Men's Health Enters Meal-Delivery Kit Business With Chef'd Partnership

Magazine Tries Branded Meal Plans

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A Chef'd meal in a box.
A Chef'd meal in a box.

Men's Health wants to grocery shop for its readers.

The magazine is teaming up with Chef'd, a startup in the emerging meal-delivery kit market, to bring Men's Health branded meals directly to consumers' homes.

Meal-delivery kits are a growing business. In the last several years, a handful of startups have carved out a niche delivering the exact ingredients needed to make a recipe. Among the largest in this space is Blue Apron, which last week closed a $135 million funding round. The company says that values it at about $2 billion. (Ad Age recently toured Blue Apron's test kitchen.)

Chef'd, which has raised $5.3 million in funding, has sought to partner with celebrity chefs and media companies including Vegetarian Times to create menus. The partnership with Men's Health is its largest media partnership so far.

Here's how it works: Consumers visit the Chef'd website to select from five meals such as fish tacos or steak au poivre created by Men's Health food and nutrition editor Paul Kita, author of the "Guy Gourmet" cookbook and blog. Chef'd then delivers the ingredients in an ice-packed box within one to two days. The meals cost $30 to feed two people and $50 to feed four people.

"Our guys are loving our food coverage because it's very simple, it respects their time and most often involves fewer than 10 ingredients," said Bill Phillips, editor in chief of Men's Health. "This partnership with Chef'd brings that all together."

The partnership is only the first step in connecting the magazine with its readers' daily habits and rituals, according to Mr. Phillips. "We do the shopping for you now and then imagine where this can go," he said. "We're already bringing a workout into a guy's home. To go along with his workout, we have a meal plan prep for you. We're getting to this place where we can serve all the guy's needs."

Men's Health receives royalties from Chef'd, according to Rob Novick, senior-VP of international business development and partnerships for Rodale Inc., which owns Men's Health. He declined to answer specific questions about the revenue arrangement.

Similar meal plans for other Rodale-owned titles will roll out this summer, including Women's Health, Runner's World, Bicycling, Prevention and Rodale's Organic Life. Editors at those magazines will also help craft the menus. Mr. Novick said Rodale is considering selling advertising space on the recipe cards that come with the meals.

The licensing deal comes as publishers like Rodale look beyond magazine sales and advertising to make money. The magazine industry's revenues are expected to remain virtually flat through 2019, according to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report. As a result, magazine companies have looked to live events, licensing deals and, in the case of Martha Stewart Living and Vogue, actual restaurants. Rodale has carved out a relatively lucrative side business selling health and fitness books and DVDs.

But handing the Men's Health brand to a company that delivers food -- fish, even -- through the mail comes with certain risks. What happens, for instance, if someone gets sick from a Men's Health-branded fish taco? (They are, it should be noted, delicious and very easy to make for anyone with a modicum of kitchen know-how.)

"You have to be careful," Mr. Novick said about picking a company to partner with. "But we flew out to their facilities and spent a lot of time with them."

"There were five others we moved away from because they weren't right for Men's Health," Mr. Phillips added. "I believe in it so much that I don't mind coming to our readers about it."

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