The meal kit industry was one of the few that saw growth and success during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic — which makes sense, as consumers needed to find alternative ways to enjoy high-quality meals without access to restaurants.
People who hadn’t ever considered using a meal kit service pre-pandemic were suddenly far more interested in the prospect, which — in some ways — spelled out the downfall of many a meal kit brand. Laura Reiley of captures the sentiment perfectly, stating:
“It’s a twist on the adage: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to cook a fish, you feed him for a lifetime — and he probably doesn’t need step-by-step instructions on laminated cards anymore.”
And though the meal kit delivery service market still predicts an increase in value of up to $10 billion by 2024, this doesn’t guarantee the success of every meal kit delivery brand around — especially those that serve niche markets with high price tags.
Instead, we could see the ascendency of “affordable” meal kit brands — ones that provide high-quality food at a much lower price than the competition. Brands like Dinnerly.
At $4.99 a serving, Dinnerly positions itself as “the first affordable meal kit” offering. And it’s not an exaggerated claim — Dinnerly is around half the price of big-name meal delivery kits like Blue Apron, HelloFresh, and Freshly. So, where did Dinnerly come from, and how did it manage to maintain its “affordable” brand association over the past five years?
This deep dive will provide all the answers — plus, three lessons other brands can learn from Dinnerly’s success.
Dinnerly’s Road to Success
Dinnerly is a US-based meal kit service founded in 2017 by Fabian Siegel — and if that name sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because you may have heard it before, albeit attached to another meal kit delivery service, Marley Spoon.
However, Dinnerly is an entirely separate business — which, instead of catering to a more niche target audience looking for premium meals, is aimed at a much larger market: those looking for easy, affordable meals.
Dubbed the “budget-conscious spinoff of Marley Spoon”, Dinnerly's goal since its founding has been to “make regularly cooking with meal kits more affordable, without any cuts to ingredient quality or quantity.” So, how did Dinnerly manage to cut costs without sacrificing quality? Let’s discuss.
How & Why Dinnerly Cut Costs
According to Siegel, Marley Spoon’s top reason for losing customers was simple — the cost. In an interview with Forbes, Siegel explained that:
“Most customers left because they couldn’t afford the product. People love the idea of not having to go to the supermarket for weeknight cooking, but we couldn’t serve the majority."
And on top of the cost being higher than many consumers could maintain, they also still had to cook their own meals — which took away from the appeal. Therefore, Siegel knew that something had to give. Dinnerly had to be different if it was going to serve this particular market and be a success.
So, they made some changes. First, Dinnerly sticks to fixed weekly menus, which allows the brand to buy in bulk and save money. Furthermore, Dinnerly only repeats recipes once a month per season and each recipe uses fewer ingredients than traditional meal kits — which allows the brand to operate more efficiently.
Source: Dinnerly's Press Kit
Second, the packaging and informational inserts are kept to a bare minimum. Instead of adding printed-out recipes and ingredient lists like many other brands, Dinnerly got creative and used the resources it had at its disposal. So, ingredient lists are printed directly on the box, and recipes are emailed to customers — which they can then view on their phone or tablet.
Finally, for its first few years of growth, Dinnerly had a firm “no fancy marketing campaigns” policy — meaning the brand didn’t drop hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to increase brand awareness or brand consideration. Instead, it relied on word-of-mouth promotion and its refer-a-friend program.
However, starting in 2020, Dinnerly did expand its online performance marketing strategy with digital and social media ads, as well as TV spots, in its newest market: Australia.
According to Ashleigh Becker, the head of acquisition at both Dinnerly and Marley Spoon, Dinnerly was able to utilize its “deep level of customer insights and data derived from (...) online marketing efforts” and “take these learnings to broadcast media and continue to introduce the Dinnerly brand to more Australians.”
However, though Dinnerly has deviated a bit from its original “no fancy marketing campaigns” rule, it has stayed true to its roots. And it’s clear from the commercial above that Dinnerly has maintained its unique brand personality and tone of voice — more laid-back, colloquial, and accessible than that of Marley Spoon, for instance.
While these may seem like small, insignificant changes, they allowed Dinnerly to cut back on production costs — which, in turn, allows the brand to maintain its low, affordable prices.
This “minimalist approach” serves as a reliable, easy jumping-off point for the brand’s customers. With quality ingredients and easy-to-follow recipes, clients can always enhance a meal’s flavor with the addition of ingredients they have on hand.
So, what can other brands learn from Dinnerly’s success? Let’s discuss.
3 Lessons To Learn From Dinnerly
Source: Dinnerly's Press Kit
One of the main reasons that Dinnerly’s been successful has been that it started out with (and stuck to) a clear plan: offer high-quality meals at a lower price. Since its founding in the US, Dinnerly has also launched in a few international markets — such as Australia and Germany.
So, let’s take a look at three lessons others can learn from Dinnerly.
1. Simplicity Is Key
When launching or expanding your brand, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to overly complicate things. In order to find success, you need to keep things simple.
However, simple doesn’t mean boring. For Dinnerly, simple meant straightforward, easy to understand, and accessible. The brand’s simplicity was one of its most attractive features for consumers because it got right to the heart of what they were looking for.
When you overcomplicate things — be it your marketing strategy or your brand goals — you make sustainable growth increasingly difficult to achieve. Everyone, both internally and externally, needs to understand what it is your brand stands for and what it hopes to achieve.
To be fair, it's tempting to get lost in the details — but this usually results in you losing sight of the forest for the tress. Therefore, in order to get your brand off the ground, you need to keep it simple.
2. Get Creative To Save On Costs
One of the main reasons Dinnerly is so successful? It’s consistently low cost. However, just because Dinnerly’s meals cost less doesn’t mean they’re of a lower quality than those of Marley Spoon.
Instead, Dinnerly got creative and found inventive ways to save money — fixed menus, digital recipe cards, fewer ingredients, and more. They’re the perfect example of a brand that found a way to offer a low-cost service without sacrificing quality.
So, if you’re looking to cut costs but maintain quality for your own brand, then perhaps it's time you follow in Dinnerly’s footsteps and get creative. Consider every step of your brand’s process — from where you source your materials to how you package your products.
There are plenty of innovative ways you can cut costs that don’t have to impact the quality of your product or service.
3. Consumer Feedback Is Your Guiding Light
Dinnerly came about because Fabien Siegel and the Marley Spoon team listened to their customers and actually made use of the data they had collected. From this data, they discovered that most customers were leaving Marley Spoon because they couldn’t afford the product — not because they didn’t want to use it.
This revealed a huge potential target audience to Siegel — one that wanted access to the convenience that Marley Spoon offered, just at a lower price point. And, with Dinnerly, Siegel was able to deliver.
Often, we think we know what our target audience wants — or even who our target audience is — based on gut feeling or our past experience. And while both can steer you in the right direction, reliable, accurate consumer data will always be a superior resource.
Without access to such customer data, Siegel may never have known why Marley Spoon was losing customers — or what it was they wanted that the brand wasn’t offering.
So, if you’re interested in gathering high-quality consumer data for your own brand, then we suggest trying out brand monitoring software. Remember, the more accurate and trustworthy your data is, the better overall marketing decision you’ll make.
Dinnerly is a testament to the importance of listening to customer feedback and gathering consumer data. It’s taught us the value of simplicity and that creativity is often your greatest asset.
In an industry bursting with competition, Dinnerly found a way to differentiate itself from the pack and meet the needs of an underserved market — which has allowed the brand to thrive where others are struggling.
We’ll be keeping an eye on this visionary budget brand to see what it comes up with next.