Instacart aims to help supermarkets better compete with restaurants for consumers’ meal dollars with the rollout of Ready Meals, a new prepared meal ordering and delivery service for grocery stores.
Starting today, supermarket customers can shop hundreds of meals from chains such as Publix Super Markets, Kroger and Ahold Delhaize USA’s Giant, Food Lion, Hannaford, Stop & Shop and Martin’s banners via the Instacart app’s Ready Meals Hub, a new in-app destination for prepared foods, and have them delivered to their home in as soon as 30 minutes, Instacart said. Plans call for ready-made meals from Wakefern Food Corp.’s ShopRite to become available through the hub in the coming weeks.
Consumers in 35 states now can access the Ready Meals Hub to order prepared meals for delivery from more than 4,100 grocery stores, according to San Francisco-based Instacart. Items range fresh-made, grab-and-go salads and sandwiches from Publix to soups and sushi from Kroger and to rotisserie chicken from Food Lion, the online delivery giant said.
“With our new Ready Meals Hub, we’re dishing up inspiring, more affordable and nutritious food alternatives to restaurant delivery that make it easier for consumers to break up with takeout this year. We’re also helping retailers drive more sales and increase their ‘share of stomach’ when it comes to their customers’ daily mealtime decisions,” Daniel Danker, head of product at Instacart, said in a statement. “From fresh soups and salads for a quick lunch to take-and-bake casseroles, pasta dishes and meat and seafood entrees for the family dinner, we’re proud to serve as a powerful enablement partner for retailers like Publix, Giant, Food Lion, Hannaford, Stop & Shop, Martin’s and Kroger, creating new ways for them to give busy people and families across the U.S. more ways to shop smart, eat healthy and feed their cravings faster than ever before.”
Instacart noted that, on its on-demand e-grocery platform, shoppers who place prepared food and catering orders such as hot and cold side dishes, cakes and sushi tend to have much bigger baskets and shop more frequently than customers not purchasing those items. In addition, order-ahead items and prepared foods typically are more profitable for retailers than traditional groceries like produce and packaged goods, the company said.
The U.S. chilled and deli food market is projected to reach more than $108 billion in 2026 from about $40 billion as of October 2021, Instacart reported, citing data from market analytics firm Research and Markets. Also, ready-made and other prepared foods already play a large role in daily meal solutions for consumers. Pointing to numbers from FMI-The Food Industry Association, Instacart said that although 73% of meals in North America are made at home, most involve a combination of prepared and from-scratch elements (55%) and time-saving items such as pre-made salads and ready-to-eat meat (64%).
“Instacart’s solution to showcase prepared meal items is a win for our customers,” according to Erik Katenkamp, vice president of omnichannel and application development at Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix, which operates 1,293 stores in seven Southeastern states. “In addition to the convenience of being able to order freshly prepared, ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat items for rapid delivery, our customers can also pick up a handful of grocery staples with their meal, making it easier than ever to grab lunch and a few items to put together tonight’s dinner, all in a single order.”
Instacart said Ready Meals builds on its acquisition of catering e-commerce software provider FoodStorm in October. FoodStorm’s order management software-as-a-service (SaaS) joined Instacart’s suite of enterprise grocery e-commerce solutions, enabling retail partners to offer catering and other order-ahead services online.
An end-to-end solution, FoodStorm allows retailers to automate their prepared foods and catering and prepared foods operations — from ordering and production to payment and fulfillment — and manage it centrally, Instacart noted. The platform fields orders from multiple channels — including online, phone and in-store kiosk — and integrates with a wide range of third-party systems, including point-of-sale solutions. Customer relationship management (CRM) functionality within FoodStorm also helps grocers gather feedback, market their offerings and leverage promotional tools.
Instacart added that the Ready Meals Hub is slated add several more grocery retailers over the coming months, and the company will work to make Ready Meals available to more retailers via its enterprise technology suite, as well as expand FoodStorm’s technology to new partners on the Instacart Marketplace.
The Ready Meals Hub joins other recently launched “hubs” on the Instacart Marketplace. They include the Convenience Hub, which features nearly 100 retailers and banners, and the Dollar Hub, where customers can browse deals and savings from approximately 14,000 deep-discount stores, including Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, 99 Cents Only and Five Below.