Yesterday, Kroger and Home Chef announced a pilot program that will add options to their existing meal kit line, which are sold in Kroger stores around the U.S. According to a press release, the new pilot will be tested in 68 Kroger stores.
The new meals offerings target different people’s cooking and eating needs based on their lifestyles. This is an important factor in the evolution of meal kits, since one of the concerns around meal kits is the amount of time it takes to prepare a recipe, even when ingredients were pre-portioned.
As such, Home Chef’s new meal offerings fall into three different categories:
Oven-Ready: Home Chef Oven-Ready meals come in oven-safe packaging and require less than five minutes of prep time. Meals are designed for two people and start at $8.50 per serving. Given that you don’t have to use pots or pans to cook the food, this one seems perfect for those who just want to heat some food in the oven and chow down.
Heat and Eat: The Home Chef Heat and Eat line is kind of like Oven-Ready, except that items can be heated in a microwave, too. More interesting about this line is the mix and match option: customers can buy full meals, just the proteins, or a bunch of sides. So if you’re a master of making side dishes but laughably bad at cooking meat (like I am), you can pick and choose what to cook and what to just heat based on your level of culinary skill. Kits go for $6.50 per serving.
Lunch Kits: Who doesn’t love a grain bowl? Home Chef’s new Lunch Kits offering has plenty of those, along with salads, sandwiches, tacos, all with fully cooked proteins. You just have to toss the items together, which can be done at home quickly or even at work. At $6.00 per serving, this is quite a bit cheaper than buying a big salad or grain bowl from a lot of fast-casual places, especially in bigger cities, where said offerings can go as high as $15.
However, focusing on retail isn’t a guarantee for the meal kit category. Albertsons bought meal kit company Plated in 2017 but just recently laid off 10 percent of its staff to cut back on expenses, though, as my colleague Chris Albrecht pointed out when he reported the news, it’s hard to imagine Albertsons giving up on meal kits altogether.
Rather, future growth from meal kits could come from providing new categories of meals and snacks. A recent study by NPD found that 93 million adults in the U.S. want to try meal kits and, more importantly, that meal kits can be more than just dinner. The new Home Chef offerings seem to be in line with this argument, particularly Heat and Eat’s mix-and-match options and the Lunch Kits offering. All of which is to say the savior of the meal kit might just be more meals, tailored towards different times of day and a wider variety of needs.
The new meal “solutions,” as Home Chef calls them, will be available at Kroger locations (including subsidiary stores) first in Illinois and Ohio starting in May. In the press release, Kroger said it plans to expand to additional markets over the rest of 2019.