- Gyms across the country are selling protein-rich, all-natural prepared meals to their members, according to The Wall Street Journal.
- The meals, many of which follow special diets like the Paleo diet, range in price from $8 to $14. Members can order specific meals ahead of time and have them delivered to the gym, or they can grab from an assortment of options from a refrigerated case after their workout. One gym manager in Kentucky told the Journal that 25% of her members purchase prepared meals.
- The trend, according to experts interviewed by the Journal, reflects the growing focus on food as an important part of a healthy workout. The U.S. Army is launching a program that puts more healthy meals in its training facilities.
From drug stores to office supplies stores, more retail locations than ever are siphoning off sales from supermarkets by offering packaged food and beverages. Now add to those ranks another channel — and a potentially formidable one at that.
Gyms have a lot of competitive advantages when it comes to selling high-margin prepared foods. They’re seen as trusted outlets, with the same trainers that craft members’ workouts also selecting the best foods to fuel their bodies. Gyms also have the convenience factor in their favor, since many of their members work out before or after work, right before two of the day’s main meals. Members can eat in designated dining areas before leaving, or take a meal to go and eat at work or home.
Savvy gym operators, which have long supplied protein powders, juices and other post-workout fuel, can also lock in high-value customers by making prepared meals a part of their regimens. And here’s the most daunting part of the story for supermarkets: Gyms are everywhere.
So what can grocers do? Although gyms are viewed as trusted sources, so too are supermarkets, especially those that have invested in healthy marketing and resources. Store dietitians should have the upper hand when it comes to nutrition advice, and can work with shoppers individually or through classes to craft meal plans that work in concert with exercise plans. Although many dietitians emphasize made-from-scratch cooking, the proliferation of healthy, all-natural prepared meals makes it easier to recommend convenient meal kits and grab-and-go foods.
Supermarkets can also do a better job than gyms at pricing and merchandising healthy prepared foods. If a local fitness center is selling meals like hotcakes, a grocer can easily price check the location, then offer the same meals for fifty cents or a dollar less. Gyms often partner with just one or two meal providers, meaning their choices are limited. As the Journal notes, members also like to stock up on meals for the week, presenting another opportunity for grocers to win on price and selection.
One grocer, at least, seems to have already picked up on the selling potential of gyms, and has decided to join forces rather than go head-to-head. This summer, Hy-Vee announced a partnership with fast-growing OrangeTheory fitness centers to open locations in or adjacent to select stores. The two companies will integrate their training and nutrition services, offering store tours, healthy product samples and other programs to shoppers. It will be interesting to see if other grocery chains follow suit, and how the health and nutrition spaces continue to converge in retail.