“What people like most about delivery meal kits is that they are a source of culinary exploration. They are a source to learn about new ingredients and do things in their kitchen they didn’t know they could do,” Brian Critz, marketing director at Unilever, which owns Knorr, told FoodNavigator-USA.
And while “this is great,” at home delivery meal kits also have many qualities that consumers don’t like, and which can overshadow their desire to try something new, he added.
“Some of the things that people didn’t like about delivery meal kits is they felt pressured to eat them right away because they are delivered chilled, they might be too expensive, or it might take too long to prepare,” he said. Pointing to a recent study, he added these reasons led about 50% of consumers to drop their meal kit subscriptions after just one week and 90% to drop them within the first six months.
“So meal kits are clearly a way for some consumers to do something they love, but they don’t work for everyone. And that is where we think One Skillet Meals come in and provide something new and different” that offers the same ability to cook something new at home, but without some of the other downsides, Critz said.
For example, he explained, for a fraction of the cost of a meal kit, One Skillet Meals offer consumers a convenient pouch that combines organic ancient grains or whole wheat cous cous with herbs and spices and easy-to-follow directions on how to add a protein and vegetables to make a complete meal.
“When you look at our meals, even with all the ingredients that you add, the cost per serving comes out to about $2.60 to $6 per serving, which is half what a lot of meal kits are, and they only take about 30 minutes to prepare, whereas a lot of meal kits take twice as much time,” he said.
Preserving flavor while reducing time, cost
While One Skillet Meals cut costs and time, they don’t cut back on flavor or culinary adventure, he adds.
The line includes globally-inspired recipes, such as Moroccan Style Chicken with Barley, Southwest Chicken Brown Rice and Quinoa, Rustic Italian White Bean With Farro, and others.
“A lot of people want to raise their game. They might have read about ancient grains in a blog or magazine and they want to try new things, but they don’t always know how. So our chefs measure just the right amount spices, such as cumin, cinnamon and coriander in the Moroccan Style Chicken to make a really authentic dish, and then giving it to customers so they can do the part they feel comfortable with, which is chopping a little chicken, some cauliflower and some carrots, and then at the end making a dish that they didn’t know how to do before,” Critz said.
Recognizing that the idea of meal starters that blend spices with dry ingredients isn’t new, and could be frowned on by some modern consumers for typically having less desirable preservatives, artificial flavors and other unwanted ingredients, Critz says One Skillet Meals remain relevant to today’s consumers by using global ingredients and trendy, organic and nutritionally-dense grains that are in demand. They also drop the artificial ingredients, colors and preservatives that consumer’s don’t want.
“I think when you combine the new ingredients with the idea of pushing your boundaries, the pure deliciousness of the culinary aspect, that is really bringing something new to the category and the center store,” Critz said.
The kits also face several notable hurdles – including their natural placement in the center store, which many modern consumers reportedly increasingly are avoiding. However, Critz says, One Skillet Meals overcomes this by linking the center store to the perimeter by directing consumers to combine the kits with fresh proteins and produce.
By providing this bridge, Critz adds, Knorr is also helping to “bring consumers back to the center store and reinvigorate the quality of products that people love to get from the center store.”
An expanding portfolio and pipeline of innovation
The new line of One Skillet Meals follows other innovations from Knorr as the 180 year old brand attempts to expand its portfolio and stay relevant to today’s consumers.
Last year the company launched a line of side dishes called Selects, which also are made without artificial ingredients and flavors, Critz said. This line includes options such as White Cheddar Broccoli with Cavatappi Pasta, Roasted Garlic Pesto With Volanti Pasta and Spinach Florentine with Penne Pasta.
The inspiration for the Selects line came from “the realization that consumers, and especially parents, love side dishes for their convenience and their affordability, but wanted to feel better about serving them to their family,” Critz said.
Looking forward, he added, “we have a whole pipeline of ideas” that will start to roll out in the coming months that all building on the idea that people love cooking at home, but they want the little shortcuts to help them do it in a way that fits with the other demands of their daily lives.