“Packaging is very important for a home delivery service. We work with both foodservice and retail and are very experienced in ensuring quality and safety for our products,” says Drew Calvert, vice president of marketing for Niman Ranch, based in Alameda, California. Niman Ranch works with home delivery services including ButcherBox and Amazon Fresh to deliver items like barbecue ribs, pulled pork, rosemary garlic pork chops wrapped in bacon, steaks and other products.
Packaging equals quality, notes Tom Ramhorst, director of procurement at New York City-based meal kit service HelloFresh. “First and foremost, product packaging is designed to ensure that the product is safe to eat,” he declares.
Given the changing marketplace for food purchases, one can expect delivery options, including packaging, to be top of mind among processors, subscription service providers and retailers who are delving into delivery services. “Meat and poultry companies have a huge opportunity in meal kits and in-home delivery,” observes Phil Lempert, food and consumer trend analyst and editor of supermarketguru.com.
To Lempert’s point, opportunities within the delivery and kit sector are expanding, driven by the ongoing yet ever-evolving holy grail of convenience. According to “The Mindset of the Meal Kit” consumer study conducted by market research firm Nielsen earlier this year, one in four adults purchased a meal kit in the last year, with 70 percent continuing to buy them after their first purchase.
Other studies bear out the potential of e-commerce for food providers. In a recently released report on the “virtual grocery store,” the NPD Group found that while only 7 percent of consumers are shopping for groceries online, the market is expected to grow rapidly due to great interest among young adults and men. According to NPD’s findings, 60 percent of online grocery shoppers are men and most of them are of the millennial or Gen-X generation.
How rapid is the projected growth? Pentallect, a Chicago-based food industry consulting firm, pegs the business at $2.2 billion, one that is expected to grow up to 30 percent annually over the next five years.
With that kind of growth, plenty of players are vying for this latest share of stomach. While companies like Blue Apron garnered early excitement in the meal kit sector, others are entering the market to maximize sales. Retail behemoth Amazon, for example, recently acquired Whole Foods – which announced plans for its own meal kits -- and also has teamed up with Tyson on a program called Tyson Taste Makers. Food and entertaining icon Martha Stewart has launched a box business called Marley Spoon.
Meat and poultry companies have also gotten into direct-to-consumer delivery, either on their own or by partnering with other services. “I would say without question that a good percent of consumers will move to buying online. It’s happened with other categories, so why not food, as long as the outcome is good for consumers?” says Lenny Lebovich, CEO and founder of PRE Brands LLC, Chicago, which sells its vacuum-packaged 100 percent grass-fed beef in grocery stores and online, via partnerships with companies like Amazon Fresh, Jet and Peapod.As direct-ship meal kits and meat products literally and figuratively open new doors for meat and poultry companies, it’s not just what is delivered to consumers, but how it is delivered that can distinguish sales from repeat sales. A package that doesn’t protect the quality and safety of ingredients, especially fresh meat and poultry portions, likely won’t be ordered again by a dissatisfied consumer.