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Prepared Meal Kit Services Offer a Model for Seafood Departments Serving Busy Bay Area Customers

Posted by on Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

As well as making it easy for customers to prepare and plan meals, meal kits can also introduce shoppers to more unusual seafood, like squid. Image source: Pixabay CC user falco

While I work around food–seafood–all the time, like many people, my life is pretty busy. I’ve thought many times about joining a meal kit service such as Blue Apron, Sun Basket, or HelloFresh to make dinnertime a bit simpler and more streamlined. While researching some of the available services for my family, I was struck both by how little I could tell about the provenance of the seafood, and also by the commitment I would need to make (few services let you order just one meal kit at a time).

Yet, services like these are increasingly popular for a reason. People are looking for ways to eat healthy meals made from whole food while expending a minimal amount of time and effort. As seafood vendors, what can we learn from this trend?

While I work around food–seafood–all the time, like many people, my life is pretty busy. I’ve thought many times about joining a meal kit service such as Blue Apron, Sun Basket, or HelloFresh to make dinnertime a bit simpler and more streamlined. While researching some of the available services for my family, I was struck both by how little I could tell about the provenance of the seafood, and also by the commitment I would need to make (few services let you order just one meal kit at a time).

Yet, services like these are increasingly popular for a reason–people are looking for ways to eat healthy meals made from whole food while expending a minimal amount of time and effort. As seafood vendors, what can we learn from this trend? How can meal kit delivery services offer us a model that we can adapt to help Bay Area customers look to the seafood case for an easy dinner?

What Is the Attraction of Meal Kit Services?

As you might guess, the biggest draw for many people is convenience. Most working professionals don’t want to go to the grocery store on their way home from work to pick up ingredients for dinner, just to have to go home and spend time sorting ingredients and then cooking. Did you know that the average person spends approximately 41 minutes at the store for each grocery visit? That’s a big chunk out of a customer’s free time, and that doesn’t include time spent finding a recipe and doing the actual cooking. Meal delivery services, on the other hand, offer a way to avoid the store while providing all the dish’s ingredients portioned out and ready to cook.

Ease of cooking is another attractive feature of a meal kit. The kits offer detailed, step-by-step instructions and all of the ingredients are pre-portioned, which makes cooking faster (no tedious measuring) and requires less planning and thought during the cooking process.

What Are the Drawbacks?

Meal kits aren’t a perfect solution. For one thing, you can’t always tell where the ingredients come from. Savvy customers, especially in the eco-conscious Bay Area, are asking more and more questions about the provenance of their food, and they place a high value on sustainability. Most of these kits do not include specific information about where ingredients are coming from, though sometimes they offer a general statement about a commitment to sustainability.

These meal kit services also requires commitment and investment–most don’t offer a single meal option.This means a consumer usually must commit to a minimum subscription of a certain number of meals.

Finally, there is the loss of the personal touch that comes from direct communication between the customer and vendor, as happens at the meat or seafood counter. What meal kit services offer in convenience is counterbalanced by the customer’s inability to ask questions and learn more about the product.

How Can We Adapt the Meal Kit Delivery Model for Bay Area Seafood Counters?

The simplest way to replicate the convenience of meal delivery services is to offer meal kits in your seafood case that incorporate seafood, vegetables, and other ingredients.

  • Place pre-packaged meal kits in the grab-n-go section of your seafood case, whether on a tub of ice in front of your staffed case or in the refrigerators beside it.
  • Include the name of the recipe and cooking instructions on the package’s label, so customers can see what the dish involves before buying. Prominently warn shoppers when potential allergens are included in the kit, like nuts, gluten, and dairy.
  • Make sure all ingredients, from lemons to fresh pasta to spices, are included in proper proportions in the kit. While this does require some prep work, it is usually less labor intensive than making other partially prepared seafood you might typically offer, such as seafood kebabs or soups, since the chopping is done at home by the customer.
  • Price the kit attractively to encourage quick weeknight sales. A customer is more likely to pick up a seafood meal kit if it doesn’t appear too indulgent for a speedy midweek meal.
  • Make sure staff members know the details about the dish, how it’s made, and where the seafood come from, and can offer assistance to customers who might have questions.

What can You offer in Your Kit?

  • Pasta or other one-pan style dishes are always popular. Try fresh local Dungeness crab with linguine, or perhaps pan-seared swordfish with sauteed bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes.
  • Offer unusual (preferably local) seafood such as squid that your customers might not have tried to cook yet, or offer an unusual take on an old favorite, such as salmon or cod.
  • Highlight what’s in season in the Bay Area by offering locally caught, seasonal seafood.
  • You can even offer a wine pairing suggestion by displaying a carefully-chosen wine next to the kit. Try offering a local Napa or Sonoma favorite to go with local fish, or an Italian white to go with an Italian-inspired pasta dish.

When it comes to choosing the seafood to go in your meal kits, pick sustainably caught or raised, high-quality seafood from a trustworthy Bay Area vendor like Pucci Foods. We have an extensive selection of sustainable, minimally handled, Marine Stewardship Council-certified seafood ready for your discerning Bay Area customers. To find out what’s fresh, get in touch with us today.