ARE MEAL KITS REPLACING GROCERY SHOPPING?

Meal kits have been increasing in popularity over the years. The paint by numbers version of cooking creates an element of ease and convenience to at home cooks who just don’t have the time or expertise to whip up a show-stopping meal. The subscription meal kits are usually mailed out once a week and can range from three to seven meals. Not only have online meal kits increased in popularity but supermarkets have also begun to stock more meal kit options on their shelves as a way to combat the competition.

Overseas

Australian supermarkets currently hold 88.5 percent of the online grocery market share with food box subscriptions holding only 0.7 percent; however, if the meal kit trends continue to follow the US then this percent could rapidly increase. Nielsen has reported that one-quarter of Americas have purchased a meal kit in the last 12 months. While grocery stores in the US were initially threatened by the rise in the popularity of online meal kits, supermarkets have now begun adopting the trend stocking them instore.

Packaged Facts recently revealed that the online meal kit industry had grown to become a 1.5-billion-dollar industry. “Meal kit delivery services are a specialised sector but widely disruptive to the food industry. New approaches to fresh food groceries are what consumers are most interested in, and what will determine the winners and loser of the current food industry,” said David Sprinkle, research director of Packaged Foods.

The most recent partnership saw American supermarket chain Kroger acquire meal kit delivery business, Home Chef for $700 million. The partnerships will see Home Chef continue to run its online delivery service as well as stock its meal kits in Kroger’s physical stores. Amazon Go has a large selection of meal kits in its store while earlier this year online meal kit company Chef’d opted to stop its online service and is now sold in supermarkets.

Josh Hix, Co-founder and CEO of Plated wanted to achieve what he called Meal Kits 2.0 and so sought out a retailer to partner with. Albertsons came to the table and now together Plated is creating convenient meal kits for customers that they can pick up in store.

Local

New Zealand has recently seen a flurry of online meal kit companies pop up. My Food Bag was one of the first meal kit offerings while companies like Hello Fresh and Woop, and ready-made-meals like Plate Up have also joined the convenience race.

“Meal kit growth is coming from multiple sources including traditional grocery and eating out.  It’s a growing, part of the way tens of thousands of Kiwi families are coming together around the dinner table each week. The My Food Bag concept of tasty new recipes, coupled with all of the fresh, healthy ingredients you need to make them, is resonating in New Zealand as it is around the world,” explained Kevin Bowler, the CEO of My Food Bag.

Founder of Plate Up, Art Green thinks that the popularity of convenience meals is only set to increase, as they make dinner time more manageable for consumers. “I believe that technology, along with social and economic pressures are resulting in our society becoming more and more time poor. We’re spending more time working and less time cooking and preparing food. I see meal kits and ready-made-meals, especially healthy options like Plate Up, as a great option for those people that don’t have time to cook, but equally, don’t want to eat takeaways.”

Local supermarkets have also started to embrace the online meal kits trend with some starting to implement their own meal kit options. “Meal kits are ideal for customers who are short on time or need inspiration in the kitchen. They must be affordable, nutritious and provide great value for everyday Kiwis if they are to succeed. Since we launched ‘Simply Dinner’ meal kits in New World locations around the North Island, our customer response has been overwhelmingly positive. We designed these meal kits to give customers greater choice and flexibility, without having to plan their family meals out days in advance,” explained Christofer Anderson, merchandise manager, chilled, frozen, deli and bakery for Foodstuffs.

While Countdown doesn’t offer meal kits the supermarket has increased its ready-made-meal offerings. “Our ready-to-eat meals have become increasingly popular over time – we’ve seen more than 80 percent growth in our chilled deli meals in the last 12 months. Customer preferences are constantly changing, and we regularly review our product range to make sure we have the right products on the shelves for customers,” said a spokesperson for Countdown.

While the online delivery of meal kits may take a small percentage of sales from supermarkets, consumers still need to buy their staples from stores. But if supermarkets can adopt this consumer trend, then the impact may be even less.

“I don’t think they will ever replace grocery shopping; however, I do think that more people will forego their trip to the supermarket once online grocery delivery is more commonplace in New Zealand,” added Green.

Anderson believes that while meal kits do provide convenience for customer’s, they also take the experimenting and fun out of creating dinner. “Ingredients and recipes that customers discover in their meal kits add variety to their dinner plates and are in essence, another grocery product designed to meet our customers’ needs. Meal kits take the complexity out of experimenting in the kitchen yet leave room for customers to sprinkle a bit of their own individuality into their dishes and explore things they wouldn’t necessarily have tried before.”

Taking notice of this growing trend Foodstuffs has begun implementing meal kit offerings in its New World stores and will soon be adopting the range for its PAK’NSAVE stores as well. “Meal kits have proven their staying power and now play an integral part in customers’ lifestyles in terms of balanced meals and convenience. Our Simply Dinner team is constantly developing and testing new recipes to keep dinners enjoyable, easy and a little bit different, all from feedback that our customers share through our stores and social media,” added Anderson.