Home-delivered meal kits offer a range of benefits, from convenience and affordability to health and novelty. However, a new study has uncovered even greater value in the form of sustainability.

Meal kit delivery sustainability

A study conducted by the University of Michigan found that meal kits actually have a much lower carbon footprint compared with supermarket-bought meals when every step in the process is considered.

While meal kits have been targeted for their seemingly excessive use of packaging, store-bought meals generate significantly more greenhouse gas emissions from food waste and transportation logistics. For example, while meal kits are pre-portioned, purchasing ingredients at the supermarket typically involves buying more than what is required, leading to food wastage (and associated material and energy wastage). Furthermore, meal kits are generally delivered to consumers in bulk on a truck route, whereas store-bought meals require individual vehicle trips to the store and back per meal.

As meal kit delivery services proliferate and offer health-conscious consumers even more options to indulge in their home cooking aspirations, communicating a product’s sustainable credentials is one way that businesses can differentiate themselves and get noticed.

More generally, however, the study highlights the need to take a more holistic view of a product’s carbon footprint, as focusing on just one aspect such as packaging can misrepresent its true environmental impact. Consumers rely on information shortcuts to make assessments about a product’s sustainability and focusing entirely on packaging or ‘food miles’ might be easier to process but overlooks the bigger picture. It is the responsibility of brands to communicate their true environmental impact in order to improve consumer understanding and promote transparency. Indeed, in this age of social media-fueled accountability, doing less may ultimately hurt brand image.

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