Business / Food

Online food biz sets up shop in Hunts Point

Jacqueline Wade

Marley Spoon, a meal delivery company, has opened a new warehouse on Manida Street.

New company cites nearby food markets as key reason

Marley Spoon, an e-commerce meal-kit business — a burgeoning trend in the food industry – has taken a lease on a 20,000-square-foot warehouse on Manida Street.

The company, which formerly ran its business out of 5,000-square-feet in Long Island City, currently has 20 employees but plans to hire 20 to 30 more this year, depending on how fast the business grows.

“We feel that Marley Spoon will fit right in with its neighbors in the Hunts Point neighborhood,” said Matthew Sciarrino, the company’s operations director.

What exactly is a meal kit? Customers receive meal boxes that contain pre-portioned, uncooked meals to prepare at home in 30 minutes or less, all ordered online. Marley Spoon competes with a slew of other companies, such as Gobble, Blue Apron, HelloFresh, Plated, Peach Dish and Home Chef. Meals start at $8.90 with free shipping. The idea is to eliminate the planning and shopping process, yet still enjoy a home-cooked meal.

Marley Spoon was founded in 2014 in Germany by Fabian Siegel, the former CEO of Delivery Hero, and Till Neatby, the former managing director of the restaurant chain MexAttax. Based in Berlin, the company also has operations in Australia, the Netherlands and the U.K., and landed in the United States in April 2015. In addition to the site in Hunts Point, the company also has a test kitchen in Manhattan.

“At both our office in Manhattan and at our Bronx facility, we probably have one of the most diverse teams I have worked with in the last 16 years,” said Sciarrino. “It feels like working for family,” said Jeffrey Gaskin, the facility manager for the Manida warehouse who joined the company about 10 months ago.

Every Marley Spoon meal is packed into “dish bags” with the measured portion for each ingredient. Those bags are then packed into boxes and shipped via FedEx. Locating to Hunts Point meant the company was that much closer to the source of most of its ingredients.

“Hunts Point is home to some of the best purveyors for produce, meat and seafood and we believe that proximity to vendors can give us a competitive advantage both in terms of better product quality and a more streamlined supply chain.” said US CEO Roberto Mastrigli. “Being located in the same borough will make working with these suppliers easier in terms of shipping and help us to build strong relationships within this community.”

“We also believe that Hunts Point has a strong talent pool that we can leverage as we look to organically grow our organization,” Mastrigli added.

Marley Spoon’s chef, Jennifer Aaronson, is the former editorial director of food and entertaining at Martha Stewart Living magazine and has been developing recipes for more than 20 years. At the company’s test kitchen in Manhattan, she has partnered with Dawn Perry, the former digital food editor at Bon Appetit magazine, to focus on what they call “smart cooking” — getting the most flavor from the fewest ingredients in the least amount of time.

“Their cooking techniques lead to surprisingly bold, balanced flavors with minimal effort and very little wasted time or ingredients,” said Jo Ferro, Marley Spoon’s press representative. “Because we deliver a meal in a box, we can also include all of those hard-to-find, interesting products.”

At nearly $9 per meal, Marley Spoon deliveries are beyond luxury for the majority of residents; in Hunts Point, the median income is $24,000 a year. That could be compared to going to a local Chinese Restaurant for fried chicken wings and French fries for $5, or shrimp and broccoli, egg roll and soda for $8 to $10 a meal, or going to McDonalds for a $4 to $10 meal. Beyond price, the comparison is between a fast food restaurant or the experience of making a nutritional meal at home.

Marley Spoon realizes that the cost of its meal plans is not inclusive of everyone, so the organization plans to give the excess to the local poor once a week. The business currently donates food to City Harvest, but will look for a local church or community group that can pick up surplus, Sciarrino said.

Will meal boxes become a thing of the future whether one receives it as a paying customer or through a donation? Will supermarkets and markets become a thing of the past? Only time and demand will tell.

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