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03/05/2018

Walmart’s meal kit strategy heats up

Walmart is expanding into a growing — and increasingly competitive — segment of the food business.

The discount giant said Monday that it plans to roll out meal kits to more than 2,000 of its stores this year. The expansion comes after Walmart introduced the kits in some 250 stores.

Consumers can either buy the kits in store, or order them online and pick them up later that day. Online customers can place an order at lunchtime and pick it up using Walmart’s online grocery pickup service as soon as dinner time.

The boxes, which are made and assembled fresh in-store daily, are pre-portioned cooking kits, and all options can be heated up and served in less than 15 minutes. The kits serve two people, and range in price from $8 to $15,

Walmart’s new service takes a direct stand against meal kit companies, such as Blue Apron, as well as its physical competitors gaining traction in boxed meals. These include Target, which is working with Minnesota-based Local Crate, a winner of its Target + Techstars com-petition that's now selling meal kits in select Minnesota Target stores. Meanwhile, Albertsons Cos. acquired prepared-meals company, Plated.

Online rival Amazon is also testing meal kits. However, Walmart’s meal kits will help the company get groceries into customers’ hands faster — especially as Amazon steps up grocery deliveries from Whole Foods through its two-hour Prime Now delivery service.

Walmart is offering three types of kits. The first group, called pre-portioned kits, are filled with ingredients to create steak dijon, basil garlic chicken, sweet chili chicken stir fry, and pork florentine.

The second set of boxes contain ingredients that complement Walmart’s rotisserie chickens.

Walmart also offers “One-Step Meals,” or boxes that offer the pieces needed to heat up a full meal within minutes. The offerings range from spaghetti and meatballs to chicken enchiladas.

“By 4 p.m., nearly 80% of Americans don’t know what they are making for dinner,” said Tyler Lehr, senior VP and general merchandise manager, Deli Services, Walmart U.S. “Customers are busier than ever and we know getting … dinner on the table can be a chore. We’re here to help.”

In addition to the new meal kits being launched, Walmart offers an expanded assortment of meal delivery kits and other specialty food items, including farm fresh crates and snack boxes. The offering launched late last year.