I saw these new meal kits from H-E-B at my local store a few weeks ago. They've been merchandised in a few locations in the store, mostly in a huge Meal Simple area that's been expanded over the past few months.
The kits, available in two servings so far, retail for around $14 to $17 and include recipes like General Tso's Chicken Stir Fry, Blackened Salmon, Chile Salmon and...
Ok, it's not Frito™ Pie -- they're generic H-E-B brand corn chips, but c'mon. How Texas is that?!
They were offering a $3 off each kit coupon to encourage people to try them, so I grabbed General Tso's Chicken Stir Fry and Frito -- err, sorry, Corn Chip -- Pie, even though we'd had chili the day before.
The box is interesting, and modular, and the ingredients on a white background reminds me of how I've seen subscription meal kit recipe cards arranged.
Frito -- err...Corn Chip -- Pie had meat, sauce, chips, cheese and ... shallots? Them's fancy onions, y'all, but I do agree that it's a good way to introduce new items to consumers who might not be familiar with them.
The General Tso's Chicken Stir Fry also had shallots, so that kind of made a little more sense. Grouping ordering and kit ingredients is economical on their part.
There was a whole pound of meat for two people for a the Frito -- err, Corn Chip -- Pie. That's a lot of beef.
All of the ingredients, except the shallots, were fully prepped for General Tso's Chicken -- all I had to do was stir fry.
The final result:
Frito -- err, Corn Chip -- Pie was very simple, and I honestly didn't feel like I was having a "food adventure" and learning anything new about my ingredients, or how to make something. It was basically one step above dumping a can of chili in a bag of Fritos and making walkin' tacos at a football game. and at $14 (before coupon) for two servings? That's pretty expensive for what you get.
It WAS tasty, though.
General Tso's Chicken Stir Fry was easy, fresh and tasty. There was more sauce than I expected.
We talk a lot about meal kits in this business, and I feel like they have to serve a need.
- Fast, healthful meals
- For people who value their time over their money (this sounds blunt, but it's the truth -- you could buy all of the ingredients for one of these for a lot less money)
- Introducing new ingredients, cooking techniques and "adventure eating"
- Special diets: curated foods for people who fit dietary profiles, like ketogenic, gluten free, paleo, etc.
Grocery stores have a great opportunity with meal kits because they can edge out more expensive and logistically challenged subscription models, but building a base consumer and getting them continue coming back is a challenge. I'm sure you've seen the millions and millions of dollars' worth of advertising and promotion companies like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh have put out there over the past few years.
A retailer perhaps doesn't have to do all manners of wacky things, like ads I found for the German equivalent of Hello Fresh in the seat back pocket of a recent flight from Dusseldorf to Boston, to make consumers aware of their new meal kits, but you ARE going to have to do more than stock them on an end cap.
Set it and forget it does NOT work for a new item like this.
I look forward to finding more meal kit options at the supermarket, and you know I'm always eager to give them a go in my kitchen.