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How retailers are getting in on the meal kit game

Through partnerships or extensions of current services, retailers small and large are meeting customers' demands for convenience.

Meal kits have taken the food sector by storm. Some retailers, instead of caving to lost sales from delivery meal kits, are coming up with their own ways to meet this new type of demand for their customers, either through partnerships with existing services or innovating their own. Here’s a look at some from around the country:

1. Whole Foods recently started piloting sales of Purple Carrot’s vegan meal kits in its Dedham, Mass store. The exclusive partnership will feature dishes not offered through Purple Carrot’s online service, such as Mongolian Seitan Stir-Fry, Pan-Seared Tofu and Black Rice Noodles, and Cashew Korma with Cauliflower Rice. Kits are designed for two people and will cost $19.99 each.

2. In some of its Washington, D.C. area, locations, Giant Food now offers fresh meal kits that customers can pick up in store or order for home delivery through Peapod. The kits feature pre-measured ingredients and step-by-step instructions that can get a meal for two on the table in 35 minutes or less.

3. Minnesota’s Coborn’s now offers meal kits as part of its grocery delivery service, CobornsDelivers. The kits will offer seasonal recipes that will be packed and delivered the day they’re ordered.

4. Through its Publix Aprons program, the Publix chain has chefs creating recipes that are demonstrated and sampled in-store. The retailer provides the shopping list, instructions and advice for shortcuts or possible pairings. Customers who don’t make it for the in-store demo can watch the video online.

5. Some Texas locations of HEB and Target are selling My Fit Foods—which are packaged meals rather than meal kits, but they use fresher ingredients and cater to a healthy crowd as well as some specialty diets.

6. There are at least two apps that work with grocery stores to provide third-party meal kit options but take some of the legwork out. DinnerCall allows grocery stores to accept orders from customers for kits of pre-measured ingredients for a given recipe; they order by mid-afternoon, pay through the app and can pick up the ingredients during the after-work rush. Handpick, meanwhile, customizes a shopping list that will provide for three different recipes—combining the meal kit concept with efforts to reduce food waste as well as excessive packaging. It works by matching available grocery SKUs to recipes in its database to create semi-customized meal kits.

7. ACME Farms + Kitchen foregoes the grocer altogether but is another interesting model. The Washington state-based company offers delivery of "Locavore Boxes," which are filled with locally sourced, seasonal foods and a corresponding meal plan to help customers cook their way through whatever’s in the box that week.

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