Walmart joins grocery competitors by expanding private brand meal kits in stores

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 901 views 

Walmart is again pushing the convenience strategy and this time with with a new line of meal kits – sold in Northwest Arkansas and in Fort Smith – the retailer said was developed in its Culinary and Innovation Center in Bentonville.

The meal kits are assembled in-store by deli employees, and after testing well in Northwest Arkansas, Walmart said Monday it plans to roll the products out in 2,000 stores this year. A rollout timeline was not provided.

Meal kits are a $5 billion business, according to research from Packaged Facts. While subscription-based meal kits are a specialized sector, they have been a disruptive force in the food industry, according to David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts. He said growth in meal kits is an example of the movement toward greater convenience in getting fresh foods to the customer.

Walmart follows efforts by Albertson’s, Amazon, Campbell Soup, HEB, Kroger, Peapod, Publix, Tyson Foods, Unilever and Whole Foods who are already in the meal kits space.

Prices for the Walmart dinner solutions range between $8 to $15 and feeds two people. Consumers can have them on the table in less than 15 minutes on average for the heat-only entrees and 30 minutes for kits which have to be cooked. Walmart developed several different levels of dinner options for consumers with varying time restraints and cooking experience. There is a pre-portioned cooking kit that includes all the ingredients to make a dinner with no measuring required for entrees like steak dijon or pork florentine. These kits cost around $15 and take about 30 minutes to prepare at home for two people.

There is a pre-cut and curated ingredient kit that can be paired with rotisserie chicken sold in the deli for a complete dinner such as Thai curry chicken and chicken fried rice. These entrees sell for $8 but that doesn’t include the cost of the rotisserie chicken. The retailer also offers one-step meal kits that can be heated and served in 15 minutes for entrees such as meatloaf or chicken marsala. These entrees cost between $8 and $10 and feed two people.

The meal kits are made fresh daily in-store by deli employees and none of the kits are frozen, according to Walmart spokeswoman Molly Blakeman. There are 10 Northwest Arkansas store locations and one Fort Smith store where the meal kits are being sold.

• Bentonville: Store No. 6953 on Centerton Boulevard
• Farmington: Store 7242 on Main Street
• Fayetteville: Store 5737 on Blackforest Drive
• Pea Ridge: Store 6871 on Slack Street
• Rogers: Store 3479 on 8th Street; Store 5260 on Pleasant Crossing; Store 5837 on Pauline Whitaker Parkway
• Siloam Springs: Store 6960 on Holly Street
• Springdale: Store 5738 on E. Robinson Avenue; Store 4108 on Elm Springs Road

The retail giant also said the meal kits are being offered via Online Grocery Pickup at the following locations: 1703 E. Central Ave., Bentonville; 4208 S. Pleasant Crossing, Rogers; and 2425 S. Zero Street, Fort Smith.

This is not Walmart’s first attempt at capturing some of the $200 million U.S. fast food market. The retailer outlined for the media last summer its efforts to refresh the deli grab and go selections such as Italian sub-sandwiches which are assembled daily in the deli and sold in coolers near the deli section. Wraps and salads and the sandwiches are private brand items under the Market Fresh label and they sell for under $5.

Walmart also began making pizzas in its store deli a few years ago. The pizzas are fresh and ready to cook and sell at a value. Some of the stores will also cook the pizza for customers to take home hot. Aldi also sells fresh pizzas consumers can take home and cook. Aldi stores don’t offer the cooking feature since those stores don’t have deli operations.

Fast food restaurant sales are expected to rise an estimated 1% on higher menu prices as more grocers and food manufacturers try to take share away with meal kits and ready-to-eat dinner options.