CHICAGO -- Surviving the booming meal-kit game is not easy. In July, meal-kit brand Chef’d abruptly shut down due to financial roadblocks. Meal-kit provider Blue Apron has also faced money troubles and millions in losses. As it turns out, scaling fresh food on demand is a tough operational nut to crack. That’s where the grocery channel is stepping up. In the past year, Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons gobbled up Plated, and Kroger bought Home Chef. With that industry still polishing up a winning model, here are some ways c-stores could claim a piece of the meal-kit market for their own.
Photograph courtesy of Blue Apron
1. Play on consumers’ creativity
Instead of coaxing consumers into trying dishes such as barramundi in a caper-butter sauce, some retailers are just offering to take on more of the prep work. This model offers greater accessibility and flexibility for home cooks.
ON THE MENU: Meijer, Grand Rapids, Mich., has debuted Meal Inspiration kits that include three recipe options on the peel-away label. The four different kits call for just a few additional basic ingredients and are ready in less than 40 minutes—no chopping involved. The Meal Inspiration varieties include Southwest Blend; Asparagus & Mushroom; Ham & Vegetable; and Rosemary Vegetable.
Photograph courtesy of Meijer
2. Leverage technology
Although customers might be shirking high-tech online delivery meal-kit services in favor of in-store purchases, retailers can still strive to create a more frictionless experience for guests. For the ultimate in speed-driven convenience, operators can capitalize on their existing online ordering and instore pickup amenities.
ON THE MENU: Walmart, Bentonville, Ark., has rolled out price-conscious meal kits ranging from $8 to $15 for two-person meals. The meals are affordable and convenient. Customers can order the products through Walmart’s existing online grocery pickup service.
Photograph courtesy of Walmart
3. Get organized
Sometimes all it takes is a little rebranding. Instead of bankrolling the labor and packaging of separate meal kits, some operations are merely repositioning existing SKUs as a cohesive meal option.
ON THE MENU: Not only does ShopRite offer global meal kits such as Moroccan Chicken, but the Keasbey, N.J.-based grocer also has transformed some of its refrigerated cases into a food cart with all the ingredients necessary to create a meal of the week. The Meals Made Well recipes are designed by ShopRite dietitians and corporate chefs.
Photograph courtesy of ShopRite
4. Raise your health consciousness
Catering to the health-conscious market could be a major opportunity for c-stores. The penetration of healthy claims on menus has increased 6% over the past five years, according to Technomic’s most recent Healthy Claims Menu Trends report. Meal kits tailored to specific health concerns could present an additional solution for consumers with diet restrictions.
ON THE MENU: EMeals, an online meal-kit service, formulates meal plans for individual needs, including clean eating, paleo, low-calorie, kid-friendly, vegan, vegetarian, heart-healthy and diabetic diets. Subscribers to the meal plans receive weekly recipes that can be fulfilled via AmazonFresh, Walmart Grocery, Kroger ClickList and Instacart.
Photograph courtesy of EMeals
5. Showcase fan favorites
Signature menu items are a major advantage foodservice-forward c-stores have over grocers. Creating meal kits around popular menu items could help strengthen consumers’ connection with the dishes.
ON THE MENU: Grocery delivery service Peapod teamed up with Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises to sell branded meal kits of some of the restaurant group’s most popular menu items. The restaurant-quality meals include BBQ bison meatloaf with mashed potatoes and caramelized onions from the operator’s Wildfire concept.
Photograph courtesy of Country Gate Productions/Shutterstock