- Kroger has begun rolling out its Prep + Pared meal kits to 200 additional stores across several Midwestern markets, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
- The kits are available in store deli departments and cost $14 for each two-serving meal. The retailer is offering seven kit varieties, including carne asada steak, pork chili verde and mushroom stroganoff. Kroger launched the line earlier this year in its Cincinnati home market, and in September announced an expansion to 100 Ralphs stores in California.
- Meal kit sales are projected to reach nearly $5 billion this year, according to research firm Packaged Facts, up from $1.5 billion last year.
With this move, Kroger will soon have Prep + Pared meal kits available in more than 10% of its stores. That’s a sign the Cincinnati retailer likes what it’s seeing so far.
But is it moving quickly enough to keep up with demand? Albertsons bought meal kit pioneer Plated in September and has plans for a nationwide rollout. Walmart also now offers meal kits on its website — and reportedly sold out of several varieties last week. And although the largest player in the online market, Blue Apron, is struggling, other competitors are expanding and retooling their offerings.
Kroger is great at testing and implementing new concepts, but its pipeline may not be adequately keeping pace with an industry that’s projected to reach $10 billion within the next few years.
Kroger’s Midwestern expansion will be a crucial step for the company. After launching in Cincinnati and then making a relatively safe move to foodie-packed Southern California, success in America’s heartland might spur the grocer to accelerate its rollout.
There’s no reason to believe Kroger won’t see strong returns from its stores in Ohio and Indiana. Contrary to meal kits’ reputation for being popular mostly with coastal millennials, research indicates broad interest across demographics and regions.
In a recent interview with Food Dive, Plated CEO Josh Hix said his customer base reflects broader national demographics. Roughly 8% of Americans live in Texas, he noted, and roughly 8% of Plated’s customers hail from the Lone Star State. Same for Ohio, he said, which holds about 4% of the population and the same percentage of Plated’s market share.
“It’s not just millennials, and it’s not just people in urban environments we’re reaching,” he said “It really is the average American.”