By Jessie Hebenstreit and Catherine Ward
In the past, there were fewer females in the workforce, and it was much more common for women to be stay-at-home moms, whose “occupation” was taking care of their family. Shopping for groceries and preparing meals were two of their primary responsibilities, and trips to the grocery store were a regular, and often frequent, part of most women’s lives. They relied on frozen, canned and packaged foods (foods with long shelf-lives, but ones which were often laden with preservatives) to mitigate the need to shop every day.
Food delivery was limited to certain restaurants, most of which offered unhealthy options such as pizza and greasy Chinese food. Some grocery delivery companies existed, but they were a rarity, and the extremely high prices made this a luxurious option that was practical only for the wealthy.
In the 21st century, there is increasing awareness that consuming lots of preservatives and overly processed foods can have negative health effects. There is also more information available on how the food we eat can improve our overall health, increase our energy and can even treat certain health conditions such as diabetes and high cholesterol. As a consequence, there is a significant (and growing) part of the population that has spearheaded a trend towards consuming natural and organic foods as a path towards good health.
As more and more women join the work force and continue to work even after having children, making frequent trips to the grocery store has become more challenging. This challenge is heightened for those who are health conscious and want fresh food rather than packaged, processed food. This segment of society rarely has the time and en energy to shop and cook after a long day at work. In response to these social changes, most restaurants now sell their food as take-out and a number of companies have been created which help make getting groceries and dinner more convenient. For the health-conscious consumer, restaurant food poses a challenge in that dishes which sound healthy may be packed with salt or excess oil and butter. The reality is that seemingly healthy meals may be just the opposite. In New York, where there is a large population with the disposable income to allow them to choose both convenience and health, a number of companies have been established to meet this demand. Among them are Fresh Direct, which provides online delivery service to the customer’s home, and Seamless Web, which reviews and rates restaurants and connects users to all of the restaurants that deliver to their location.
There are also a number of companies which offer healthy, organic meal delivery options—both ready to eat and ready to cook– that include a complete list of ingredients and their measurements, so people can be fully aware of what they are eating and know they are eating foods which will promote their health and well-being.
There are few online sources for organic and healthy meal options. Most of the restaurants on Seamless are quite expensive and do not fit into many people’s budgets. Additionally, the government criteria for determining the quality of a restaurant are quite broad– a restaurant with an “A” rating may serve food laden with chemicals or undercook food that needs to be thoroughly cooked in order to be safe– as the current rating system has broad criteria for granting “A”s.
Based on the current health trends as well as the great desire of busy New Yorkers to have healthy, convenient meal options that are quick and affordable, we predict that delivery websites like Seamless will provide an increasing number of healthy options, where ingredients are all listed and nutrition information is available. Prices for organic, healthy food delivery will drop as the number of companies offering it rise. More and more people will be able to afford these healthy meal options, and this will make cooking and buying large loads of groceries each week less of a necessity for living a healthy lifestyle.
In the future, government regulations and restaurant ratings will develop broader standards, as more and more people will be looking for health as well as taste in the food they choose. With the increasing ease, affordability, and convenience of healthy organic complete meal delivery options, full-room kitchens will no longer be a feature of typical (small-sized) New York City apartment. Instead, kitchens will begin to be like small kitchenettes that are built into the wall. These kitchens will not take up much square footage and can be disguised in living areas by being placed behind sliding doors.
They will only include the appliances ‘necessary’ for the meal-delivery lifestyle. These appliances include: a very small cooktop with one or two burners; a sink; a small refrigerator for beverages and delivery left-overs; a microwave similar to Samsung’s convection microwave with a wide range of uses. There will no longer be need for an oven or a lot of storage space for food (particularly canned goods which will be less desirable due to their preservative content) or pots and pans.
These new health delivery companies will also begin to cater to consumer’s specific dietary and health needs. For example, a client with high cholesterol and who is trying to lose weight will be provided with meals designed specially for them, with foods that will help lower their cholesterol, and that are in the calorie range needed to help them healthily lose weight. This client-specific healthy delivery system will also begin to be used by hospitals and other health care facilities to ensure that each patient is receiving healthy, delicious meals that will promote their recovery and overall well-being.