Fresh Food

Make It a Meal: Boost Basket Sizes with Meal Kits

Prepackaged food
Photograph: Shutterstock

Now marks an important stage in the evolution of the grocery industry: As the transition into the “new normal” progresses, retailers will have to remain nimble in identifying which market changes from the pandemic are here to stay and which will fade out in the coming months.

Grab-and-go meal kits, for instance, are among those that will likely become a lasting addition to the grocery prepared foods section rather than a passing trend. Convenience is evergreen among consumers’ top priorities, and especially for busy families, meal kits offer an excellent timesaving solution for quick-yet-high-quality meals. This is great news for retailers; few grocerant offerings can boost shoppers’ basket sizes quicker than a meal bundle.

The pandemic was a clear motivator for consumers to seek easy, timesaving options at the supermarket: According to Nielsen research, the 52 weeks leading up to Jan. 4, 2020 only saw 0.6% growth of retail meal kit sales. During the 52 weeks leading up to Jan. 2, 2021, however, the meal kit category grew by 18.7%, totaling nearly $132 million more in sales year over year. Importantly, a vast majority—77%—of consumers say they expect to maintain or increase their frequency of meal kit purchases after the pandemic, according to Technomic’s May 2021 Industry Insights report.

Consumers’ Expected Frequency of Meal Kit Purchases Post-Pandemic

With consumers more than willing to keep purchasing meal kits, retailers have a prime opportunity to leverage the trend and foster further growth in the prepared foods category. By focusing on consumers’ current shopping habits and occasions, retailers can develop strategies to tailor their grab-and-go meal kit selection to perfectly suit their shoppers’ preferences.

As consumers become more comfortable taking time to browse in the store, for example, the number of shoppers making spontaneous purchasing decisions will increase steadily; according to Technomic’s Q1 2021 Supermarket Foodservice Consumer Marketbrief, unplanned foodservice purchases have been on the rise since Q3 2020, with more consumers saying they decide to purchase foodservice after arriving at the store rather than beforehand with each subsequent quarter. This gives retailers incentive to convert shoppers in-store with fresh, appealing offerings—namely, meal kits that look as fresh and delicious as they taste.

Identifying shopping occasions that drive grocerant visits can also be a key consideration as retailers craft their grab-and-go meal kit selection. For example, top occasions include:

  • After work and school: Around the evening rush hour, retailers can highlight family-sized meals with kid-friendly options for busy parents stopping by the store on their way home.
  • Entertaining: Near holidays, retailers can offer seasonal dishes in extra-large meal bundles for consumers feeding a crowd.
  • Daily visitors: With more shoppers purchasing prepared meals from the grocerant on a daily basis than in the prior year, offering variety on the menu is crucial.

How often do you purchase prepared meals from a grocery store or other retail store, either for dine-in or takeout?

Beyond shopping occasions, retailers can boost the appeal of meal kit offerings by incorporating the foods consumers seek out most when they shop the grocerant.

For example, a number of consumers turn to supermarket foodservice when they’re seeking a better-for-you option. According to Technomic’s Q1 2021 Supermarket Foodservice Consumer Marketbrief, nearly one-third of shoppers say they choose where to purchase fresh-prepared foods based on where they can find healthy recipes and wholesome items made with real ingredients. At the same time, the grocerant remains a hub for many of consumers’ favorite comfort foods. In short, building the optimal grocerant menu is a balancing act.

For instance, meal kits designed to be weeknight meals can benefit from the inclusion of better-for-you options, such as grilled chicken, salads and vegetable side dishes. Special-occasion kits can include familiar favorites such as fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. Dishes that check the box on both craveability and good-for-you ingredients can be retailers’ meal-kit secret weapon—kits including protein-packed pastas such as chicken alfredo and penne Bolognese, for example.

Top craveable retail foodservice offerings according to consumers, ranked

Of course, optimizing the grocerant meal kit selection to appeal to consumers’ varied needs and preferences is no small task. Adding new recipes to expand the menu can come at a cost—possibly adding labor to the back of house or increasing food waste.

To keep the menu fresh and accessible to shoppers of all stripes while keeping margins high, quality prepared items and versatile ingredients can be the key to saving time and cutting costs without limiting menu variety. Sandridge Foods Corporation, for example, offers a one-stop shop for retailers crafting meal kits for any shopper, any occasion. With everything from deli classics, such as coleslaws and pasta salads; to heat-and-eat entrees such as chicken piccata and beef pot roast; to prepared ingredients, such as cooked proteins, pastas and sauces; to even pre-assembled meal kits ready for consumers to take home, Sandridge offers convenience with the handmade quality consumers expect from the grocerant.

To learn more about offerings from Sandridge, visit

This post is sponsored by Sandridge Food Corporation


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