Meal Kits Push Consumer Demand

One of the biggest pressures on manufacturing is consumer demand for ever smaller and more customized packages. Home meal kits like Blue Apron could bring new demands to food manufacturing and packaging.

People used to getting 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar in a tiny bottle don’t want to buy an 8 oz bottle of white wine vinegar. Knowing they have half their weekly meals arriving in a box, they don’t want to invest in full-size bottles of herbs and spices.

As the video below shows, packing meal kits already requires some sophisticated kitting skills. Add the additional grocery needs of the meal kit user and you can end up with a challenge.

Meal kit innovation

Even in the context of the meal kit itself, things are changing fast. Blue Apron is testing “knick knacks” — the pre-measured seasonings and other ingredients sold in a shelf-stable box. Consumers can buy their own protein and produce without also having to invest in a bottle of miso or make a demi-glaze. The boxes have shopping lists with two or three items shoppers must grab to complete the meal.

Grocery stores are offering meal kits, too. Without pre-planning or commitment, shoppers can grab everything for a meal of beef stew or Thai chicken in a single grocery bag.

Meal prep kits already cater to people who don’t know how to cook and don’t own a well-equipped kitchen. Now, big brands are making kits that let people snack rather than cook an actual meal. Millennials say they’re too busy to prepare and eat a meal and many would rather nibble or graze throughout the day instead of cooking three squares. Meal prep kits for snackers create a healthier, more balanced option for consumers who think corn chips and guacamole with cookies sounds like dinner.

In the factory

As consumer demand increases for meal kits and for ordinary groceries that work around the meal-kit lifestyle, food manufacturers and packagers will have to respond to that demand. Pouches containing three tablespoons of almond butter or half an ounce of cheese already are popular for lunch box makers and on-the-go snackers. Spices and seasonings may be next.

That means that factory floors will have to be configured for greater flexibility. Multi-task machinery is a good start.

However you approach it, you’ll still need servos, controls, and drives. That’s the center of your production, and it has to be working just right — even more so as demands for customization increase. Call us for service and support of your Rexroth electric industrial motion control. No matter when the future holds, we’re ready… so you can be ready, too.

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