Continuing its push to redefine what makes a meal kit, Sun Basket this week announced the launch of two new products specifically aimed at those with little time or inclination to cook.
According to a press release sent to The Spoon, Sun Basket’s new Pre-Prepped meals arrive at customers’ doorsteps with veggies and other sides already sliced and diced and ready for cooking. For the user, that means putting the meal kit together is mostly a matter of removing the ingredients from the package and cooking them.
Sun Basket also unveiled Oven Ready meals, its version of heat-and-serve dishes that arrive both pre-portioned and pre-cooked. This line of meals is currently available in the Eastern United States, with a nationwide rollout planned for Q1 2020.
Both of the new offerings speak to a continued effort on the part of meal kit companies to branch out from the traditional meal kit format — pre-portioned dinner ingredients in a box — and offer dishes that cater to a wider range of lifestyles, cooking skills, and budgets. Sun Basket earlier this year expanded its menu to include lunch, brunch, and snack options subscribers can add to their meal plans, a move we’ve also seen from Kroger-owned Home Chef.
In another bid to attract a wider audience, meal kit company Plated this week announced a partnership with Beyond Meat to offer one plant-based protein recipe per month to subscribers. According to a press release sent to The Spoon, Plated will kick the partnership off with a recipe that uses Beyond Beef, and will even include tips on how to cook the alt-protein for optimal taste, such as adding Worcestershire sauce to give Beyond’s product “a meatier umami flavor.”
Plated, which is owned by Albertsons, laid off 10 percent of its corporate staff earlier this year in a cost-cutting move but said it remained committed to meal kits. The inclusion of Beyond Meat in recipes could give the company more reach with the growing flexitarian audience, though Plated won’t be alone in doing so. Blue Apron and HelloFresh already partner with Beyond for their kits.
More importantly, both the Sun Basket and Plated news speak to a growing demand among meal kit customers for more variety when it comes to both food options and how much time is spent cooking the meals. Research this year from NPD found that 93 million adults in the U.S. haven’t tried a meal kit yet but would like to. The research firm noted in the study that expanding from the traditional dinner-only offerings into new meal categories is still a huge opportunity for meal kit companies.
Meal kits may not be the ultra-trendy food item they were even a couple years ago, but offering subscribers more food options and more convenience might help them hold on.