As grocery shopping online gains traction, several start-ups are betting that consumers are willing to shell out for dinner "kits" delivered straight to their door.
Matt Salzberg said he and his partners at Blue Apron were inspired by a typical problem of young urban professionals.
"We were working hard and wanted to cook at home more often but found it very difficult to do all the legwork, the shopping, preparation and cooking to create a great meal," he said.
That frustration spurred the launch of Blue Apron, which has secured $3 million in funding from venture capital firms, Dave Tisch, and founders and executives of Seamless and Facebook.
The company offers a once-a-week subscription service for delivery of three meals for two, four or six people. Customers can choose from vegetarian, poultry, or meat or fish options. The meals, priced at $9.99 each, contain all ingredients in exact amounts, plus recipes and instructions.
The cost turns out to be about the same as doing everything yourself, Salzberg said. Because Blue Apron cuts out the middlemen, buys in bulk and portions appropriately, it's able to offer meals more efficiently and with less waste. For example, customers avoid buying an entire container of a pricey ingredient, such as saffron, when only a pinch is needed.
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Pitching meals ranging from $12 to $15 per person, Julien Nakache, co-founder at Chef Day, said most customers consider the company a less expensive alternative to going to a restaurant. Each week, it offers 10 to 12 recipes to choose from.
"We're more expensive than cooking pasta in your kitchen," he said. "But ... if you need to get all the ingredients together for a nice recipe, the price is roughly the same."
'Final Frontier of Ecommerce'
These companies are capitalizing on a trend that they hope is just the beginning of a revolution: more people ordering groceries and ingredients for meals online.
As consumers grow more accustomed to do other types of shopping online, they have started buying food there, fueling the popularity of online grocers, such as Fresh Direct and Peapod.
Seeing opportunity in delivering fresh food to the masses, Amazon.com announced a major rollout of its online grocery business, AmazonFresh, that it has been developing for years. To the dinner-kit makers, Amazon's move validates their potential.
(Read More: Amazon Plans Major Move Into Grocery Business)
Nick Taranto, Plated's co-founder, said the development corroborates what his year-old business is doing. Just last year, the landscape was different, he said. Plated had more than 150 meetings to obtain funding to hear "yes" only five times.
"We had to cobble together $25,000 and $50,000 checks just to get off the ground," he said.