Kroger appears to be inching towards what we at The Spoon consider something of a holy grail: The convenient, customizable meal kit.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the grocery giant’s Easy For You! program now (in select stores) lets customers bundle together frozen entrees and sides into a package that can be taken home and heated up. Selections include prime rib strips with mushroom and gravy, gumbo and mac and cheese among others. There are even videos at the display to show customers how to prepare their food. All meals are sold by weight at $7.99 a pound.
Technically, this may not be a “meal kit” in the strictest sense of the word. It seems to fall somewhere between a meal kit and the hot, prepared buffet food section found in so many supermarkets. It’s also an expansion of Kroger’s existing Easy For You! program which packages together seafood and seasonings into an oven-ready bag that you can cook at home.
But you can see where Kroger is heading–letting people curate and assemble their own meal kits, essentially. Right now, you have to go in person to pile up your meal. Shoppers can put together a frozen meal and eat it that night, or stock up on a few and have them throughout the week. All you have to do is heat them up and you’re ready to go.
Convenience is a benefit of the meal kit industry migrating away from mail order and into retail. Most shoppers have shunned mail order meal kits. When you can include a meal kit in your everyday shopping and align it more with what you’re craving in the moment, you don’t have to wait around for delivery and there’s less packaging waste.
Earlier this year, Kroger bought Home Chef to accelerate its move into supermarket meal kits. With that ordering and logistic infrastructure, it’s not hard to imagine Kroger adding the ability for people to create their own meal kits from a list of items that are assembled that day in the store and then picked up during errands or delivered.
Kroger has been investing all year in initiatives that maximize convenience for consumers. In addition to the Home Chef acquisition, it upped its investment in Ocado and will build robot-run smart warehouses for speedier delivery. Kroger expanded its relationship with Instacart for same-day delivery and is now piloting a test program where autonomous vehicles deliver your groceries.
Frozen foods may not have the same glitz as robots, but convenience will always be cool.