For all the noise about consumers’ newfound interest in cooking since the rise of the stay-at-home economy, many are still looking for ways to get their meal needs met without all the work of preparing them from scratch. This need for convenience has led to the rise of delivery and pickup orders and to the proliferation of ghost kitchens, but it is also bringing a new category to the fore: the ready-made meal.

Daily Harvest, a company that makes prepared plant-based meals and smoothies, announced in a Monday (Jan. 3) press release its new line of “Harvest Bakes” ready-to-bake offerings, which arrive frozen, to be defrosted and cooked in under a half hour. With the launch, the company aims to target consumers’ need for control amid continuing COVID-19-related anxieties.

“While the world continues to feel uncertain, we’re focused on helping customers take care of themselves with good food built on real fruits and vegetables,” Daily Harvest CEO Rachel Drori said in the release. “With our new collection, we’re delivering the soul-satisfying dishes consumers crave in one easy step. And unlike many convenient options out there, our food never includes harmful, hyper-processed and ultra-refined junk.”

Here, Drori clearly lays out the ready-made meal’s value prop over quick service restaurants’ (QSRs’) and fast-casual brands’ foods at the same price point, promising similar convenience to consumers focused on health concerns.

Similarly, health-focused frozen meals brand Real Good Foods announced in a Tuesday (Jan. 4) press release its placement in nationwide Sam’s Club locations, and last year, Martha Stewart’s MSK Foods brand targeted a similar market, launching its premium prepared meals in 10,000 stores. In 2020, Nestlé shelled out $950 million for prepared meal delivery service Freshly. Clearly, the market for these sorts of foods has grown well beyond, say, demand for a Stouffer’s pot pie or a diet-friendly Lean Cuisine.

Noting this growth in the market, entrepreneur Marc Lore, founder of Jet, announced last month that he is collaborating with Scott Hilton, Walmart’s former chief revenue officer, to create Wonder, which aims to be something of a hybrid between the microwave dinner and the QSR meal, targeting the same wellness-focused consumer as many of the other entrants to the space.

Read more: Jet Founder Marc Lore Planning ‘One-Stop Shop’ for Cooked Meals

“When time is tight, the first thing to go is a wholesome meal in favor of something rushed, like fast food or highly-processed microwave dinners,” Lore wrote in a LinkedIn post. “Those choices are rarely nutritious, the food is often mediocre, and the prices can be high.”

The company aims to use its mobile kitchens to offer a step of convenience beyond the heat-and-eat meal, taking the ready-to-be-cooked dish and preparing it outside consumers’ doors, bringing it to them hot.

These brands have a huge opportunity to capture share of the combined “Eat” category from QSRs. Research from PYMNTS’ report The Digital Divide: Delivery Service Aggregators And The Digital Shift, created in collaboration with Paytronix, finds that, far and away, the No. 1 motivator for consumers ordering from restaurant aggregators is their desire for ease and convenience. Meanwhile, the most common reason that restaurants’ highest-spending, highest-frequency customers cite for ordering directly from a restaurant is that they want to save time.

Get the report: Delivery Service Aggregators And The Digital Shift

By providing quick, convenient options, ready-made meal providers can target consumers’ expectations of ease and speed while capturing the growing demand for health-focused options.



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