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Will meal kits work without fresh?

produce with pamela

Major meal kit companies are dropping fresh produce in new offerings, and it seems like a good idea – as much as I hate to admit it.

There’s been a lot of news in meal kits over the past week.

Kroger’s Home Chef is expanding and offering customization online, and now two of the biggest names out there – Chef’d and Blue Apron – are launching new kits with a glaring lack of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Shelf life and logistics are two of the biggest problems with meal kits. Take out the puzzle of packing raw chicken with butter lettuce, tomatoes and dairy out of the equation, and you’re removing many of the hassles that have plagued meal kits over the past several years.

Chef’d shut down this summer and then was quickly snapped up by True Food Innovations, which also operates a High Pressure Processing company, True Fresh HPP. Last week, True Food Innovations relaunched Chef’d retail meal kits with a 55-day shelf life. Recipes are a little thin on fresh produce, with sides like mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts.

And now New York-based Blue Apron Holdings Inc. has new “kits” it calls Knick Knacks, which are just that – only the pre-portioned sauce, spice, grains and dairy. Priced at $7.99 for a 2-serving kit, consumers can order them on Walmart’s Jet in select areas.

On Walmart’s Jet, customers can get a bundle discount when they order key ingredients with Blue Apron’s new Knick Knacks.

The e-commerce platform suggests pairing the kit with zucchini and chicken, with a bundle discount.

It’s become clear over the past few years of trial and error that packing up all these ingredients together isn’t ideal.

I’ve been dabbling in meal kits for more than 10 years and trying to package produce with protein is almost always the problem. I can recall trying my first that had protein and fresh produce packed together. It was a Tyson crock pot kit with a roast, potatoes, carrots and onions. It cost almost $15 and offered a measly three potatoes.

My first Blue Apron had chicken that leaked all over butter lettuce.

My first Hello Fresh had leaky chicken, too.

Chef’d was the only one that didn’t have something completely messed up in the first shipment, and they went out of business only a few months after I tried it.

This reminds me of a quote I saw over the summer from a grocer – I can’t remember where – about frustrations with meal kits.

They said we need to remind consumers that grocery stores are the original meal kits.

Everything’s right there in one place – all they need is inspiration.

Pamela Riemenschneider is the Retail Editor for Blue Book Services.