HelloFresh will start selling its meal kits at 600 Giant Food and Stop & Shop locations starting this week, The Wall Street Journal reports, as the meal kit sector’s migration from mail order to brick and mortar continues at a furious pace.
The first half of this year has seen a flurry of activity from meal kit companies going into grocery stores. Chef’d and Blue Apron started selling in Costcos. Plated is rolling out nationwide at Albertsons. And just a couple of weeks ago, Kroger bought Home Chef for $200 million to put that company’s product on store shelves. And that doesn’t even count the meal kits WalMart and Amazon have available in their own stores.
It’s not hard to see why. According to Nielsen, last year in-store meal kits generated $154.6 million in sales, and grew more than 26% year-over-year. It’s a hot sector, and in-store meal kits are something customers want.
Last month, Pat Brown, Albertsons Vice President of strategic business initiatives told CNBC: “Our internal research told us that 80 percent of our customers would love to see a meal kit option in the store. And what was more surprising was that 85 percent of customers that were already subscribing to meal kits wanted to see meal kits in the store.”
Customer churn has been a big issue for meal kits in the past as the cost and inconvenience of waiting for your meals to arrive by mail have been stumbling blocks for maintained meal kit subscriptions. Having meal kits in stores offers customers more convenience and more choice closer to when they actually make meals.
HelloFresh CEO Dominik Richter told The Journal that online subscription will continue to drive sales, and that going into grocery aisles was a way for the company to find new customers. He also said that HelloFresh is in talks with other retail outlets.
HelloFresh recently surpassed Blue Apron as the top meal kit company by market share in the U.S.. The Berlin-based company went public in the fall of last year, and in April the company acquired organic meal kit provider Green Chef.
This is a big and fast retail move for HelloFresh, which will start selling meal kits on store shelves starting this Wednesday. For comparison, Chef’d has done deals with numerous regional chains as well as Costco, Blue Apron is in 17 Costcos, and Plated will be in “hundreds” of Albertsons by the end of the year. Kroger, which had already rolled out meal kits to some of its regional chains such as QFC in Seattle, is planning to put meal kits in most of its 2,800 stores nationwide.
Clearly HelloFresh needs to act fast as the window of opportunity for meal kit companies in grocery stores appears to be closing rapidly. While it may be rolling out judiciously, Albertsons still owns Plated, so that will be its preferred meal kit provider. Same with Kroger and Home Chef. Amazon, of course, has Whole Foods, and WalMart has… itself. To stay alive in retail, and by extension alive as a business, HelloFresh will need to get into a lot more grocery stores.