Yet another media company is joining the food-delivery fray. Food Network has announced a partnership with Instacart, which will integrate Instacart's on-demand grocery-delivery technology with recipes from FoodNetwork.com and Food.com.
Another meal kit? Not technically, but the service works in a similar capacity. While browsing recipes on the Food Network sites, users can now add ingredients from a recipe to their Instacart shopping cart, select a delivery time, and an Instacart Personal Shopper will deliver the items later that same day. A spokesperson describes it as: "the same Instacart service, but you can seamlessly add all of the ingredients you need directly from a recipe on FoodNetwork.com or Food.com to your Instacart shopping cart."
The service is somewhat similar to subscription-based meal kits such as Blue Apron and HelloFresh, which deliver step-by-step, illustrated recipes and pre-portioned ingredients direct to consumers' doors. The Instacart/Food Network service, however, will deliver full-size ingredients, and it doesn't require a subscription. If you find a recipe that calls for a half-cup of sugar, for instance, you'll still have to buy the full bag (plus, you'll need to reference the recipe online rather than via a recipe card).
The partnership certainly isn't the first of its kind. According to TechCrunch, Instacart has already partnered with All Recipes on a nearly identical service, which allows users to add ingredients from a recipe with the click of a button. Last year, Bon Appétit announced it was working with PopCart on a service that also allows users to "shop recipes with a single click."
Alix Baudin, senior vice president and general manager of Digital Products and Operations for Scripps Networks Interactive (the parent company of Food Network), says the partnership is the result of more than a year and a half of discussions: "Instacart has built a great platform around delivery, and we've done a similar job by bringing a large audience to our brand".
Baudin says he still views the service as being in "testing mode," adding that Food Network and Instacart hope to refine it over the next few months. As for whether it could lead to a subscription-based model that goes head-to-head with Blue Apron, he says "there aren't any initial discussions to try and create new business models." An Instacart spokesperson also said that the company had no announcements to make regarding a potential subscription-based model.
"If we can nail this [partnership], then we'll discuss other options," says Baudin, who is quick to add that Food Network's relationship with Instacart isn't an exclusive one. "We could work with other partners in the future, and we've worked with other partners in the past. We're always in discussions."
If Food Network did decide to join the meal kit game, it would be joining a crowded field. There are currently an estimated 150 meal kit companies on the market, and a recent report from Packaged Facts argues that, due to high costs of expansion, no meal kits are actually profitable just yet.
The supposed lack of profitability hasn't stopped a number of new players from joining the game, though. Last month, The New York Times announced it would be beefing up the capabilities of its cooking website by teaming up with the meal delivery startup Chef'd to offer recipe kit packages. Amazon will launch its meal kit service, a partnership with Tyson Foods, this fall.