A Tumultuous Month for Meal Kits

A lot has happened in the constantly changing meal kit space in the last month or so, with some developments positive and some challenging. Taken together, these recent news items provide a snapshot of the current status of the meal kit business. This remains a category of interest to many licensors, especially in the celebrity, brand, magazine, and nonprofit sectors.

Announcements made of late, mostly since early May, include:

  • Acquisitions. Vegan meal kit operation Purple Carrot, which produces Tom Brady’s TB12 meal kits, was acquired by Oisix ra daichi Inc., the leading Japanese meal kit and organic food-delivery company, for $30 million.
  • Investor funding. Healthy meal kit marketer Sun Basket, which has partnered with the American Diabetes Association, American Cancer Society, and American Heart Association, raised $30 million in venture capital, which it plans to use to add new products.
  • Financial struggles. Blue Apron, which works with licensors including Weight Watchers, was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange due to its persistent low share price of less than a dollar. It plans a stock split to try to reverse this situation. The company went public in 2017.
  • Retail expansion. Home Chef, Kroger’s recently acquired meal kit subscription service, is adding to its retail presence by introducing three new lines: oven-ready, heat-and-eat, and lunch kits. Its main line of kits is already available in 900 Kroger outlets. Meanwhile, Hello Fresh enhanced its retail product line, sold in multiple chains, with five new kits.
  • New categories and dayparts. Sargento is launching breakfast snack kits pairing its cheese with protein-rich ingredients such as quinoa or granola, under its Sunrise Balanced Breaks brand, while Aldi is introducing frozen sangria kits that include all the ingredients to make the punch, except the alcohol, in red and white wine versions.
  • New product types. Mosaic Foods launched a meal subscription service that offers frozen vegetarian meals focused on grains. Home Chef’s oven-ready and heat-and-eat kits, Sargento’s breakfast kits, and Aldi’s sangria kits, above, are similar departures from traditional meal kits, which are assembled by the home cook using fresh and packaged ingredients included in the purchase. All of these newer examples move into a hybrid territory between meal kits and prepared frozen or refrigerated meals.
  • Collaborations and licensing deals. Peapod is working with food writer Mark Bittman on an exclusive meal kit called Fast Pho, in two- and four-person sizes, as part of a broader promotion for his recent cookbook, Dinner for Everyone. The new item is being integrated into Peapod’s wide assortment of meal kits.

This round-up of recent announcements, most of which were made public in May, give a sense of the direction the meal-kit industry is heading as it tries to find a successful business model. Even as many consumers seem to embrace the concept of meal kits, achieving this goal has been a challenge so far.

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