Kroger announced yesterday that it has started the nationwide roll out of Home Chef meal kits on its grocery shelves.
By acquiring Home Chef, Kroger can meaningfully jump into the meal kit space and scale up quickly. Home Chef brings with it national prep and distribution systems already in place, and lots of data from existing paying customers to maximize how meal kits are rolled out in stores.
Home Chef also brought with it valuable data about what meals its customers order. Together, Kroger and Home Chef can figure out where to target particular meals for different regions and demographics.
The Home Chef meal kits will first be offered at select Kroger locations across the Midwest, with further rollout happening in 2019. Each location will have four menu options that will rotate weekly. Meal kits in store serve two people and start at $17.
As part of the announcement, Kroger also said that it is testing a new Home Chef Express product. Express is a quick-cook meal kit that promises to take only 15 minutes to make.
We’ve been talking about meal kits moving to retail for a good chunk of this year, and soon we’ll start seeing concrete data as to how well they are faring. Last year Albertsons bought Plated and this past April started the nationwide rollout of its meal kits in stores. Blue Apron started selling its meal kits at Costco. Amazon/Whole Foods has its own meal kit option. And HelloFresh signed a deal with Giant Food and Stop & Shop.
Will in-store convenience convert people en masse to meal kits? And if adoption rates increase, how will meal kits evolve? Will something like the new “Express” version of Home Chef’s meal kits, with their 15 minute make time, prove more popular than the full version?
The convenience question is actually worth examining further with Kroger, as the company recently expanded its Easy For You! line of almost-customizeable meal kits. Easy For You! is sort of like a frozen food buffet line. Customers bundle together different proteins and sides and pay by the pound to simply reheat at home. Will this level of convenience cannibalize Kroger’s other, more traditional meal kits?
It’s worth it for Kroger to experiment to see what consumers gravitate towards. The concept of in-store meal kits is relatively new, now, where shoppers take them remains to be seen.