Imagine you just walked through the door after a draining workday, weak with exhaustion. All you want to do is put on comfy clothes, plop on the sofa, and turn on your favorite show. Before you can do that, your stomach grumbles, signaling it’s time to eat. The thought of preparing a meal is excruciating; however, do you want to go to bed hungry? Instead, you open your fridge, and there sits your saving grace, a meal kit that can be prepared in minutes. Hallelujah! This, my industry friends, is why fresh-forward meal kit offerings have risen.
On top of the labor that goes into making meals from scratch, there is a balancing act that health- and budget-conscious consumers must perform. As they dodge obstacles like inflation, they must consider cost versus convenience and flavor versus nutrition factors.
Luckily, suppliers across the produce industry are taking on these challenges, working to create innovative products that take the stress out of whipping up delicious, healthy meals.
Think companies like Dole plc with its Sheet Pan Meal Starter Kits, Local Bounti and its Asian Style Chicken Lettuce Wrap Kits, and Mann Packing Co. wielding its Nourish Bowls®, to name a few. These suppliers have seen the rising demand and are putting their research and development skills to good use to take advantage of it.
Value-added products made up 14.6 percent of produce sales in 2022, the 2023 FMI Power of Produce report stated. That is equal to $10.9 billion, for a better understanding of how lucrative the category is.
During the pandemic, shoppers opted for home-cooked meals instead of eating out. And while many are returning to their favorite haunts, giving a welcome boost to the foodservice sector, consumers have continued to enjoy meals prepared at home to cut costs and spend more time with loved ones.
According to data from Circana*, despite inflation being up 13.2 percent in Q4 2022, perimeter sales were up 6.3 percent, showing shoppers’ penchant for fresh foods to prepare at home.
Of shoppers polled by FMI, 68 percent said they were interested in the produce department carrying more value-added offerings, while 32 percent wanted access to more meal kits specifically. For retailers, this means there is a gap to fill in the aisles that could boost register rings while upping consumer loyalty.
Now, with this knowledge in your back pocket, go forth, and take advantage of meal kit momentum!