Meal kits and prepared foods should have a bright future given the recent changes in how people cook, how people eat and how people spend their time.
Bill Bishop, chief architect for retail consulting firm Brick Meets Click, noted that people are eating more as individuals rather than gathering around a table, they do not have the same skill in preparing food as earlier generations, and they feel more pressed for time than ever. Between all those factors, he expects there will continue to be demand for food options that occupy a space between traditional home cooking and traditional restaurants.
Numerous meal kit companies sprung up to meet the need with online order fulfillment, and grocers have quickly gotten involved as well, buying or partnering with meal kit companies or developing their own products and brands in that space.
Looking ahead, Bishop expects many more changes.
“Consumers are changing the way they buy produce, too …” Bishop said. “You can’t really depend over the long haul … on people wanting to buy the product in its traditional form.
“You’ve got product form changing, and that is part of what to prepare for,” Bishop said.
Some of that might include more convenient offerings – a bagged salad that includes not just various types of leafy greens but also a protein, nuts and fruit. There are some options in this area now.
Driving cost out of the system via different types of packaging is also something to consider, Bishop said. Further increasing shelf life is one area to examine.
“That’s a huge source of financial savings,” Bishop said.
Packaging in general – as opposed to bulk – is an area in which some retailers are already cutting costs. Aldi sources mostly packaged fruits and vegetables to reduce the work at store level.
Bishop noted that produce has the benefit of being trendy now, but it should take advantage and innovate in packaging and form so it can stay just as relevant in coming years.
“Meal kits are the tip of the iceberg of the changes that are coming,” Bishop said.