Kroger has partnered with Home Chef to make meal kits available in grocery stores. In this article, we'll look at the challenges with meal kits going retail and how the future looks.
For those who don't know: Home Chef is one of the major meal kit delivery companies in the US. As implied by the name, their mission is to make everyone a home chef and rediscover the joy of cooking. Their food philosophy is all about simple, easy-to-follow recipes that bring families together over a home-cooked meal, no matter how busy they are.
The merger was commented by Rodney McMullen, Kroger's CEO and chairman, in the following words: "The merging of our two innovative, data-driven, and customer-focused cultures will allow us to accelerate our reach across America, serving food inspiration and uplift."
Pat Vihtelic, Home Chef's founder and CEO, commented on the merger: "We look forward to bringing Home Chef's simple, convenient and enjoyable meal solutions to Kroger locations."
Who Uses Meal Kits?
There are two primary target group meal kit users: families with young kids and couples without kids who wanna learn to cook as an experience to bond over.
Each Home Chef meal kit serves two people. They offer a variety of meal options such as smoked turkey breast, sirloin steak, chicken pesto al forno, arroz con pollo, green chili chicken sandwich, guacamole chicken salad sandwich, and more.
The meals served at Kroger include dishes that are ready in 15 minutes or less.
To be your own home chef by cooking with meal kits was a practice that had plummeted during 2019 and early 2020 – something that drastically changed with the pandemic. Closed restaurants and people working from home meant a surge in Home Chef lunch kits as well as similar meal solutions. But was the spark in cooking interest only a fluke?
"Our [in-store] kits are more of a browsable experience," said Rich DeNardis, Home Chef's chief revenue officer. "We’re certainly still in the early days of introducing the brand to Kroger households. And so building that nice cycle of introducing folks to the brand as they’re walking through the store … that’s obviously been slowed a little with trips being down."
In 2019, the year following the Kroger acquisition of Home Chef, the company added ready-made meals to their line of meal kits, the so-called Heat & Eat meals. These fully cooked meals are ready to be heated and can be prepared in as little as five minutes!
This in addition to their Oven-Ready Meals that require only 5 minutes of prep work and can then be put together in the oven. The other options are the lunch kits. These feature salads, grain bowls, and sandwiches, along with options with fully cooked protein.
The challenge for meal kits expanding from home delivery to the shelves in grocery stores is to get people buying. There's a lot of competition from purely ready-made meals – something that's in high demand. Was that the reason why Home Chef added prepped meals to their line of meal kits?
Besides, one of the points of signing up for a meal kit subscription is the home delivery and possibility of skipping the grocery store queues. Will people be ready to buy when they might as well fetch the ingredients on the shelves around them at a lower price? Time will tell.
There's also the infamous subscription problem: people sign up and stay for a few months to then leave the service. Since having retainer clients is desirable for all businesses, the constant chase for new clients is a challenge that meal kit delivery companies face today. Perhaps their appearance in stores more than anything will serve as good PR that has retail clients discovering the convenience of meal kits over cooking from scratch.