What makes one meal subscription service stand out from the rest? And what does Martha Stewart have to do with it?

You’re busy — you have a full-time job, you’re raising a family, you have friends you never get to see, and on top of that, you’re throwing a dinner party. Meal subscription services get it. That’s why they’ve decided to change the way you shop, cook, eat, and entertain.

But with an explosion of such services on the market — and only so many hapless millennials with nary an ounce of cooking experience to appeal to — it can be a challenge for these companies to differentiate themselves from the competition. Take Marley Spoon, for example: what can they do to convince the culinarily disinclined that they’re truly different from Blue Apron, the OG meal prep service?

Actually, a lot. In the battle royale of meal subscription services, stakeholders have diversified — and quickly. From a focus on vegan and vegetarian options to an official partnership with the Barefoot Contessa’s greatest rival, these companies are developing extremely curated brand identities in order to attract specific target audiences. How are they positioning their brands to fill niche markets? Let’s take a look.

Blue Apron

blue apronBlue Apron isn’t just here to make your weeknight meals a cinch. They want to build a better food system for all of us; and you, future Blue Apron chefs of America, are driving the revolution one box of sustainably sourced, non-GMO, small-business-supporting ingredients at a time.

Blue Apron has been a mainstay of the meal subscription market since the trend began, so they’ve benefitted from sustained consumer attention and press notoriety. Because of their broad exposure, the company doesn’t have to explain to potential subscribers what they do: they can trust that people will come to them.

Instead, the challenge Blue Apron faces is to keep customers once they start buying boxes. With a sweeping utopian vision that capitalizes on consumer activism, Blue Apron’s branding aims to convince a younger, urban-dwelling audience that using their service amounts to nothing less than the renewal of a more equitable American agricultural community. How could you say no to that?

Sun Basket

sun basketWith a website awash in harvest hues and a prominently displayed organic certification, Sun Basket positions itself as the farmer’s market of meal subscription services. Since Sun Basket lacks the name recognition of Blue Apron, they have to convince potential customers that they’re the best service to satisfy their specific needs.

Their paleo, lean and clean, gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options — on top of the 100% recyclable boxes — all serve the higher purpose of winning over every person you’ve ever seen at Whole Foods comparing two bell peppers, scales-of-justice style. While Blue Apron appeals to subscribers’ inner sense of consumer activism, Sun Basket targets consumers who craft an identity out of what they eat and why.

Ocean Box

ocean boxOcean Box delivers fresh seafood straight from their “docks to your doorstep.” While the service differs from Blue Apron and Sun Basket in that it doesn’t provide comprehensive meals, Ocean Box’s website positions the company as a serious contender in the digital transformation of the food industry.

The brand’s challenge is a simple one: to convince skeptics that there’s nothing wrong with putting fish in a box and leaving it on your doorstep. To that end, their website features an in-depth description of their packaging and refrigeration process, a comparison of the routes grocery store seafood typically takes to get to the shelves, and happy couples smiling at clams who appear not to have food poisoning. With clean, fresh web design that subliminally mirrors the cleanliness and freshness of their product, Ocean Box is securing its place as a preeminent e-commerce supplier of niche foods.

Marley Spoon

marley spoonAs another two-word, three-syllable meal subscription service, Marley Spoon had to do something to stand out from the pack — and they pulled out all the stops. Lifestyle maven Martha Stewart has partnered with the service to deliver elegant, no-fuss meals for customers with busy schedules and cultivated palettes.

The brand has built a name for itself through flexibility: you can skip a week if the timing just isn’t right, as well as plan your boxes five weeks in advance. With a tab on their website that just reads “Martha,” the service leans heavily on the cachet of its celebrity sponsor. Access to over 18,000 of her famous recipes, however, makes the partnership a solid PR move for a meal subscription service vying for its place in the market.

Author Jake Dawe

Jake works with our clients and L&T's content management team to create and publish cogent, effective marketing content. A recent graduate of Yale University with a B.A. in American Studies, Jake pursued independent research that traced the evolving voice of ``Shouts and Murmurs`` over ninety years. When he's not writing and editing, Jake is probably watching The Crown or making up for four years of lost pleasure reading. Thanks, college.

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