One of the unfortunate secrets of meal kits that come with pre-measured ingredients is that although they are touted as a time-saving innovation, they don’t actually save all that much time. Most reviews echo the sentiment that meal kits will save users some time in the planning and execution part of meal preparation in the course of a week — because instead of having to hunt down recipes, stock ingredients and plan what to prepare, a meal kit service takes that off a consumer’s plate, so to speak.
As for the actual food preparation itself, however, for the consumer looking for a quick 30-minute meal to throw together on a weeknight, the average meal kit out of the box is not going to be the hoped-for super speedy option since most sources agree that 40 minutes is about the minimum time to expect for preparation. The cooking experience may be fun and pleasant, and most reviewers say they learn new meals and techniques as a result of using the services — but as a time-saving method alone its usefulness is questionable.
And sometimes when it comes to making a meal, according to Clean Planet Foods President Shawn Spencer, the need for speed is actually fairly primary. Which has meant for the last several decades eating something fairly terrible that could be easily heated up in a microwave.
Unlike most of its fellows in the wild world of meal kits that sell an array of ingredients to be combined into a meal with multiple sides, Clean Planet is focused on what the company describes as “center of the plate” proteins, also known as the meat course. What consumers gain access to are “center-of-plate entrées” which each come individually wrapped in a special, BPA-free pouch that steams in the juices when it is popped in the microwave for roughly 60 seconds.
All the items can be stored in the refrigerator until they are ready to be used. The entrees also come with suggested recipes that can be quickly prepared and offer a side to the main course Clean Planet sends in the mail.
Clean Planet’s cooked meats come refrigerated and packaged in individual servings of 3 to 4.5 ounces. The product line currently contains 10 options — beef, turkey and chicken-based main courses infused with other flavors and ingredients — and the firm notes that more are currently awaiting regulatory approval for an additional eight products to be added, likely in 2020. The food can last up to 45 days in a refrigerator. Freezing can extend that shelf life further, though the company strongly doesn’t recommend that, since defrosting meat can negatively impact its taste.
And taste is a critical value for the firm, which has as a goal not just offering consumers a new way to buy food, but actually influencing how consumers eat for the better. Critical to that goal is making food that actually tastes good because it can’t be healthy or convenient enough if the flavor is actually unappetizing.
“Lots of people have simply given up eating right because they don’t want to sacrifice taste. We don’t think people should have to make that choice,” he said.
Because it is possible to provide for both — and make it easy to prepare as well.
The challenge for Clean Planet now is getting the word out there. One can buy directly from the firm on its digital portal. A package of two patties costs about $5, and a package of eight about $12. Clean Planet is also working to push into grocery stores outside their home state of Michigan for additional exposure.
And though the firm is entering a crowded market where it hasn’t been historically easy to successfully scale even when a firm manages to break out from the crowd, Clean Planet Foods is confident it has a different value proposition in a world as starved for time as it is things to eat at dinnertime.