Smorgasbord of Opportunity: Meal Kits Can Deliver Probiotic Ingredients for Food Service
Meal kits—from their origin over a decade ago to their resonance today with young urbanites and others for whom they are the ultimate convenience—are increasingly becoming a staple of modern life. Valued not only for ease of preparation, but for perceived health benefits, in our current health environment, meal kits are evolving to meet consumers’ ever-changing desires. Across the globe, consumers are increasingly demanding higher food quality, as well as cleaner, healthier options. And as consumer interest soars in healthy eating, probiotic ingredients may be at the forefront of offerings in meal kits as a food service option.
Still Growing… with More Options
On the surface, some evidence seems to indicate that meal kits may have peaked before the recent global pandemic, but in reality they’re enjoying a resurgence because of it. While the at-home delivery model is facing some challenges due to consumers’ changing preferences, meal kits from restaurants drove short-term sales during the pandemic and provided an easy alternative to grocery shopping. But as grocery stores adopted social-distancing protocols and supply became more readily available, consumer interest expanded to include other new options. From kits that require consumers to prepare pre-packaged ingredients to grocery store pickup kits to restaurant-meals-in-a-box, meal kits are claiming their place in the food service industry.
Unsustainable Future? Innovation Brings Long-Term Opportunity.
Yet there is some truth to the notion of the meal kit model as potentially unsustainable. While meal kits have been a great option during the challenges posed by the pandemic, consumers’ beliefs are testing the ability of meal kits to flourish long-term. Concerns over the environmental impact of the supply chain and the amount of packaging waste generated by the kits were already looming, and now, as consumers look to the health of all—including the planet—this issue has the potential to derail growth.
As post-pandemic consumers look for ways to maintain health, eating well is a huge part of the equation. The key to re-engaging subscribers long-term is for manufacturers to pivot by finding ways of addressing consumer concerns by reducing packaging, and increasing the health halo of the meal kits.
Food with a Purpose
Meal kits offer many intangible benefits: the pleasure of cooking, whether as an individual pastime or as a family activity, and certainly the opportunity to use fresh and healthy ingredients like fruits, vegetables and herbs. Yet more than just a convenient service, meal kits could be the next big opportunity for food service manufacturers to deliver ingredients to enhance meal kits’ healthy reputation by creating easy meal options fortified with functional ingredients like probiotics.
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As competition grows among the many meal kits currently available, the healthiness of the contents is one of the most important differentiators. In fact, healthy options are one of the leading trends in meal kit growth, with current valuation of $1.5 billion annually—and no signs of stopping. It’s forecast that healthy meal kits may well become ‘the future of food’.
The Probiotic Difference
In addition to the increased interest in healthy options, the overall market for all meal kits is growing at an annual rate of $4.1 billion. Along with increasing demand for the kits themselves, recent statistics show probiotic food, beverage, and supplement products in the US grew by 12.3% in the 13 weeks ending May 16th, 2020, versus the 13 weeks immediately prior, ending February 15, 2020. As well, Kerry, the makers of BC30™, recently released global research that indicates two thirds (65%) of U.S. consumers now seek added functional benefits from their everyday food and beverages.
The study also shows that over half (54%) of consumers worldwide know that probiotics can promote good digestive health, while 46% are aware that they offer immune system support. Particularly at a time when convenience and health are top-of-mind, meal kits are a prime delivery vehicle for probiotic benefits.
What’s in the Box?
While the contents of meal kits vary, many of the individual components are similar. In addition to the fresh ingredients are the sauces, stocks, and broths that complement the fresh ingredients, as well as prepackaged side-dish preparations that only need to be warmed with the meal. These companion components provide the perfect opportunity for adding probiotic ingredients, like BC30™, a natural, hardy probiotic ingredient, to help increase the healthful benefits of the kits. Backed by over 25 published papers, research shows BC30 can help support digestive health, immune health, and may help support protein utilization.
BC30 is well-suited for meal kits because it can be formulated into a variety of foods and beverages for inclusion in meal kits to deliver digestive and immune health benefits to consumers. Examples of applications where BC30 can allow food service manufacturers to incorporate probiotics into meal kit components include:
- Frozen items, such as entrees and side dishes
- Prepared mixes
- Dried, prepackaged fruits
- Sauces, spreads, and dips
- Smoothie mixes
- Beverage mixes
- Hot or cold beverages
- Hot or iced coffees (prepared mixes)
- Instant coffee sachets
Kerry Proprietary Research, 2019
Nielsen Answers, 2020