- Kroger is taking its Home Chef retail meal kits nationwide, with plans to introduce the kits at 500 additional stores by the end of February, the company announced. Kroger first launched Home Chef in 225 stores in the Midwest last fall. With the latest expansion, Home Chef meal kits will be available in several more states including Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, Idaho and Texas. Retail meal kit selections will rotate on a weekly basis at each Kroger store, and prices will remain at $8.50 per serving, with each meal serving two.
- For customers who prefer to order their meal kits online, Home Chef will also begin offering customizable meal kit options so subscribers can swap out, upgrade or double ingredients for their recipes. Home Chef founder and CEO Pat Vihtelic said in a statement that the company made the move in response to customer requests for more customization.
- “Kroger continues to redefine the customer experience and provide new ways to shop for, prep and cook meals through exciting brick-and-mortar and digital experiences,” said Robert Clark, Kroger's senior vice president of merchandising, in a press release. “Last October, Kroger introduced Home Chef retail meal kits, and we're now expanding to add the easy-to-prepare recipes to hundreds of new locations, providing convenient access to the meal solution at more than 700 stores.”
Since acquiring Home Chef last year, Kroger has been clear and deliberate with its plans to integrate the meal kit company and bring meal solutions to customers in-store. The grocer has handed Home Chef all the responsibility for its meal solutions and has continued to introduce more grab-and-go options and freshly prepared meals to stores as part of its Restock Kroger initiative.
Right around the time Home Chef was introduced to grocery stores, Kroger also expanded its Easy For You! customizable meals, which are currently available in 350 stores. Home Chef meal kits round out the store’s offerings so that customers will think of Kroger when they need something quick and easy that is also high quality.
A number of retailers have experimented with meal kits and quick-prep meal solutions in stores. The latest offering comes from Hy-Vee, which introduced WW Fresh meals at 200 stores last month. Last year, HelloFresh began selling its meal kits at Giant and Stop & Shop stores, and Albertsons — which pioneered the retail meal kit effort when it acquired Plated — has continued to expand in-store meal kits. Target launched a line of private label meal solutions last summer that cost $9 or less.
Customers have responded well, with Nielsen reporting $154.6 million in in-store meal kit sales in 2017, and that’s driving competition as more retailers partner with meal kit companies or try to launch their own meal kit solutions. In-store meal kits are a pricey but easy impulse purchase, and shoppers don’t have to worry about an ongoing subscription the way they would if they bought directly from a meal kit company online.
Customization appears to be the next stage in the evolution of meal kits as customers figure out what they like and dislike about the offering. Home Chef’s customizable meals and menus for home delivery are on-trend, but they are among a handful of recent changes by other meal kit companies to stand out. Blue Apron just introduced a Knick Knacks line that will be available on Jet.com's City Grocery service and will allow for more personalization of recipes, while Green Chef recently unveiled four additional meal plans to meet a variety of dietary needs. Other companies like Sun Basket are offering quick meals that can be made in just a few minutes.
The retail meal kit space is getting crowded as more companies move in-store, and grocers who invest in meal kits run the risk of shoppers getting bored with the concept. Some customers may realize after a few purchases that they can replicate the recipes for a fraction of the cost if they do their own meal planning and shopping. But, given the large number of shoppers looking for convenience and quick solutions, the benefits should outweigh the risks for retailers.