Shift Toward Prepared Foods Reshapes Grocery

Mark Hamstra
Specialty Food Association

As consumers increasingly seek out solutions that make meal preparation more convenient, supermarkets are responding by offering every possible iteration of the cooking process, from raw ingredients to partially prepared foods to full-blown, sit-down table service.

Albertsons’ recent acquisition of Plated is one of the latest forays into this arena, as the chain seeks to gain a foothold in the burgeoning meal-kit delivery niche. A handful of other retailers have launched their own meal-kit offerings, which generally include all of the pre-measured ingredients needed to prepare a recipe for two to four people. Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. is rolling out its Prep + Pared line of meal kits, for example, and Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix Super Markets is doing the same with its Aprons line.

“The move by Albertsons is a good step in the right direction,” said Eddie Yoon, founder of Eddie Would Grow, a think tank and advisory firm on growth strategy and a director at The Cambridge Group. “I think the grocery industry would be wise to adopt the perspective that cooking is likely to go the way of sewing. Back in the day, most people sewed most of their own clothing, and today they do it for a hobby.”

He said that while the widespread popularity of TV cooking shows has certainly enhanced consumer interest in food and eating, it has not necessarily fostered an increase in cooking from scratch at home. According to Yoon’s research, only about 10 percent of consumers say they “love to cook,” down from 15 percent when he first surveyed shoppers 15 years ago.

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