By: Rick Stein, Vice President, Fresh Foods, Food Marketing Institute
Meal Kits at Retail

I was recently chatting with my colleague who just came back from maternity leave about how her life has changed. We discussed the usual—sleep schedules, child care, etc.—and then I asked her about meals. She shared what a struggle it has been to decide which meal solution option to go with. She loves to cook, but is now strapped for time; enjoys grocery shopping, but struggles with having to go to multiple stores to meet her needs with a little one. Then she said something that surprised me, “I should probably try a meal kit, but I really don’t know if it would make my life easier or if the expense is worth it. I guess I just don’t trust that it’s the right model for me yet.”

We’ve heard it a million times—life changes impact shopper’s needs and are an opportunity to capture new shoppers and larger baskets. Here’s a new mom who is clearly looking for convenience, knows of options like meal kits, but is overwhelmed by the idea of making a switch and doesn’t trust the model. I was honestly a bit shocked this Millennial wasn’t just diving into the latest food trend and it made me wonder, what do we really know about the meal kit consumer?

According to the Power of Foodservice at Retail 2018 report, awareness of meal kits is high (86 percent), but only 22 percent of shoppers have actually used meal kits. According to Nielsen, the opportunity for meal kids is large with more than 30 million households saying they would consider trying a meal kit in the next six months and 10.5 million households already purchasing meal kits.

In the Power of Foodservice at Retail, we find that meal kit shoppers are convenience-seekers with 45 percent of them also frequently buying foodservice items and 48 percent of meal kit shoppers also relying heavily on semi- and fully-prepared items also. Demographically, meal kit shoppers represent high-income households (32 percent), urban shopper (31 percent), Millennials (29 percent) and household with children (kids ages 0-6 at 31 percent, ages 7-12 at 36 percent and ages 13-17 at 27 percent).

Digging deeper, shoppers are drawn to the ease and culinary aspects of meal kits. Fifty-seven percent of shoppers say oven or microwave ready packaging is important in meal kits. At the same time, 33 percent of customers want a variety of cuisines so they can try something new and different. In terms of portion size, two-person meals and family-size are most popular.

One clear opportunity for food retailers is that 51 percent of shoppers are interested in their primary store offering a meal kit version of their own. Perhaps if this new mom started finding meal kit subscription options at her local grocery store she’d be more likely to jump on the bandwagon. The trust grocery stores cultivate with shoppers might be the missing ingredient needed to sway shoppers to a new model like meal kits while also growing basket size. And now, a lot of grocery stores are carrying popular meal kit brands right in their stores. So customers no longer have to order digitally, they can stop at their local supermarket and purchase their meal when they want and what they want.  Makes being a mom a bit easier….

Learn more about meal kits and other foodservice at retail trends in the 2018 Power of Foodservice at Retail report.