Companies like Blue Apron and Plated might be the biggest brand names for meal kits, but as their popularity continues to increase more food retailers are embracing the innovative product, including the independent supermarket industry. There’s a good reason, too.
Nearly 19 million shoppers in the United States will have tried digitally ordered meal kits by 2021 and 11 million will be making regular orders by that time, according to a recent report by Morningstar. Nielsen reports that 35 percent of consumers are interested in buying grocery store meal kits even though online options exist, and a recent Harris Poll found one in four adults have tried using a meal kit, with 70 percent returning following their first purchase. For the grocers who are already offering meal kits, Nielsen Fresh data estimates that the supermarkets brought in approximately $80.6 million meal kit sales in 2016. All this points to a rising consumer trend that presents independent grocers with a unique opportunity to differentiate themselves against national chains through their offerings of fresh produce from local farms.
In fact, NGA’s “The Independent Consumer” study found that the independent supermarket industry has a strong advantage over national chains because of their ability to offer local, fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats that support a farm-to-table supply chain. It’s one of the highly-cited reasons why eight-in-10 shoppers are very satisfied with their shopping experience at independent supermarkets. Many independent grocers are witnessing that same satisfaction carry over to meal kits.
The same spark that’s growing meal kit popularity is spreading beyond consumers to their pets even. PetPlate, which was launched in 2015, is providing pet owners with prepared meal kits designed for dogs that contain exclusively human-grade fresh ingredients. Meal plans range from $1.43 to $6.43 a meal, depending on the size of the dog.
According to Mintel, this strategy is exactly what modern dog owners are searching for. In fact, pet owners between the ages of 18 to 34 are currently stuck between choosing cheap pet food and prioritizing natural and organic ingredients. “These potentially conflicting interests could create an opportunity for retailers of all types to offer private label natural or organic pet foods at lower prices than the super premium national natural and organic brands carried at specialty retailers,” the report stated.
Regardless of whether they’re for humans or the furry critters that they care for, meal kits appear to be playing an important role in the supermarket industry and are likely to grow in popularity. Luckily, they also represent an opportunity for independent grocers to continue doing what they do best: delivering fresh, local, and unique food items from farmers and suppliers right within their own communities.