Amazon is challenging Blue Apron in the meal preparation business. There isn’t much regulation in this industry, so how can consumers protect themselves?
Hot on the heels of its purchase of Whole Foods for nearly $14 billion, Amazon is now setting its sights on a meal preparation service.
In a trademark application filed last month, Amazon indicated its intention to sell prepared food kits and packaged meals with the slogan, “We do the prep. You be the chef.”
The Whole Foods purchase and trademark filing are just the latest food-related Amazon ventures.
A grocery delivery service, AmazonFresh, has been available in select U.S. and international cities for close to a decade.
With this latest move, it appears that Amazon plans to take on Blue Apron, the current U.S. leader in the meal prep service.
With all the services being offered, things might become confusing for customers.
That’s why a dietitian interviewed by Healthline said that health-conscious consumers should carefully read the labels on pre-prepared meals.
Blue Apron was founded in 2012 and went public earlier this summer.
Despite its success, the online service has hit a few snags along the way.
Its facility in Richmond, Calif., has come under scrutiny from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health following inspections.
Since its initial public offering in June, Blue Apron share prices have fallen below its $10 per share opening.
The falling shares may be attributable to investors taking a wait-and-see attitude to the news of Amazon’s upcoming meal prep service.
While consumers can read ingredient lists and nutritional data, it can be tough to find additional information on meal prep kits.
Blue Apron does use organic ingredients in some, but not all, of its meals.
Consumers will have to wait until Amazon launches its service to see what kinds of ingredients are used.
Both Blue Apron and Amazon were contacted by Healthline, but neither responded to requests for an interview for this story.
Officials at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) told Healthline they’ve been taking a look at food prep services.
“The FDA is currently studying the issue but has not issued any guidance specific to home meal delivery kits,” FDA Press Officer Peter Cassell wrote in an email. “However, the lack of guidance specific to these products would not preclude the FDA from taking action as appropriate.”
Meals delivered cold should be eaten within two hours, or refrigerated or frozen for later.
When it comes to meals, home cooking might be the best option.
“I think the biggest concern that I’ve noticed just in checking out a few [meal delivery services] is that the calories are kind of high, and fat and sodium in general are a little bit higher than what we would normally recommend for a home-cooked meal,” Lauren Popeck, a registered dietitian at Orlando Health, told Healthline.
“If you’re interested in one of these meal services, then the main thing to look for is whether it’s going to fit with the individualized approach that’s going to work best with you — looking out for things like sodium, carbs and sugars, calories, and portion sizes,” Popeck added.
Despite these concerns, Popeck said that the biggest problem for her patients when it comes to unhealthy food isn’t meal prep services, but rather fast food and convenience food.
It’s understood that a nutritionally sound home-cooked meal is generally healthier than anything that’s pre-made since the cook can choose the ingredients and oversee all aspects of its preparation.
But what about people who don’t have time to cook?
Popeck says that health-conscious consumers can still eat nutritious food that isn’t tough to prepare.
“It’s important to start with your fruits and your veggies. A lot of these are things that don’t require any cooking, and they’re quick and easy, so it’s crucial to make sure that they’re a part of every meal,” she said. “There are also frozen veggies that you can steam right in the bag, as well as veggies in the produce section that are chopped and ready to go.”
When it comes to pre-prepared meals, whether they’re purchased in a grocery store or delivered to your door, it’s important to be mindful of ingredients and nutritional information.
“I usually tell my patients to look at the ingredients to begin with,” said Popeck. “Nutritional information can get very specific with carbs, calories, sodium, fat, and all that. But if we can start with the ingredients list, we can pick more natural products that don’t have a lot of the sugars or the added salts or even chemicals added. That’s the best place to start.”