Whether you’re new to food delivery services and deciding whether they’re right for you, or a seasoned subscriber considering alternative options, this review runs the competitors across categories from price and delivery time, to healthiness and environmental impact. I crown one winner per category, with an overall winner at the end of the review.
So without further adieu, let’s jump right in.
As of mid-2018, HelloFresh is the leading meal-kit service provider in the United States. The company, what I call an all-around meal-kit service, provides high quality, pre-measured ingredients and simple recipes for easy at home cooking. Each week, the company curates 15 dishes for you to choose from with clear nutritional information and easy to follow cooking instructions.
Here’s what they say in their own words: “Whether you are a vegetarian, on a low-calorie diet, or looking for something quick and easy, HelloFresh has recipes that you will love. Our dedicated team of chefs works alongside our dietitians to create 15 new recipes each week. We select your meals based on your preferences but also give you the flexibility to select meals from your weekly menu.”
Purple Carrot is what I call a ‘speciality’ meal-kit service that delivers fresh ingredients so you can cook delicious, vegan and vegetarian meals in the comfort of your own home. The company is on a mission to take plant-based meals mainstream and has teamed up with Quarterback Tom Brady in creating a special line of meals to fuel athletes or individuals looking for higher performance.
In my experience, the recipes are fairly similar to ‘regular’ recipes but with plants, vegetables, beans, peas, or other legumes as meat protein substitutes. Purple Carrot drives home the idea that a plant-based diet is better for health and the environment and broadly speaking the key to better quality of life.
So, each of these companies offers delivery of pre-portioned, fresh ingredients to your home. What are your options in terms of plans and price? I chose to compare the most popular plan option for both companies (you can find a more extensive review of all plans and pricing in my individual company reviews.)
Let’s start with HelloFresh. The most popular option is the “Classic Plan” which also has the greatest amount of choice in serving size and the number of meals you can order per week.
You have the choice of how many servings you order, either for 2 people or 4, and the number or recipes you receive per week. That means if you choose the 2 person plan with 2 recipes per week, you’ll get 4 servings (two for each of you). Here’s what the price breakdown looks like for 2 people:
Obviously the more recipes you order, the more you pay. The most expensive option per serving is going to be the two recipes per week option for two people, also with the most expensive shipping cost. I found the most manageable option in terms of financial cost, ability to cook everything was the 2 person plan with 3 recipes per week, though adjust accordingly with your own household’s needs!
Now let’s take a look at Purple Carrot:
At present, Purple Carrot only offers pre-portioned plans for 2 people, with 3 dinners per week. There are three plans: Chef’s Choice, Quick and Easy, and High Protein, all $12 per serving, and $72/week. Shipping costs are included.
I’m also going to include prep time in the price category because this is a cost many professionals think about when considering whether to subscribe to meal-kits. Overall, HelloFresh meals average about 30 minutes from prep to the finished meal, which was 15 minutes faster than with the ‘gourmet’ meals from Purple Carrot. I’ve written about this before, but think the longer time was due to more cutting and fine prep of vegetables in the PC recipes.
Similar to HelloFresh, Purple Carrot does allow you to customize the meals you receive each week, so long as you do so at least 1 week before you box ships. While the overall options are not as numerous, it’s still a nice option.
Overall, Purple Carrot serves an equal amount of food as HelloFresh but at a higher price point, and with less customization within plans. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, Purple Carrot offers a solid option, though more expensive. If you’re on budget and short on time, HelloFresh offers superior value. Given the ability to customize plans and more inexpensive options across those plans, I give HelloFresh the category.
So you’ve chosen a delivery plan for each company, and are thinking of signing up. What exactly do you get, and is the quality of equal or better to what you can find at your local grocery? I found the answer a general yes.
On one hand, none of the ingredients in either of these boxes is anything you cannot find shopping on your own. On the other hand, the companies have both conveniently curated solid ingredients that are delivered in a chilled box to prevent soiling, so you don’t have to travel to buy produce.
Purple Carrot uses exclusively plant ingredients, and in my experience, the produce sent is high quality. This seems a necessity given that the base of all dishes are vegetables or legumes. HelloFresh also sent high-quality ingredients, packaged in less plastic, which I’ll speak more on in the recycling section below. Here are some snapshots of the raw ingredients:
HelloFresh raw ingredients.
Purple Carrot ingredients
Ingredients for the German Style Carrot Dogs.
Ingredients for the Filipino Barbecue Skewers.
There was one small complaint I had about the freshness of the cilantro from HelloFresh; half of it was dried out and unusable in my recipe, though I haven’t encountered any ingredients that haven’t met a high standard. I’m giving Purple Carrot this category based on veggie freshness and how well insulated the packaging was.
Winner: Purple Carrot
This one is a tough category to grant a winner since it’s generally subjective and my palette is unlikely to be the same as everyone else’s. In general, though, I found the HelloFresh cooking more tasty and similar to something I’d cook at home. I’ve had experiences with other meal-kit services where the food was delicious, don’t get me wrong, but definitely higher in salt or fat than something I could whip up on my own. HelloFresh delivered on their promise of quick and easy home-style cooking. Here are some pictures of the meals I put together:
HelloFresh Tilapia and Green Beans
HelloFresh Chicken Cheddar Fajitas
Purple Carrot did surprise in the flavor department. I think vegetable-based meals, salads and company included, often get a bad rap as trading flavor and heartiness for healthy but shallow flavored food. In terms of healthiness, I’d say Purple Carrot wins because plants, in general, are better for our health than meats, and the flavorings were low on salt and preservatives.
Purple Carrot Plated German Style Carrot Dogs
Purple Carrot Filipino Barbecue Skewers with green scallion on a bed of white rice.
In terms of taste, I’d give HelloFresh with the win. While yes, Purple Carrot has done a great job maintaining flavor in their recipes, the base is simply not the same as what HelloFresh included. There’s a flavor and texture depth that’s hard to match, and Purple Carrot hasn’t bridged that gap yet. HelloFresh in comparison, with simple and fast meals, provided a delicious alternative to my own home cooking.
With this category, it really comes down to commitment in using environmentally friendly packaging that can be recycled and composed. Yes, it’s also about reducing the total amount of wrapping used, but there’s an inevitable amount that is created in simply shipping an insulated box to your front door. Both of these companies have made solid commitments to recycling and have dedicated pages on their websites for how to break the materials down:
Purple Carrot recycling page screenshot.
Suggestions for composting.
Purple Carrot takes this category in that they have a more extensive build out on their page for how to compost the waste, and also that because they use plant products, more of it can be composted or recycled than with other services.
As an interesting aside, GreenChef, a competitor meal-kit company acquired by HelloFresh is remarkably eco-friendly with their packaging. Hoping to see HelloFresh and others move in a similar direction.
Winner: Purple Carrot
While HelloFresh takes a majority of the categories below, I think both of these companies deserve recognition for the service they provide within the meal-kit subscription space. If you want an all around meal-kit service with a high level of flexibility in price, delivery frequency, and the ability to choose, I’d say that HelloFresh is hands down the winner.
On the other hand, Purple Carrot serves up high-quality meals for vegetarians, vegans, or those with tighter dietary restrictions without much loss on taste and flavoring. It’s also a great alternative for athletes looking for primarily plant-based protein, though all of their meals at a higher price point. In terms of my own diet, I’d prefer HelloFresh for taste, convenience, and range of ingredients provided, but the type of kit you choose ultimately rests on your own dietary preferences and budget.
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by Insider Envy Staff