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COVID-19

It’s suddenly a great time to be in the meal-kit business

Andie Corban and Kai Ryssdal May 19, 2020
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A farmer works in a broccoli field in March. Julio Cesar Aguilar/Getty Images
COVID-19

It’s suddenly a great time to be in the meal-kit business

Andie Corban and Kai Ryssdal May 19, 2020
Heard on:
A farmer works in a broccoli field in March. Julio Cesar Aguilar/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Meal kits — boxes filled with proportioned ingredients and recipes — peaked in popularity a few years ago. However, the coronavirus pandemic is causing something of a renaissance for the industry, as Americans are cooking more and going out to restaurants less. “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal spoke about it with Andy Levitt, founder and CEO of the plant-based meal kit company Purple Carrot.

“A year ago, it wasn’t that great to be in the meal-kit business,” Levitt said. “Fast forward to today with the pandemic, the demand from consumers for meal kits has just skyrocketed.”

With some restaurants closed and some people afraid to go to grocery stores, Levitt said his company’s “volume has increased by about 100% over the past eight weeks.”

“Invariably we’ve had to make some last-minute substitutions,” he said. “If we had planned broccolini, for example, instead we have to substitute broccoli because a particular product was in short supply.”

Despite the increase in business, Levitt believes that as life gets back to normal, Purple Carrot will see some sort of decline. “But I believe that our total number of customers will probably be about 50% higher than our total baseline of customers before the pandemic.”

Click the audio player above to hear the interview.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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