Monday, November 8, 2021

Will Innovation Drive Kroger’s Home Chef Forward?


Innovation is crucial to the continuing success of any brand, product, or meal solution.  We asked Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® if Kroger’s Home Chef had plateaued?

Recently Home Chef announced that it had reached a major milestone in meal solutions, with the brand surpassing $1 billion in annual sales. Regular readers of this blog know that Home Chef was started in 2013 by Pat Vihtelic, then Home Chef merged with the Cincinnati-based Kroger in 2018. At that time what Home Chef needed was distribution, with Kroger, Home Chef found 19 different banners each its own avenue of distribution. Clearly the products are good and consumers are scooping them up.

Meal Kits have focused on advancing the availability of mealtime shortcuts and solutions.  At Kroger Home Chef offered new products and pricing, while assisting transform how customers approach preparing meals. 

Dan De La Rosa, Kroger’s group VP of fresh merchandising, stated, “Kroger’s commitment to being ‘Fresh for Everyone’ is underscored by our Home Chef products, which help us bring families together in the kitchen with meal options for any occasion,” … “We continue to strategically expand Home Chef offerings across our family of companies. Whether it’s meal kits, or heat-and-eat and ready-to-cook solutions—which are available via subscription, in-store, pickup, or delivery—it’s safe to say that Home Chef has mealtime covered.”

In a Battle for Share of Stomach

Are you Winning? 

Time starved consumers continue to seek out grocerant niche mealtime shortcuts like meal kits, Read-2-Eat, and Heat-N-Eat meals. Home Chef says it is listening to feedback and expanding its product selection is evolving to help customers reduce cooking time without sacrificing quality or flavor. 

Erik Jensen, president of Home Chef, stated, “At Home Chef, we’re on a mission to make mealtime easier with fresh ingredients and simple instructions,” … “By offering time-saving meal solutions at Kroger Family of Stores, we’re able to simplify the cooking process, provide a wide variety of options, and allow customers to enjoy a delicious homemade experience. We’re excited to continue scaling the brand and creating new products that are accessible to customers nationwide.”

Regular readers of this blog also know that in recent months, the grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared meal solutions market has become increasingly competitive, including Blue Apron and HelloFresh, as both continuing to expand their offerings.

Last month, Blue Apron introduced Heat & Eat, the company’s first-ever grocerant niche fresh prepared, single-serving meal offering, ready in five minutes or less. Yes, we also knew that earlier this year, HelloFresh introduced HelloFresh Market, a digital grocery store offering customers a range of add-ons to the meal kit order they already receive on their doorstep.

However, Home Chef “currently offers more than 500 products across a variety of categories, including meal kits, heat-and-eat meals, ready-to-eat products, and seasonal meals, among others. The brand says it will continue to create new products that offer customers a range of fresh mealtime shortcuts.” We ask 500 SKU’s once again Kroger acting like a legacy grocer want’s to be all things to everyone.  That according to Johnson is not innovation.

Vihtelic, continued, “Home Chef was founded on the idea to simplify mealtime with easy-to-make, delicious recipes,” ... “Since 2013, we’ve grown from delivering meals with a rented truck to becoming a leading brand for Kroger. With Kroger’s support, our two brands offer a collective passion to make mealtime easy and bring people together over a meal.”

According to Johnson, the meal kit sector is about to breakout once again as employees return to work.  This time innovation in fresh prepared Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat meal components will be what elevates the sector to new heights.  

Looking for success clues of your own? Foodservice Solutions® specializes in outsourced food marketing and business development ideations. We can help you identify, quantify and qualify additional food retail segment opportunities, technology, or a new menu product segment.  Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma WA is the global leader in the Grocerant niche visit us on our social media sites by clicking one of the following links: Facebook,  LinkedIn, or Twitter


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