Meal kits continue to show strength

Meal solutions move from online subscription services to in-store supermarkets, restaurant brands


Ron Ruggless, Nation's Restaurant News 

Mar 07, 2019


Meal kit sales continued to show strength in 2018, according to new data from the market research firm the Nielsen Co. LLC.


“There has been a massive shift to the in-store space in the last year,” said Meagan Nelson, Nielsen’s associate director for fresh growth and strategy, at the Annual Meat Conference in Dallas this week.


Nelson said the growth in meal kits has been fueled in part by online subscription companies partnering with brick-and-mortar groceries, supermarkets offering their own packaged options and even restaurant brands dipping their toes into the market.


Neilsen data indicated meal kits had seen a 36% growth in just under a year. A survey of 43,000 consumers in late 2018 found 12% of consumers had purchased meal kits in the past six months and 23% of shoppers would consider trying a kit in the next six months, Nelson said.


Meal kits solved a need state, Nelson told attendees at the Meat Conference, sponsored each year by the Food Marketing Institute and the North American Meat Institute.


“It went beyond just products to your door,” Nelson said. “It solved the need for: ‘What do I want for dinner? Do I have everything I need?’”


A number of customers buy in both the online and in-store channels, Nelson noted, but in-store purchases accounted for 60% of the growth in meal kit sales.


Meal kit customers tended to be higher income and younger than typical shoppers, she said. Demographics indicate meal kit purchase growing among those in households with incomes of $100,000 or more. They also saw appeal, both online and in-store, among those aged 35 to 44, Nelson said.


In-store growth rate for meal kits was $93 million in 2018, up 51% from 2017, and 7.3 million units were sold, an increase of 42%.


About 87% of in-store meal kits included meat in 2018, with beef leading the way among animal proteins at 52%, followed by pork at 17% and chicken at 16%.


“In general, what we are seeing is consumers really want to eat healthy but know they can’t always do it,” Nelson said, and 76% of surveyed shoppers said they wanted their meal kit to be good for their diet.


Established frozen-food companies also are seeking to ride the coattails of the meal kit trend, with traditional TV dinner providers like Stouffers creating freezer-case versions and shelf-stable brands like Hamburger Helper and Knorr creating meal options, she said.


To capitalize on the meal-kit trend, Nelson suggested supermarkets can:


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