Food Nation

Local Meal Delivery Company Opens First Retail Location in River Oaks

The Blonde Pantry, a Houston based meal delivery service, just opened its first retail location in Upper Kirby
The Blonde Pantry, a Houston based meal delivery service, just opened its first retail location in Upper Kirby Photo by Kathleen O'Ryan
The Blonde Pantry, a Houston-based meal delivery service started by registered dietitian and lifestyle blogger Marla Murphy just opened its first retail location at The Shops at Arrive. The swanky Upper Kirby retail district will play host to Murphy's intimate grab-and-go store — one which aims to bring The Blonde Pantry's locally sourced and ready to cook meals direct to customers without the delivery time.

Murphy, who left a career as a dietitian to pursue blogging and nutrition consulting, began delivering meals directly to her clients around Houston. She's since grown her one woman operation into a thriving online delivery business, with a staggering 80 percent  customer retention rate week to week.

The Blonde Pantry was started out of Murphy's own frustration with traditional subscription-based meal kits. "I found that with the box subscriptions that you still have to do all the work yourself," says Murphy, who sought to create a less time consuming alternative to raw ingredient kits.

click to enlarge Fresh and frozen meals are available for purchase in the Blonde Pantry's new retail locations - PHOTO BY KATHLEEN O'RYAN
Fresh and frozen meals are available for purchase in the Blonde Pantry's new retail locations
Photo by Kathleen O'Ryan
Her solution was a health-focused meal that could go straight from its packaging to the stove-top. Meals arrive in vacuum-sealed, fully prepped, mixed and marinated — all customers have to do is sauté and eat. Murphy puts an emphasis on creating gluten and dairy free meals, made fully in house by her and her staff.

Offerings range from $7 snacks and salads to heartier family-sized meals for $42. The more common "party of one" single serving meals come in at just under $11. While the company's prices are notably higher than its corporate backed competitors, the shear simplicity of a ready to cook meal with no prep time could be enough to sway potential customers with enough disposable income.

Besides offering ready-to-cook alternatives to traditional from-scratch meals kits, the company is also focused on local sourcing and partnerships, particularly with female entrepreneurs. From meal ingredients, to packaging, to the retail items in the store, even the art on the walls, everything is locally sourced as often as possible.

click to enlarge The Blonde Pantry's retail shop - PHOTO BY KATHLEEN O'RYAN
The Blonde Pantry's retail shop
Photo by Kathleen O'Ryan
One of the company's most vital partnerships is with Heather Sholl, founder of The Villages Gym and creator of Fuel Bombs. Her I-10 gym serves as a free pick up location for customers outside The Blonde Pantry's delivery radius, while her Fuel Bombs, $8 freezer-ready smoothies, are available for purchase at both The Blonde Pantry retail location and website.

This home grown company is making a strong name for itself in a fiercely competitive, razor-thin market. Household name Blue Apron, a publicly traded company and once disruptive market force, now trades for under $1 a share after a much publicized collapse in recent years. Still, The Blonde Pantry operates in a more controlled environment, leveraging local partnerships and a personal relationship with its core customer base. That, plus the added convenience of its ready-to-cook meals, make it an attractive business model that could make waves outside of Houston in the near future.
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Houston Press contributor Carlos Brandon is a freelance writer, blogger, and self proclaimed Houston hip hop historian. He contributes to various publications and can usually be found haggling with food truck cooks or talking politics on the METRO Rail.
Contact: Carlos Brandon