Munchery just launched a new way to cook - and I gave it a try
Biz Carson/Business Insider
There's GrubHub, DoorDash, Postmates, and Caviar fighting over delivering food from restaurants to your door. Then there's the class of food startups that want to replace your take-out options with their own healthy twist (see Sprig and Maple).
Then there's the last category: startups that send boxes of food to customers so they can cook it themselves. This is ruled by $2 billion company, Blue Apron, while still being challenged by up-and-comers like Plated and HelloFresh.
In the first move of its kind, one startup has evolved to position itself in two categories. Starting Tuesday in San Francisco, ready-to-eat specialist Munchery is launching a new ready-to-cook meal kit on-demand.
"Whenever we asked customers what they would do on nights they weren't ordering Munchery, 75 percent would say they would cook," said Tri Tran, CEO of the four-year-old startup. "The joy of cooking is now in our customers' hands in 10-15 minutes tops. They're going to sautee and maybe stir-fry some meat. Anything that takes a lot of time, like cutting vegetables, we have a prep kitchen that will do that for you."
Competitor Blue Apron has seen success with its cooking kits. Instead of making a weekly run to the grocery store, Blue Apron sends a weekly subscription box filled with food and different recipes.
The only thing Munchery is copying from Blue Apron is the idea that people love cooking food, but are too busy. Otherwise, it's an entirely new product - and one that it hopes will appeal to a different consumer base.
For starters, Munchery is offering its meal kits on-demand and scheduled, like it does its normal prepared meals. You can order a kit to be delivered in 30 minutes, or schedule it for 7 p.m. when you know you'll be back from soccer practice and need to feed everyone.
"No shopping. No prepping. No waste," said Pascal Rigo, the founder of Starbucks-owned La Boulange chain who joined the startup as its chief customer experience officer in early October. "You have this kind of achievement that you have for yourself when you cook at home."
Also unlike other services, Munchery doesn't lock users into a subscription plan. While some Blue Apron and Plated users have liked the subscription model, others have felt the "mental weight of having this box of eight meals you have to get through and cook," said CB Insights analyst Michael Dempsey.
"I don't think it's as big an impact for Sprig and Maple as it is for Blue Apron and Plated. I think they're signaling that 'we can do this, and do it on-demand,'" Dempsey said.
The third advantage is its partner chefs: Rigo, and Charles Phan, chef-owner of The Slanted Door restaurant in San San Francisco. Instead of being easy instruction versions of the classic, the menu at Munchery features restaurant-quality dishes from Phan and Rigo, but in a ready-to-cook version at home. Each kit is prepared for two people, and runs between $18 - $24, Tran said. Desserts cost $9. Right now, the ready-to-cook kits are launching in San Francisco only.
"I grew up watching my mom cook. I didn't have the option to call a delivery place in '60s Vietnam," Phan said. "Now we're just so busy we stopped being in the kitchen, but this will bring us back."
Before its launch, Munchery gave Business Insider a test of its new Ready-to-Cook kits. While I initially wanted to nickname them 'Lunchables for adults,' the Munchery meal kits surprised me in the quality you can cook in 15 minutes or less. The best part, like Phan said, was being back in the kitchen and trying something new and outside of my comfort zone.