Cash In on Take-Home Dinners
Meal kits, bundles and catering help maximize off-premise opportunities
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At-home dining is making waves on the foodservice at retail scene, as working professionals, busy parents and Millennials who don’t cook as much as previous generations seek meal solutions they can make quickly and without a lot of food prep all in the comfort of their own home kitchens.
As consumers become more and more time-crunched, they lean heavily on things like prepared foods and at-home dinner kits to help them out—as a recent Packaged Facts report notes, “Retail grocers and foodservice operators alike bear more of the burden of getting food to the consumer and to the table.1”
Gelson’s Markets, a southern California supermarket chain, is aiming to capitalize on this growing movement toward at-home dining.
In late August, the company partnered with Chef’d—an e-commerce meal marketplace— to bring meal kits to Gelson’s Valley Village/North Hollywood store. Merchandised in a dedicated cooler end-cap in the produce department, each $24.99 Chef’d kit includes all of the ingredients needed (additive and preservative-free) for an easy-to-prepare meal (and, of course, the recipe to make it).
If the program is successful, expansion into additional Gelson’s locations is the planned next step.
Meal kits, meal bundles and catering
Beyond companies like Chef’d, though, grocers too are getting into the meal kit game—and for good reason. Forty-seven percent of consumers say they would like more retail stores to offer options that help them plan future meals—a figure that’s up substantially from 39% in 20122. Additionally, 67% of households with kids say they outsource cooking meals to the grocery store at least some of the time3.
Offering meal kits is one potentially profitable way to reach out to those consumers.
The meal-kit market is a $2.2 billion business, with a bright future: Predictions suggest a growth rate of 25-30% over the next five years4.
Packaged Facts notes, “Meal kit delivery is a disruptive force in the food industry. The meal kit delivery segment is one of the industry's strongest examples of the movement toward providing greater convenience in eating fresh foods to the consumer.”1
As strong as the meal kit market is becoming, there are other ways food retailers can compete with meal-kit delivery services like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, such as with meal bundles and catering. In fact, these are the ways that a majority of consumers are still sourcing their meals.
Safeway, for example, offers a Big Value Meal bundle which includes a choice of a meatloaf, rotisserie chicken or eight pieces of fried or baked chicken; two side dishes (options include coleslaw, potato or macaroni salad, mashed potatoes, broccoli cheddar au gratin, macaroni and cheese or asiago creamed spinach); and add-ons such as French bread or King’s Hawaiian dinner rolls.
As for catering, Foster’s Market in Durham, N.C., offers scratch-made Family Dinners. Customers can place orders by 3 p.m. each Friday, then pick up five dinners on the following Monday. The meals include entrees—such as slow-roasted BBQ chicken, pork Milanese, chipotle shrimp, black bean chilaquiles and lemon-basil pasta—paired with side dishes, salads and desserts, and are reasonably priced ($100 feeds two people for an entire week). They are also quick and easy to prepare, with heat-and-eat dishes ready in 30 minutes or less.
Whatever format of at-home dining options that retailers choose to offer, those that invest the time and effort into creating culinary solutions for time-starved customers will increase their appeal to shoppers seeking dine-at-home options—and boost profits in the process.
1Meal Kits Delivery Services in the U.S., 2nd Edition, Packaged Facts, July 2017
2Technomic’s 2015 Retail Meal Solutions Consumer Trend Report, powered by Ignite
3Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Trends Research