Sunday Times

Putting the kit into kitchen, SA gets trendy

New meal pack­age deals cook­ing up a storm glob­ally

- By PALESA VUYOLWETHU TSHANDU Food · Healthy Living · Consumer Goods · Healthy Food · Recipes · Cooking · Shoprite SA · Checkers · United States of America · Pick 'n Pay Stores Limited · Woolworths Limited · The Pantry

● Whether it’s a green Thai chicken curry or a Greek leg of lamb, con­sumers are now un­box­ing their way to their sup­per, as con­ve­nient meal kits be­come the lat­est fad in gro­cery re­tail­ing.

Global re­tail­ers have ex­panded from sell­ing ba­sic food prod­ucts to of­fer­ing times­trapped con­sumers con­ve­nient so­lu­tions for gourmet home-cooked meals.

Meal kits have be­come a global phe­nom­e­non for peo­ple who want pre­por­tioned and some­times partly pre­pared in­gre­di­ents along with a recipe to cook a meal at home.

This new mar­ket cat­e­gory was tra­di­tion­ally of­fered on sub­scrip­tion and could only be or­dered on­line.

Now it has made its way into the phys­i­cal world of re­tail.

In SA, Sho­prite’s Check­ers brand is emerg­ing as an early adopter of this al­ter­na­tive way of buy­ing food.

In a 2017 re­port, re­search firm Nielsen de­scribes the de­vel­op­ment as a “small cat­e­gory with big po­ten­tial” af­ter in-store meal kits raked in $154.6m (about R2.18bn) in the US, up 26.5% on the pre­vi­ous year.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­search, re­tail­ers iden­ti­fied young fam­i­lies and sin­gles who en­joy cook­ing and try­ing new recipes — roughly 44% of US house­holds — as the tar­get mar­ket for this food cat­e­gory.

“These house­holds are of­ten strapped for time and could be en­ticed to pur­chase with fur­ther cus­tomi­sa­tion, for ex­am­ple of­fer­ing a meal kit with ap­pro­pri­ate fam­ily por­tions or ex­cit­ing new recipes that are also healthy,” the re­search says.

But in SA, it’s a mat­ter of scal­a­bil­ity and how con­sumers will be able to ac­cess this mar­ket cat­e­gory.

The Sho­prite group said “there will al­ways be room for in­di­vid­ual gro­cery items”.

Lo­cally, on­line stores such as UCook and The Pantry Box have been ahead of big gro­cery re­tail­ers, be­com­ing well known for their meal kits.

Un­til Check­ers in­tro­duced them last month, the lo­cal meal-kit cat­e­gory had been de­vel­oped by re­gional play­ers and smaller busi­nesses with on­line order ca­pa­bil­i­ties, de­liv­er­ing the kits to homes.

But with Check­ers’s 213-store foot­print, lim­ited ac­cess to this cat­e­gory of food has be­come a thing of the past.

Maryla Ma­so­jada, CEO at Trade In­tel­li­gence, said: “We be­lieve de­mand for the cat­e­gory is set to grow.” She cited the launch of the Check­ers Ready to Chef range and the in­creased aware­ness of the ben­e­fits of meal kits as a re­sult of Check­ers’s na­tional mar­ket­ing cam­paign.

“It is early days for meal kits in SA … I doubt it will be long be­fore our other food re­tail­ers fol­low suit with vari­a­tions on the theme, given the suc­cess of the cat­e­gory for global food re­tail play­ers,” Ma­so­jada said.

In 2017, 9% of US con­sumers bought meal kits ei­ther on­line or in stores, mean­ing that 10.5-mil­lion house­holds were con­sum­ing these tai­lor-made so­lu­tions, the Nielsen re­port says.

Ma­so­jada said: “Peo­ple are re­al­is­ing the value and en­joy­ment of pre­par­ing their own meals, along with the health, or­ganic, lo­cal sourc­ing ben­e­fits that many meal-kit ser­vice providers bring — meal kits tick a num­ber of boxes.”

She added that the in­crease in in­ter­est in cook­ing or pre­par­ing meals, as op­posed to buy­ing ready-to-eat meals, was be­ing driven — par­tic­u­larly among men — by the likes of pro­grammes such as MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules.

I doubt it will be long be­fore our other food re­tail­ers fol­low suit with vari­a­tions on the theme

Maryla Ma­so­jada

CEO at Trade In­tel­li­gence

With these trends dic­tat­ing the spend­ing habits of mil­len­ni­als, re­tail­ers have had to change their stripes to meet con­sumers’ de­mands.

In the past fi­nan­cial year, Check­ers launched 104 new con­ve­nience prod­ucts and con­tin­ues to ex­pand its range of fresh, con­ve­nient and added-value foods.

Last year the re­tailer in­tro­duced its own ready-to-eat meals, fol­low­ing com­peti­tors Wool­worths and Pick n Pay, which had gained sig­nif­i­cant trac­tion in the cat­e­gory.

Re­flect­ing on the chal­lenges of in­tro­duc­ing a new mar­ket cat­e­gory, a spokesper­son for the group said: “As with any new prod­uct cat­e­gory, ed­u­cat­ing con­sumers about meal kits, how it works and what the ben­e­fits are, has been the big­gest chal­lenge.”

Ma­so­jada said the key el­e­ments re­tail­ers needed to get right were “por­tion sizes, rel­e­vant taste range, price bench­mark­ing and the ques­tion of home de­liv­ery or pick-up in store”.

SA’s ex­pe­ri­ence has been one of trial and er­ror, with a great num­ber of re­tail­ers adopt­ing in­ter­na­tional prac­tices that may not trans­late well in a mar­ket sharply di­vided be­tween the haves and the have-nots.

Many re­tail­ers al­ready pack­age ba­sic food sta­ples such as rice, maize meal, fish oil and some veg­eta­bles.

Ma­so­jada said: “For lower-in­come con­sumers, meal kits ex­ist, they just show up in a dif­fer­ent way.”

 ?? Pic­ture: Esa Alexan­der ?? Anathi Nxq­zonke with packs of the pre­pare-your­self meal kits at Check­ers in Canal Walk, Cape Town. Such con­ve­nient meal kits are be­com­ing pop­u­lar since their in­tro­duc­tion in SA.
Pic­ture: Esa Alexan­der Anathi Nxq­zonke with packs of the pre­pare-your­self meal kits at Check­ers in Canal Walk, Cape Town. Such con­ve­nient meal kits are be­com­ing pop­u­lar since their in­tro­duc­tion in SA.

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