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Kowalski’s Markets serves up new meal-kit option

Local Crate recipes build on store-brand meal solutions

Kowalski’s Markets is spicing up its meal kit selection with what it calls a culinary option for “the more adventurous home cook.”

The Twin Cities grocer this month rolled out Local Crate meal kits to its 11 stores. Local Crate joins the retailer’s store-brand meal kit line, Dinner Pre-Paired by Kowalski’s.

Woodbury, Minn.-based Kowalski’s noted that the Local Crate launch brings a new category of meal kits to its stores and differentiates its offering from the single-tier program typically found at other supermarkets.

“The introduction of Local Crate to our markets allows us to offer more variety to customers looking to escape their dinner rut,” Rachael Perron, culinary and branding director at Kowalski’s, said in a statement.

Bringing “true culinary experiences to the table,” the Local Crate kits offer globally and trend-inspired, restaurant-quality cuisine, providing a greater learning experience for home cooks and a connection to top local chefs and influencers who share their recipes, Kowalski’s said. Leading Twin Cities chefs Gavin Kaysen, Tim McKee, Yia Vang and Ann Kim are among the recipe contributors to Local Crate.

Through the end of the year, Local Crate meal kit varieties at Kowalski’s stores include one-pot, Dijon-roasted chicken with carrots and potatoes; red curry coconut chickpea bowls with kale and jasmine rice; and beef pot roast with roasted vegetables and rosemary jus by chef Gavin Kaysen.

“Local Crate is a local-first company that was already working with many of the same top-quality products we sell in store and offer in our own kits, such as Isabel Street Heat and Gerber’s Amish Farms Chicken,” Perron explained, noting Kowalski’s commitment to local sourcing and ingredients. “From the start, it was kind of obvious we belonged together.”

Kowalski’s Dinner Pre-Paired meal kits, catering to regional tastes and family favorites, are made with naturally raised proteins, Kowalski’s Signature products and local foods. The kits pair a main dish with a chef-selected side dish or accompaniment and are intended to provide easy, weekday-friendly meals, the retailer said. Recipes include baked penne alfredo with chicken and broccoli, pork carnitas tacos with pico de gallo and chipotle sour cream, and beef marsala and scalloped potatoes with kale salad.

“They’re meant to be simple but still offer enough hands-on to give time-starved home cooks a sense of accomplishment and a boost of kitchen confidence, all in about 30 minutes,” according to Perron.

Both meal kit brands serve two people and carry prices ranging from $8.50 to $14 per person. A seasonal menu will rotate every 6 weeks, with up to 6 different meal options offered every day (subject to availability) and

Kowalski’s said it also worked with Local Crate to fine-tune the Dinner Pre-Paired program, namely to update the packaging.

“Their knowledge in the meal kit arena was very valuable to us,” Perron stated. “We were able to leverage their team’s experience in things like packaging and production while sustaining the Dinner Pre-Paired brand identity and the overall integrity of our program. It’s been an extremely cooperative and exciting partnership for us.”

Both the Dinner Pre-Paired and Local Crate meal kits are available for same-day home delivery or curbside pick-up via the Kowalski’s on the Go online grocery service. Shipt also can deliver both meal-kit brands and other Kowalski’s products in as soon as one hour.

“The Kowalski’s community inspires delicious recipes and ingredients from local growers and makers,” commented Frank Jackman, co-founder and CEO of St. Paul, Minn.-based Local Crate. “While national meal kit companies continue to struggle to address regional taste preferences, shelf life and food waste, it is through partnerships with forward-thinking, community-minded grocers that sustainable and delicious solutions are created.”

A report released this week by market researcher Packaged Facts said the future of the meal kit business is increasingly pointing to brick-and mortar food retailers — either through distribution, partnership or acquisition — because the online subscription model isn’t working for many traditional players.

Packaged Facts said grocery and convenience stores have a lot of potential to develop meal kits and increase sales due to their supply chain muscle and breadth of food offerings.

"The potential synergies between meal kits and grocery stores are undeniable," observed David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts. "If meal kits are sold at grocery stores and are available for order online with a full suite of other groceries, customers are more likely to remain customers. Additionally, most meal kit companies would benefit by being able to take advantage of the grocer's supply chain for fresh ingredients."

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