty tasty, some are hit-or-miss options (or even undercooked). The week-to-week variety can also be lacking. Though Freshly boasts low-carb, high-protein meals, some of its dishes have much higher calorie counts and sodium content than expected. It's convenient, but it may not be the best choice for customers with certain health concerns.

4. Blue Apron: Blue Apron's biggest selling point is its variety of foods -- not a single recipe is repeated throughout a whole year. This meal delivery service serves up recipes and ingredients created by its own culinary team, as well as guest chefs. Each dish ranges between 500 and 800 calories, and all ingredients, according to Blue Apron's site, are fresher than what you'd find at a supermarket. Its meats are also raised on antibiotic- and hormone-free diets.

The company provides free delivery to any place in the country. Still-fresh ingredients arrive in a refrigerated box at your door, packaged separately and ready to be turned into a delicious dinner. For those looking to eliminate the time grocery shopping consumes, the service is perfect.

One downside to Blue Apron, however, is its limited plan choices: Customers must sign up for a subscription, instead of getting to test out the service first, and are unable to select their own menu items, unlike other meal delivery services. While the pricing is reasonable, nutrition facts aren't provided for any entrées.

5. bistroMD: Broken down into a four-step process, bistroMD's meal program focuses primarily on weight loss. Customers first choose a weight-loss plan and then customize it, order it, and receive it.
According to its site, bistroMD's meal plans aren't just about controlling calories or portions; they're also based on "the science of what your body needs to lose fat and maintain a lifetime commitment to health." The delivery service works with a team of registered dietitians to get meal plans exactly right, in terms of both health and taste.

The brand's menu includes dishes for every meal of the day (even snacks) and offers more than 150 ways to create a plan.

There are perhaps two issues with this delivery service: the way meals are shipped and the blandness of the dishes. Meals arrive in large Styrofoam boxes filled with dry ice -- not exactly simple or environmentally friendly. Concerning meal blandness, the seasoning (and overall freshness of the food) is lacking.
While these are just five companies in the meal delivery industry, they're five of our favorites. The time is now: Start receiving healthy, hearty, and delicious meals on your doorstep today.