Convenience Delivered: the Rise of Meal Kits

Perfectly prepped ingredients. Unique, globally inspired recipes. Easy-to-follow cooking instructions. These are just a few of the reasons why consumers are turning to meal kits and why so many companies large and small are looking to get in the game. From Amazon to Publix, meal kit innovation is on the rise. With sales of approximately $1.5 billion in 2016, meal kit delivery could grow to as much as $5 billion over the next five years.1 But not all meal kits need to be subscription-based. Today I’ll be sharing some on-trend retail concepts that tap into the needs of the “grocerant” customer—striking the balance between flavor and convenience.

After subscription services such as Hello Fresh, Chef’d and Blue Apron paved the way, specialty services such as PeachDish (Southern cuisine) and Purple Carrot (plant-based dishes) are looking to bring something new and different into the market. But customer retention has proved to be a major issue for subscription-based meal kit services. Retailers like Kroger and Mariano’s are capitalizing on the power of their own brands with perfectly prepped meals that don’t require a membership and are more affordable to a larger consumer base.

Meal kits, by the numbers:2

With 25–44-year-olds as the main demographic3, it’s no surprise that innovative, exciting flavors are an essential element of meal kit innovation. Take a look at some of the ingredients that are actually more common in meal kits than on restaurant menus:4

Some common descriptors we’ve seen in the field are roasted and smoked flavors, internationally inspired spices and chicken as the most common meal kit protein.5 But how do all of these elements come together in kit form? A few suggestions, based on what we can create here at West Liberty Foods:

  • Braised pork carnitas for make-your-own taco kits
  • Chicken breast strips for a Buffalo chicken stir fry kit
  • Thai chicken meatballs for a “Pad Thai spaghetti” kit
  • Pulled turkey with squash and sautéed kale, an autumn harvest-inspired kit
  • Sausage patties for a breakfast scramble kit

Our company is in a unique position to serve as your partner in meal kit development—not only can we offer innovative heat-and-serve proteins but we can source additional components (sauces, vegetables and grains), assemble and pack the kits, too. Let me know if you’re interested to learn more about this growing market and the products and services West Liberty Foods can offer!

– Chef Aliza

1 Phil Lempert, “Amazon Gets Serious About Meal Kits And Partners With Martha Stewart,” Forbes, March 15, 2017.
2,4 Datassential, “What’s In Those Meal Kits?” Foodbytes, July 2017.
3 Bob Goldin and Barry Friends, “Meal Kits: Are They a Real Threat to Foodservice, Retail or Both?” Pentallect, June 27, 2017.