How meal kits are changing the food industry — through waste reduction and sustainable efforts

As meal kits have risen in popularity throughout the country, they’ve represented a new and convenient option for anyone who might not have the time to cook or even meal prep for the work week. Even for myself, balancing work and school has left me almost little to no time to buy and prepare ingredients, much less cook for the week! A 2017 report from Packaged Facts, “Meal Kits Delivery Services in the U.S., 2nd Edition,” revealed the meal kits market was worth $5 billion.

But with the rise of pre-proportioned, with recipes and all, meal kits dominating the food industry, perhaps it’s worth to take a closer look — and realize that these kits aren’t just helping us feed ourselves during stressed times: they’re doing a lot more than that.  

A recent study from the University of Michigan showed meal kits have shown meal kits have a much lower overall carbon footprint than the same meals purchased from supermarkets. While meal kits have often received flack for their packaging, the answer lies in how much greenhouse emissions are produced throughout the entire process, not just packaging — agriculture, distribution, consumption and waste generation. 

This means that the pre-proportioned ingredients that the meal kits provide as well as their emphasis on decreasing food waste makes them more sustainable, as the transportation and food waste generate significantly more waste than plastic itself. Since oftentimes, the food we buy at groceries come in larger portions than we need — and as the food is often perishable — we find ourselves throwing away the extra. That’s why meal kits represent a sustainable approach to meal prep and cooking: by making sure we don’t have any of that extra food to begin with, and minimize food waste. 

Not only that, though, is the recent trend towards “green, ethical and sustainable” meal kits. Some companies use USDA organic, non-GMO or vegan ingredients, with other companies having a local emphasis for the ingredient use. Recycled materials could be used for packaging as well, thus even eliminating concerns for plastic waste. Many businesses and business models are now relying on underlying sustainable and eco-friendly themes. Ultimately, if you’re interested in meal kits for yourself, you can certainly find lots of information about these companies, as well as what types of ingredients they use, how they source their ingredients, as well as packaging. Perhaps they might be an option for you in the future!

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