While conceived more for subscription services and home-delivery, meal kits have come a long way in a relatively short time—and they’ve developed into a growing in-store option for consumers along the way. In the U.S., in-store meal kit sales totaled $80.6 million in the year ended March 4, 2017, up 6.7% from the previous year. Of the 25% of Americans who say they’ve tried a meal kit in the past year, 17% purchased one in-store.
Popular among Millennial men, families with children at home and households that earn more than $70,000 in annual income, meal kits provide a practical option for consumers looking for healthy meal options without having to manage the preparation themselves. Because meal kits are packaged with pre-portioned ingredients and easy instructions for heating or cooking once the items are combined, they’ve gained favor among Americans who have tried them.
In addition to offering consumers something quick and hassle free, many see meal kits as healthier than other options available to them. In fact, 81% of consumers in a recent Nielsen survey said they believe meal kits are healthier for them than prepared foods from their local grocery store. And in terms of success rates, meal kits are delivering: 92% of adults say they’re satisfied with the quality of the produce in their meal kits, 91% are satisfied with how the meat is packaged and 66% say they eat seafood more when they purchase meal kits.
Meal kits that emphasize fresh foods, health and nutrition will be able to meet the needs of consumers who use special diets to stay healthy, prevent illness and manage their wellbeing. Nielsen’s global health and wellness survey last year found that 60% of Americans actively make dietary choices to prevent health conditions like obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol. Foods with healthy attributes or those that meet dietary restrictions are also appealing to the 48 million Americans who manage their ailments (such as diabetes or a gluten intolerance) with diet.
No product or service is foolproof, however, and retailers can always take steps to boost engagement and interest in their meal kit offerings. Among the U.S. consumers who aren’t currently purchasing meal kits, 44% say would be influenced to start buying them again if they helped save time on meal planning. Others say they’d like more variety and availability of meal kits. For example, 86% say they’d like them to include a dessert and 36% say they’d like meal kits available at their local grocery store. And as with any consumer product, price is always a key influencer, as 46% of consumers say they would buy meal kits if they were less expensive.
The insights in this article were derived from Nielsen’s The Mindset of the Meal Kit Consumer study, March 2017.