Convenience is king as new-gen vending units add meal kits
Meal kits, once available only by subscription online, have begun appearing in brick-and-mortar stores as brands realize that it’s difficult to get customers interested in the product purely through e-commerce. Now thanks to a partnership between two startups, meal kits might start popping up in an unexpected physical location: the vending machine in the office lobby.
Byte Foods, which places its vending machine-style smart fridges in office buildings, will be stocking meal kits from Chef’d in 100 of its Bay Area machines, according to The Spoon. As with other products in the Byte Foods machines, office workers will scan their credit card to open the fridge door, select a meal kit and receive a receipt upon closing the door. Byte Foods plans to soon stock the meal kits in all 500+ of its smart fridges.
Some of the biggest names in meal kits have recently gone physical. Last year, Albertsons acquired meal kit startup Plated and began stocking the kits in stores in addition to online direct-to-consumer sales. Early in 2018, Walmart announced the creation of its own branded meal kits available both in stores and online. Earlier this month, Blue Apron struck a deal with Costco to sell kits in the wholesaler’s stores. This week, Kroger announced the acquisition of privately-owned meal kit leader Home Chef.
But adding an element of grab-and-go for the post work crowd is where the Chef’d/Byte Foods deal appears to distinguish itself. On the way out of the office, potential Chef’d customers will pass the smart fridge at a time when they’re considering what to eat for dinner. Buying a meal kit from the machine would allow them to get something healthy to prepare when they get home, and avoid a more time-consuming after work visit to the grocery store.
Companies in other areas of retail have also been exploring creative ways to leverage improved vending machine technology in recent years. In 2015, clothing retailer Gap began discussing vending machines for clothing. And while it’s not clear if that retailer ever brought the technology to the pilot stage, Japan-based fast fashion retailer Uniqlo did indeed roll out a clothing vending machine in the U.S.
- Chef’d & Byte Foods Partner to Bring Meal Kits to the Office – The Spoon
- Byte Foods – Bytefoods.co
- Can vending units help Uniqlo achieve success in the U.S.? – RetailWire
- Gap is still waiting for a turnaround – RetailWire
- Albertsons buys its way into the meal kit business with Plated acquisition – RetailWire
- Should Starbucks acquire Blue Apron? – RetailWire
- Walmart debuts prepared meals and meal kits – RetailWire
- Kroger to become meal kit force with Home Chef deal – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are smart vending machines a smart way to sell meal kits? Are there other locations other than offices where the strategy might work? Do you see other meal kit brands partnering with next-gen vending machine companies to get their product to consumers?