December 9, 2019

Ready-to-cook meal kits filling food market void

Busy consumers aren’t just looking for healthy on-the-go meals and snacks these days. They want restaurant quality convenience products that require minimal prep time.

Luckily, today’s time-crunched consumers have access to a whole new range of products from meal prep kits to vegetable side dishes to ready-to-heat microwaveable bowls. Standing out in this competitive market means dreaming up exciting new concepts that address consumer demands for quick and healthy convenience products. Here are some of those products.

Urban Roots Veggie Side Kits

While the convenience market has seen tremendous growth over the past 10 years or so, a niche within that niche has emerged: the time-stressed home cook who’s looking for a hand in the kitchen. Urban Roots noticed this and has been working to fill it. Their offerings include prepped veggies, like shredded cabbage, diced celery, sliced peppers and cubed yams. They also have a new product — the Veggie Side Kit.

“Our Urban Roots Veggie Side Kits are designed for everyone from busy professionals to those with young families who want to put nutritious, fresh and tasty plates on the dinner table, but simply don’t have the time to source and prepare all the ingredients,” explained Barry Frish, Culinary Development Marketing Specialist, Baldor Specialty Foods. “Our kits have done all that work for them, empowering them to create healthy, gourmet-quality meals without all the fuss.”

Dishes include Zucchini Pomodoro Veggie Noodles, Chili Cilantro Cauliflower Rice, and Lo Mein Veggie Noodles. (See top photo.)

Urban Roots is about convenience, but for a select market — the home cook.

“Urban Roots checks all the boxes for the busy culinary consumer who still wants to be the master of their kitchen and output a steady stream of stunning meals on a regular basis,” said Frish.

Unlike mail order kits, Urban Roots gives consumers the flexibility to make meal-planning choices right at the point of purchase. Their kits feature minimal, transparent packaging, so the consumer gets to see the ingredients in the kit.

“Convenience, freshness and speed of preparation drove the design of our Urban Roots line,” Frish said. “We paid special attention to cutting and measuring the ingredients, so that the kits enable quick cooking and cleaning times. Every kit only needs one pot or pan.”

All ingredients are included in the kit. To prepare, consumers only need olive oil, salt and pepper. Kits take just 10 minutes to prepare.  

Affordable meal kit subscription for the busy cook 

Another interesting model that’s surfaced in recent years is the meal kit subscription service. Launched in 2017, Dinnerly is an affordable such service for working families and couples looking for quick weeknight cooking solutions. For $4.99 per serving (plus $8.99 shipping), customers receive pre-portioned ingredients and digital recipe cards for fuss-free meals.

Dinnerly is a meal kit subscription service that launched in 2017. Items are delivered in an insulated box. Photo: Dinnerly

Meal kits are delivered weekly in most U.S. states. They contain seasonal ingredients for up to eight weekly recipes. Dinnerly recipes use five ingredients or less and take about 30 minutes to prepare. Meal options include pan-roasted harissa chicken with potatoes and spinach, and spaghetti and spicy sausage meatballs.

Dinnerly markets itself as an affordable option. “Though there’s been innovation in the meal kit space over the last several years, the most clear and important customer need has gone unaddressed — affordability,” said CEO and founder Fabian Siegel. “We are excited and proud to deliver a weeknight cooling solution that doesn’t force customers to choose between convenience, quality and cost. The next step is making easy weeknight cooking accessible to millions more.”

Bonduelle’s Heat & Eat Harvest Bowls are a no-fuss option for the health-minded consumer

For most busy consumers, a hot meal at lunch means going through the drive-thru or taking time for a sit-down meal in a restaurant. But these options can be both costly and often unhealthy.

Bonduelle’s Heat & Eat Bowls are packaged with all items separated to ensure freshness. Photo: Bonduelle

“Consumers today want lunch options that are fresh, delicious, filling and convenient,” said Bonduelle Fresh Americas Executive Chef Jeff Haines. “In fact, 55% of U.S. consumers said they were looking for quick and easy meal options.”

Bonduelle Heat & Eat Harvest Bowls are unique in that they take just three minutes to heat and contain a healthy mix of fresh vegetables and meat, hearty grains and flavorful sauces.

Consumers who like the idea of mixing and prepping their own meal will be drawn to Bonduelle’s packaging. All ingredients are kept separate until ready for use to maximize freshness, texture and crunch. Consumers can add a personal touch to the final dish with minimal fuss. At a suggested retail price of $4.99 per serving, they’re more affordable than a sit-down or drive-thru lunch.

Bonduelle Heat & Eat Harvest Bowls are available in four flavors: Chipotle Chicken, Basil Pesto with Turkey Meatballs, Moroccan-Inspired Chicken, and Korean-Inspired Beef.

— By Melanie Epp, contributing writer