Nearly $20 billion by 2027. That’s a huge number, considering the meal prep market recently topped out at $7 billion. Companies under the model of meal assembly franchises, meal kits and meal delivery services have been waiting for the perfect combination of consumer trends to land their businesses at the table with other major players in the colossal food industry – and that time has arrived.

There are 5 key factors that determine the future of meal assembly franchises. Luckily, this is indeed an industry made for growth, because the trends driving it have staying power. They are flavor, variety, lifestyle, convenience and cost.

1. Meal Assembly Franchises Favor Flavor

If the food doesn’t taste good, well…

Meal assembly franchises and other food prep or meal delivery services know there is one thing they must get right, and that is the flavor of the food they provide. More than anything else, consumers must enjoy the food, or they will not continue to order it. The way meals taste surpasses convenience and cost.

How many times have you heard a story of people braving the elements to fulfill their late-night snack craving? And most of us have saved our pennies for a special high-end meal. For those in the food industry, if the food is delicious, consumers will find a way to consume it.

2. Variety is the Spice of Life

According to marketing research at PROVA and Global Data, flavor is the first consideration for food and beverage purchases, and 42% of global consumers say they like to try new things. In fact, 93% of millennials like to try a new recipe each month, and 40% of them are cooking more ethnic or regional foods than they were just two years ago.  A curious consumer increases demand for plentiful offerings.

As much as curiosity is music to the ears of food prep business owners, there is comfort in comfort foods. New consumers in the food space are willing to try different twists on their all-time favorites, like dill pickle pot roast or mac and cheese with wild mushrooms and fresh herbs. The combinations for food providers are nearly endless.

3. Meal Assembly Franchises Support a Range of Food Lifestyles

Everywhere you look you see hype about the latest trend in lifestyle, which often has to do with food: keto, paleo, vegetarian, vegan. Food drives lifestyle. One cannot exist without the other. Healthier lifestyles are driven by food choices. The healthy kid is the new cool kid on the block.

A reported 60% to 70% of consumers are willing to pay more for healthier food. This is good news for meal assembly franchises, because they deal with ingredients first, before the finished product. Substitutions can be made fairly easily, which opens their target market to just about any lifestyle trend.

4. Convenience for Consumers – An Essential Advantage

There isn’t anything more convenient than ordering food online and having it show up at your door. Consumers don’t even have to speak to anyone anymore to enjoy delicious food made by professional chefs and meal preparers.

Perhaps the only variance in the meal assembly franchise space is how much work must be done once the delivery lands in our kitchens. Does the food come with individual ingredients and a recipe card? Or is it the ultimate in convenience, heat & eat? UpFresh Kitchen is one brand that has convenience down to a science. They provide ready-to-eat and heat-and-eat meals for delivery, pickup at their location, pickup at one of their community partner coolers, as well as dine-in.

5. Keeping Consumer Cost in Mind

At first glance, meal kit delivery or food from a meal assembly franchise might appear expensive. Total price depends on what food consumers prefer, and the shelf life of the meals they choose. For example, when comparing the ingredients in a simple pasta dish, it’s possible that a trip to the grocery store to buy those same ingredients could cost less. For some consumers, avoiding the grocery store altogether is worth the difference in cost. For some other dishes, though, the costs for prepared meals can be on par with or possibly even less than what consumers can find at their local supermarkets, due to economies of scale.

Even though most meal kit recipes are designed and prepared by excellent cooks or chefs, most combinations are interesting and exciting, but not complicated to prepare. Further, if the meals are heat-and-eat, consumers can just as easily pop them into the freezer to take away any chance of not preparing the meal in time, eliminating an opportunity for waste.

The Meal Assembly Franchise Industry is Made for Growth

There seems to be no question that the meal assembly and meal delivery industry is in the early part of a significant surge. With more people staying in, working from home, living busy lives, increasingly food-curious, and adopting healthier lifestyles that they are willing to pay for to achieve, it seems evident that this is an industry primed for impressive growth.