Over the past few years, services like Blue Apron have gotten people cooking again. Positioning themselves as an alternative to eating out and as an easy way to cook gourmet meals at home without stocking your pantries with tons of ingredients, this space itself has grown tremendously — although individual players have felt the effects of market crowding. Additionally, while these services may not be as pricey as some restaurants, shipping expenses and other costs mean they aren’t exactly cheap.
Enter Walmart, who announced this week that they’d be bringing the meal kit idea to their supermarket location. As Bloomberg reports, the megachain has already introduced their new kits — complete with pre-portioned fresh ingredients — to 250 stores, with the goal of bringing them to 2,000 stores by the end of the year. These kits range from $8 to $15 and are intended to feed two people. Some of the meal options so far include steak Dijon, basil garlic chicken, sweet chili chicken stir-fry, and pork Florentine.
Speaking to Walmart’s decision to enter the meal kit market, senior VP Tyler Lehr said, “More than 80% of Americans don’t know what they will have for dinner tonight,” adding that this struggle “puts pressure on a family.” He went on to say, “Customers are busier than ever and we know getting a delicious dinner on the table can be a chore. We’re here to help. These delicious meals give the best or worst of cooks a fresh, easy option for dinner tonight, or later this week.”
This move is also the latest development in two Walmart efforts: improving their grocery business and taking on Amazon. Bloomberg notes that Walmart has been making upgrades to the foods they offer, including adding certified Angus beef and finding ways to track the freshness of their produce. Meanwhile the chain has also introduced Online Grocery Pick-Up, allowing customers to select their items online before picking up in store. Although Amazon sells meal kits that can be delivered directly to consumers’ doors in some markets, their options range from $16 to $20.
As you might expect, news of Walmart’s meal kits had a negative effect on the likes of Blue Apron, whose stock fell by as much as 17% in the wake of the announcement. However there is still a chance that Walmart’s meal kits could be a benefit to Blue Apron and others. First, some consumers may be apprehensive about signing up for a subscription without proving their culinary skills first. Now that Walmart is giving them what is essentially a preview of what such a service would require of them, it could be what they need to get on board. Secondly, unlike Walmart’s offerings, Blue Apron’s meal kits are directly delivered. Lastly, while Walmart is launching with 10 meal options, it remains to be seen how quickly that slate might grow. In contrast, subscription services promise greater variety, which some diners might appreciate. All this to say that, while Walmart’s foray into meal kits is notable, it may not be the end of the line for the companies that helped make them popular in the first place.