A culture of curated convenience: The rise of food delivery services
Has pizza delivery become passé? Probably. In recent years, food delivery services have exploded in popularity, offering hungry consumers much more than takeout meals from their favorite restaurants. Shiny new start-ups deliver "curated" collections of snacks, local produce, healthy ready-made meals and ingredient kits complete with recipes from celebrity chefs.
Delivery services is one of the most rapidly growing sectors of start-up activity, according to The New York Times. Between the beginning of 2014 and the first half of 2015, investors doled out more than $730 million to food delivery companies like Postmates, Instacart and DoorDash - a whopping 1,100 percent increase from the same period a year and a half earlier. And in 2015, the global "food tech space," as the sector is being called, raised a record $5.7 billion dollars, according to CB Insights.
An option for everyone
Whatever your food preference, there's a delivery service that's right for you, and they span the gamut of trendy Silicon Valley names like Urthbox, Mantry and Treatsie. Discerning snackers can have a selection of trail mixes, granola bars and other nutritious munchies delivered weekly to their doorsteps with Graze, while adventurous eaters can travel the globe to taste new foods and flavors without ever having to leave their couch with Try the World. For consumers who want to cook healthy meals, Hello Fresh delivers boxes full of balanced, nutritious recipes and pre-measured ingredients, making the cooking process even easier. And If consumers would rather just eliminate any effort altogether, they can sign up with start-ups like Sprig or Freshology that deliver healthy prepared meals.
But why the rise in food delivery services? A society's eating habits are often a reflection of the culture of the times, and these start-ups have their finger tapped right into the zeitgeist.
Millennials still munch, but differently
The growth of food delivery services is in large part due to the unique food attitudes of Millennials that represent a sharp shift from the behaviors of past generations. Millennials are prioritizing healthy lifestyles, choosing nutritious and sustainably sourced foods over synthetic, store-bought food products. They're opting to hit the gym instead of the bar, and thinking more about how they're fueling their bodies.
According to a Nielsen Global Health and Wellness survey, 32 percent of Millennials are willing to pay a premium for "healthier" products, compared to 21 percent of Baby Boomers. And the younger the consumer, the more strongly they feel about healthy eating: The survey found that 41 percent of those under 20, or "Generation Z," as they're being called, are willing to pay a higher price for healthier products. Healthy food delivery services are the perfect solution to young consumers' conundrum of wanting convenience without all the calories.
The future of food tech
There's still a lot of untapped potential in the food tech services market, though companies will have to innovate to stay ahead. Competition with similar food delivery services battling for the same customers is the main challenge the sector faces, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"Ninety-five percent of the market is still transacting via paper menus and phones," said Stan Chia, senior vice president of operations at delivery service GrubHub, in an interview with the newspaper. "There's a lot of room for people to come in, innovate and disrupt."
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