Meal Delivery Service Review Methodology
The meal delivery industry seems to be expanding daily, with new kits and ready-to-eat meals for nearly every group. There are kits for folks looking to stay within a tight budget, options for plant-based eaters or sustainability-minded cooks, and plenty to choose from if you just want dinner for your family done in under 30 minutes. We wanted to make it easy for our readers to find a delivery service that’s the right fit for them.
Our team of writers, editors, dietitians, and researchers ordered, cooked, rated, researched, and scored nearly 50 of the most popular meal delivery services on the market, documenting the entire process. We even interacted with customer service teams during our testing process.
We ended up with more than a dozen data-driven articles, all to help consumers make an informed purchase decision.
We began this project by compiling a list of the most-searched meal delivery services using advanced SEO tools. This told us what people were looking for. From there, our in-house team spent weeks putting together detailed project plans, which ultimately led us to create two surveys for each tester to fill out: one focused on the company and another that asked questions about the meals.
These surveys gave us a wealth of information about each service, their offerings, who their meals were geared toward, nutritional data about the food, and much more. We then brought the findings to our data science team, which was able to pick apart the data and put it into a rubric. After several more brainstorming sessions and meetings with a registered dietitian consultant, we categorized the data into five areas that we felt are essential to the meal delivery experience: sustainability, customer experience, nutrition, cookability, and eating experience.
Sustainability: Packaging and Sourcing
We understand that packaging is a critical part of how meal delivery companies manage to get fresh food to our doorstep, but anyone who has ordered from one of these services knows that packaging can become excessive, even overwhelming. Not only does this impact the overall experience, but it can be a major concern for sustainability if you’re going to use the service on a regular basis. We captured detailed packaging data about each company using a form to document which types of plastic and paper products were in each shipment. Information about whether the companies offer sustainably sourced or humane ingredients was also collected, and we used all of that to calculate a sustainability score for the companies.
Customer Experience: Customer Service and Customizability
If the main function of a meal delivery service is making life easier, then these companies should be all about the ultimate customer experience. We broke this rating into two parts: how customizable was the experience, and how well did the customer service teams handle our inquiries? Our rating for customization was based on data points surrounding the flexibility of ordering, when and how you make changes, delivery options, add-ons, and more. Companies that offered more flexibility and easily allowed changes scored better, while more rigid structures fared worse.
We also had our testers put customer service teams to the test by reaching out with questions, whether they had actual issues or not. While individual experiences are detailed in each review, we ranked the customer care experience based on responsiveness and how many avenues there were to reach the team.
Nutrition: Transparency and Accommodation
As our personal definitions of what’s considered “healthy” food become more individualized, meal delivery services are trying to keep up. One way they’re doing this is by offering meals that accommodate various dietary restrictions. Another is by providing more in-depth information about nutrition and allergens for customers as they select their meals. Rather than rating meal kits and prepared meals based on our definition of “healthy,” we scored them based on whether or not they gave enough information and customization so that you could decide if they meet yours.
We scored companies on certain measures of flexibility (such as portion size), the ability to accommodate various diets and nutrition needs, as well as the availability of information related to ingredients and allergens.
Cookability: Recipe Quality and Cooking Support
Some customers are looking for a quick and easy dinner option while others want a more complex and gourmet cooking experience. No matter which type, however, the recipes should be easy to use, accurate, and perhaps even educational. The cookability score is highest for companies that gave accurate recipes, provided additional resources such as a blog or videos that made cooking easier, and/or explicitly taught cooking techniques.
Whether you want dinner on the table in 15 minutes or you have an hour to cook, you can trust that companies with a high cookability score will reliably get you there.
Eating Experience: Food Quality and Menu Variety
While all elements of a meal delivery service can have an impact, maybe nothing is more important than the food itself. Needs can vary, but no matter your budget, diet, or location, everyone wants fresh ingredients, flavorful meals, and a menu with plenty of delicious options to choose from.
Our testers rated meals from each service based on the quality of individual ingredients, down to the leafy greens. We also asked them to rank how many menu selections they had with each service and how diverse the meal choices were. Companies that scored well in the eating experience had the most options to choose from and the freshest-looking food.
Meet the Team
Jason Devaney is an associate editorial director on the Performance Marketing team at Dotdash Meredith. He has more than 20 years of editorial experience and has worked in a variety of roles at regional and national newspapers, magazines, broadcast networks, websites, and even startups.
He fell in love with food during a summer spent in Italy in 2014, and now spends his free time exploring local coffee shops, tasting his favorite French red wines, and experimenting in the kitchen.
Katie is a food editor for performance marketing at Dotdash Meredith, where she creates content and assigns and edits food articles for brands that include Simply Recipes, The Spruce Eats, Real Simple, Food & Wine, and more. She has spent over a decade in publishing, working on titles that ranged from décor to entertainment.
Kayleigh is an associate food editor for the Performance Marketing team at Dotdash Meredith. She has nearly a decade of combined experience in both the media and culinary industries.
A licensed registered dietitian and culinary nutritionist, Tori Martinet works with individuals and brands on all things food and nutrition. She holds a bachelor’s degree in cellular and molecular neuroscience and a master’s in nutrition and exercise physiology.
In addition to her consulting and writing work, Tori has served as a guest lecturer for NYU and Columbia University Teachers College and has served as a preceptor to over 60 dietetic interns from Columbia.
Hannah Kang is a research associate at Simply Recipes, where she helps put together data-driven recommendations through research, data collection, rubrics, and more.
Hannah has an extensive background conducting research for Fortune 500 companies and multinational pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Roche, Takeda, and Merck. She holds a master’s degree in psychology and a bachelor's degree in psychology and social behavior.