A Harris poll in December 2016 showed that 25 percent of shoppers purchased a meal kit, like those from Blue Apron, in the past year.

Grocers get in the act

Retail grocers, foodservice operators, convenience stores and other types of food marketers are offering their own meal delivery services and products that provide convenience, market research firm Packaged Facts said in the second edition of its “Meal Kit Delivery Services in the US” report.

“Meal kit delivery addresses the ever-growing demand for convenience,” Packaged Facts said. “Retail grocers and foodservice operators alike bear more of the burden of getting food to the consumer and to the table. Working and parenting consumers pressed for time are those typically associated with the trend toward convenience in the food industry.

“Younger consumers who have not necessarily been schooled in how to prepare meals have also been a demographic accepting of meal delivery services.”

Amazon’s trademark filing came after the online retailer’s acquisition of Whole Foods Markets, which already offered its own meal kit solutions. Whole Foods began testing a pared-down version of Purple Carrot meal kits in the company’s Massachusetts stores. More recently, Whole Foods partnered with meal kit maker Salted to offer pre-made meal kits in Whole Foods stores.

Tyson Foods also went the physical retail route with the company’s Tastemakers line. Originally marketed solely for e-commerce, Tyson Tastemakers are now offered at retail in Texas supermarkets and will continue distribution around the country in 2018.

Tyson expects meal kits will continue to drive sales growth on the retail perimeter, CEO Tom Hayes said. “Our continued success relies on innovation on three platforms: Fresh meal kits and starters; fresh take on breakfast; and keeping the Core 9 fresh.”

Eden Prairie, Minnesota-based Supervalu announced meal kits and grab-and-go options would be a key area of focus for the retailer as it works to improve customer traffic in its stores and drive sales.

“We’ve long provided meal solutions, but we’re excited with the innovation and expansion that we’re rolling out in this area,” Mark Gross, president and CEO, said during a conference call with analysts. “Our expanded offering will be marketed as Quick’n Easy, an easily understood name that will be carried through several departments. We’ll have meal kits, heat-and-serve, grab-and-go versions, all geared to the level of preparation and precooking, or not, that best fit our customers’ needs.”

Supervalu developed many of the recipes for Quick’n Easy in the retailer’s test kitchens, and soon the line of products will be available in both retail and wholesale operations.

The Kroger Co., Cincinnati, said the prepared meals category continues to grow and the company plans to continue to invest in the segment. Kroger Chairman and CEO W. Rodney McMullen said the category is one of the retailer’s strongest departments, and a key driver of sales is the Kroger branded Prep + Pared Meal Kits which are in certain Cincinnati stores.

“We can hardly keep them on the shelves …,” McMullen said. “What we’re finding is the quality of that meal is the same as going to a restaurant and getting a meal, but people like to prepare something at home, and they find it easy and they love the variety that we offer. So, a lot of the price comparisons is what the price is versus going to a restaurant, but being able to do it at home. And when it takes you 20 minutes; it’s just as fast as picking it up at Kroger’s than it is going to a restaurant and going through all that hassle when you’re at a restaurant.”

Meat and meal kits

Meal kits will continue to disrupt the food industry as consumers demand convenience, more options for meal solutions and flavor adventures.

A Harris poll taken this past December found that 25 percent of shoppers purchased a meal kit in the past year. Purchases of meal kits replaced fast-food 66 percent of the time and meals made at home 59 percent of the time, according to Nielsen. When it comes to the meat used in meal kits, Nielson said the consumers largely accept the current format as 91 percent of consumers responding to a December 2016 survey indicated they were satisfied with how fresh meat is packaged in meal kits and 89 percent were satisfied with non-organic meat in those meal kits.

Smaller players are offering meat-specific kits. ButcherBox, for example, delivers a curated selection of 100 percent grass-fed and grass-finished beef, free-range organic chicken and heritage breed pork. Each monthly box costs $129 and contains at least 20 individual meals and recipes for inspiration.

Green Chef offers the Carnivore, which includes one seafood and two “land protein” entrées per week and the Paleo menu packs on the animal proteins.