7 Trends in Fresh Foods

meal delivery

The subscription meal-kit model has seen better days. After winning over many consumers based on several compelling factors, providers such as Blue Apron and HelloFresh have faced challenges. Some of the upheaval is owed to the advent of in-store meal-kit merchandising that’s simply viewed as more convenient and even more cost-effective for consumers than delivery services.

Nielsen’s recent fresh-food study spotlighted the meal-kit opportunity along with four megatrends underpinning the fresh-food merchandising proposition: transparency, convenience, health and snacking.

When discussing meal kits, which operate across most of these trends, users accounted for 12% of households in 2018, up from 9% in 2017, with the number of users increasing 36% over the past year, according to Nielsen.

In-store meal-kit users jumped by 2.2 million households in less than a year, accounting for 60% of the growth. While the majority of meal-kit sales still occurred online in 2018, the growth was evident both exclusively in-store and within a combined online/offline space.

C-store might have a bona fide chance to win the dinner daypart, fueled by the presence of meal-kit programs, with one motivator being that 36% of customers top off their fuel tanks between 3 and 7 p.m., according to NACS consumer data, so they might be ripe for this dinner option.

Click through to view seven fresh and refrigerated food innovations, including meal kits and other packaged options, such as mini-meal alternatives.

Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Chick-fil-A

chick fil a

Several chain-sponsored meal-kit programs are perceived as more simple than subscription-driven ones, if not more competitively priced. In fall 2018, fast feeder Chick-fil-A began testing Mealtime Kits, enabling customers to pick up a kit at about 150 participating locations in Atlanta. The meals include chicken flatbread, crispy Dijon chicken, chicken parmesan, chicken enchiladas and pan-roasted chicken.

Photograph: Shutterstock

2. Sweet Earth

sweet earth foods logo

Nestle acquired plant-based-meal maker Sweet Earth Foods in 2017 and recently announced the new Awesome Burger, a development that marks Nestle’s entry into the crowded plant-based burger category. Sweet Earth also dabbles in the meal-kit segment, with one selection being its Salad Meal Kits, what it dubs as “salads made with the meal in mind.”


3. Home Chef

home chef

The Kroger Co. began offering Home Chef meal kits across its supermarket banners in 2018 and in February added new cities to the network, bringing the weekly rotating meal solution to 500 additional Kroger-owned stores across the country. Also, homechef.com has launched a customizable meal kit feature for online orders, allowing customers to have more flexibility. Home Chef offers fresh, preportioned ingredients and simple recipes within a weekly rotating retail menu. Home Chef Express meal kits can be prepared in 15 minutes or less, with each designed to serve two starting at $8.50 per serving.

Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Foster Farms

foster farms

Fresh snack and mini-meal options were underscored by Nielsen’s data, which found that “mini indulgence of snacks” is paced by mini brownies at 8.4% growth, mini doughnuts at 5.3% and mini muffins at 4.9%. Also catering to the portion-control trend on the protein side of the equation is Foster Farms’ Bold Bites, an on-the-go chicken snack that’s fully cooked, ready-to-eat chicken breast pieces delivering 15 grams protein per serving. It marks the company’s entry into refrigerated, single-serve snacks.

Photograph: Shutterstock

5. Green Giant

green giant logo

Green Giant Vegetable Meal Bowls expands the supplier’s fresh vegetable portfolio. Rolled out in October 2018, the bowls contain a 100% fresh vegetable base with unique sauces and seasoning packets ranging from sweet and tangy to zesty and savory. Several varieties are vegan-friendly, while each is gluten-free and packaged in a microwave-safe container. Available for an SRP of $3.99 per bowl, flavors are Buddha Bowl, Burrito Bowl, Fried Rice Bowl, Pad Thai Bowl, Ramen Bowl and Rancheros Bowl.

6. Grecian Delight

al pastor

Grecian Delight has introduced entrees and snacks packed with a Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flair, such as ReadyCarved Flame Broiled Off-the-Cone Al Pastor Pork Slices. They allow operators to blend Mediterranean and Mexican cuisines and thus capitalize on the ethnic street-food trend. ReadyCarved Flame Broiled Off-the-Cone Natural Halal Shawarma Slices offer a quick, easy solution for operators looking to serve authentic hand-stacked shawarma on the menu without additional labor.

Photograph courtesy of Grecian Delight

7. Three Bold Brothers

three bold brothers burritos

With the ability to be merchandised from either the refrigerated or hot case, Three Bold Brothers Burritos are handmade, Mexican-inspired snacks targeting consumers seeking higher-quality snacks. The burritos offer premium ingredients such as grilled prime rib beef, grilled white meat chicken, Monterey Jack cheese, whole black beans, cilantro lime rice and a freshly-baked tortilla, all wrapped in deli-style butcher paper.

Photograph courtesy of Three Bold Brothers