- Chef, author and restaurateur Ayesha Curry has launched a line of meal kits under her lifestyle banner Homemade at two Whole Foods Markets in California, according to a company press release.
- The meal kits feature Curry’s recipes based on local ingredients from Local Crate. They are geared toward all levels of cooking expertise with busy weeknights in mind.
- There are four recipes in the introductory series, including honey-lime chicken breasts with wasabi mashed potatoes and sauteed garlic kale and cheesy baked penne primavera with ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella.
Whole Foods was one of the first grocers to bring meal kits into its stores back in 2016, and it's still circling the opportunity. As Grocery Dive recently reported, the chain now offers Amazon meal kits in 16 states and Washington, D.C.
It's easy to see why Whole Foods is still interested in the trend. According to Nielsen data, meal kit users increased 36% last year over 2017. In the last six months of 2018, 14.3 million Americans bought meal kits, a 3.8 million increase over the same period one year prior. Grocers across the country put meal kits on their shelves, whether through a private label line or partnership with a company like Home Chef or Local Crate.
Despite the demand, there are still challenges to overcome, including optimizing shelf life, in-store merchandising and packaging so that the right selections are reaching the right audiences. There’s also the challenge of keeping the recipe options new and exciting so that shoppers don’t grow tired of the assortment.
Ayesha Curry's celebrity status should be a draw for the new Homemade kits. Curry has made a splash in the culinary world and many consumers relate to her status as a full-time mom who juggles a full plate. Her focus on offering family-inspired meals based on local food and healthy ingredients likely appealed to Whole Foods, which tends to draw health-conscious shoppers who want to feed their families better. She also tends to eschew a fussy and complicated approach to culinary endeavors, opting instead to make cooking lighthearted and fun.
A handful of celebs have backed meal kit brands, but it’s unclear whether the endorsements translate to better sales. In 2017, Martha Stewart offered her Martha & Marley Spoon meal kits through AmazonFresh on a non-subscription basis, while Chrissy Teigen partnered with Blue Apron to offer meal kits based on one of her cookbooks, "Cravings 2." Weight Watchers offered a line of quick prep meal kits in partnership with FreshRealm last year and tapped celebrity chef Eric Greenspan to develop the recipes.
Earlier this year, food writer Mark Bittman partnered with online grocer Peapod to showcase recipes from his upcoming cookbook, "Dinner for Everyone." Peapod made some of the recipes shoppable on its website.