Despite reports that the pandemic has driven consumers to embrace the daily rigors of home cooking and kitchen clean up, escalating interest in fresh prepared meals indicates another side to the story.
“The pandemic has acted as an accelerator rather than a momentary spike in demand in cook-at-home fresh meals. While there’s a faction of the population that is enjoying cooking, most consumers don’t want to cook seven days or 14-plus meals a week,” Michael Lippold, founder and CEO of FreshRealm, told WGB. “We see the fresh meal category as a $45 billion market at some point in the coming years.”
FreshRealm of Ventura, Calif., offers grocers a variety of capabilities from sourcing ingredients to logistics in daily fresh food operations to deliver both ready-to-cook and ready-to-heat fresh meals across multiple cooking methods, cuisines and serving sizes. This summer it partnered with the Pittsburgh, Pa.-based Giant Eagle to offer ready-to-cook meals under its Cookery Complete brand. The single-serve meals include six different options with each taking approximately 20 minutes to cook. They are offered at all Market District and select Giant Eagle locations.
Other grocers from H-E-B to ShopRite are also expanding their fresh meal solutions options.
Most recently, ShopRite of Keasbey, N.J., (which does not currently work with FreshRealm), introduced its own expanded meal solutions concept with “Fresh to Table” store-within-a-store installations in two New Jersey stores and one location in New York. The grocer says it plans to roll out the concept to additional ShopRite stores in the near future.
“Leading retailers are moving toward a ‘shop-by-meal’ offering,” Lippold asserts. “This is a significant positive step change for end consumers from the current ‘shop-by-ingredient’ shopping experience.”
FreshRealm is currently innovating product in a variety of ready-to-cook and ready-to-heat cooking methods, including oven-ready, stove-ready, microwave-ready and slow cooker-ready, with the idea of accelerating and simplifying retailers’ expansion into ‘shop-by-meal’, Lippold explains.
“Meal kits are seeing a temporary boost, but the pain points are still significant,” he adds. “Ready-meal market products are fresh, convenient and ready in less than 10 minutes—a far cry from the hours-long prep of the old school meal kits delivered via subscription.”
Lippold envisions FreshRealm’s offerings as the best of both worlds—a space in which consumers do not have to give up fresh to get convenience, nor do they have to sacrifice convenience to get fresh.
FreshRealm has locations in the West, Midwest, Southeast and Northeast, with plans for aggressive expansion in 2021, says the company.