In 2007 a woman in Sweden launched the meal kit concept under the company name Middagsfrid, which roughly translates to “dinnertime bliss.” I don’t know how many working parents would classify any kind of cooking as “bliss” after a long day, but the basic sentiment worked in selling meal kits as a more convenient way to make dinner and even learn some new cooking techniques and recipes.
Trouble is, meal kits—particularly in the U.S.—haven’t exactly lived up to their original promise. As we’ve pointed out before, many have discovered along the way that “[Meal kits] are a huge departure from the way we have been taught to shop for and purchase our food – and while they might be more convenient in some ways, they are inconvenient in others.”
Around the time of Blue Apron’s grocery store announcement, the longtime U.S. leader in the meal kit sector had just seen its subscribers drop from 1 million in 2017 to 750,000 in February 2018, after laying off 6 percent of its staff just a few months earlier.
Blue Apron’s response was to head back to the place where we as consumers have been taught to shop: the grocery store. And now it seems going into grocers is all the rage in meal kit fashion. Chef’d and Walmart have done so, as has Weight Watchers and, now Plated has jumped aboard the in-store meal kit wagon.
Plated announced yesterday that it plans to have its meal kits in hundreds of Albertsons-owned grocery stores by the end of this year.
Albertsons acquired Plated last year, and according to the latter’s co-founder and CEO, Josh Hix, getting kits in stores was the point of the deal in the first place. “From day one, we wanted to use their stores and their assets to build this omnichannel experience.”
Right now the kits are available in 40 stores—20 in Northern California Safeway stores and 20 in Jewel-Osco stores in Chicago. In addition to the planned nationwide expansion, the kits will also be available for on-demand delivery through Instacart. The available range of kits in stores is less expansive than Plated’s online choices, though that’ll probably change if the idea is a hit.
Hix noted in a press release that, “This is the next big step in our journey to enable everyone to enjoy fresh, delicious meals.” It’s unclear if that step was always in the works or if it’s just a a nice way of saying, “We’ve had to pivot and try something new.” Not that it matters. With in-store sales of meal kits reaching $154.6 million in sales over the last year, according to recent numbers, it seems that those who want to stay in the meal kit game need to rethink the merits offering just subscription-based packages.
Whether going from the mailbox to the center of the grocery store is the answer remains to be seen. There are definitely some pluses: no commitment beyond the first purchase and freedom to choose on impulse, to name just a couple.
But if the original goal of the meal kit was to provide an enjoyable — dare I say blissful —experience in the kitchen, I’d say the eventual winners will be those brands who can tailor those original sentiments to the needs of today’s consumers. Whether that means through the mail or in the store may not even matter in the end.
Do you think the in-store meal kit will thrive, or is the whole concept one big dud? Feel free to share your thought sin the comments.