Meal-kit company aims for longer seafood shelf life
Offering more than 100 different seafood options online – as well as testing extended shelf life of its retail meals – is helping one meal-kit provider stand out in the crowded marketplace.
El Segundo, California, U.S.A.-based Chef’d, a provider of meal kits sold online and in hundreds of U.S. grocery stores, corporate offices, and residential complexes, recently announced it reached the century-mark in its total meal offerings. The meal kits range from quick and lower-priced meals for two people, such as Chipotle Shrimp Tacos at USD 29.00 (EUR 25.00), to the more luxurious Miso Glazed Sea Bass dish, priced at USD 49.00 (EUR 42.00) for two people.
“We are stocking 1,000 recipes online, so customers can go with a quick dish like Maple Glazed Salmon – still a top seller after all these years – or be more adventurous. When we started the company at the end of 2013, that was the obvious opportunity we saw to be the innovators in this space,” Chef'd co-founder and chief culinary officer Jason Triail told SeafoodSource.
In the past year, Chef’d has entered the grocery market and its meal kits are now sold in around 500 grocery stores, including Food Lion, Harris Teeter, and King Kullen. Triail expects the kits to be sold in 1,000 grocery stores by the end of 2018.
Despite its rapid growth, Chef’d’s retail meal kits do not yet contain seafood, because the company and its primary seafood distributor, Anaheim, California-based Anderson Seafoods, are testing ways to extend the shelf life of seafood.
“We are currently looking at extended days of freshness for seafood to make sure it is food safe. We are very close to achieving shelf life of 12 to 14 days,” Triail said.
Extending seafood’s shelf life will not involve any type of treatments on seafood itself. Instead, the two companies are testing “more strict controls and procedures to extend the shelf life,” Josh Anderson, longtime fishmonger at Anderson Seafoods, told SeafoodSource.
“There are no tricks," he said. "It is about controlling the product, the supply chain, and the cold chain better and leaner and meaner.”
After initially delivering around 2,000 pounds monthly to Chef’d three years ago, Anderson now delivers around 10,000 pounds of seafood monthly to three of Chef’d’s facilities.
In 2015, a buyer for Chef’d – based two counties away from Anderson’s facility – reached out to the distributor and asked to have a meeting.
“We went there a couple of times, and it was a good fit. They are super flexible, and have been a great support system, quality-wise and information-wise,” Anderson said.
Anderson, a family-run business that was formed in 1979, also supplies retailers, restaurants, and cruise lines, and sells seafood on QVC and via its website.
With the help of Anderson Seafood, Chef’d is stocking more sustainable and seasonal seafood, such as opa from Hawaii, so it can provide a variety of unique seafood. While it uses farmed shrimp, it also carries wild shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico.
“Something that differentiates them from some of the other meal kit companies is seasonal seafood like Gulf [of Mexico] shrimp. It keeps their menu selections always progressive and different and not in the same old rut,” Anderson said.
Chilean sea bass is one of Chef’d’s biggest sellers, and it also carries other premium items such as lobster tails from Brazil.
“You won’t see any of those products from our competitors because they are trying to keep meals at USD 9.95 (EUR 8.58) each on a subscription basis,” Triail said.
Certified sustainable species available include salmon, halibut, and scallops. The meal kit company also recently switched from Norwegian farmed salmon to Canadian farmed salmon, “which has a bit more fat content,” Triail said.
In addition to grocery stores, Chef’d recently expanded to around 50 corporate offices and residential complexes with refrigerated units.
“People are going home from work, and see a flank steak recipe, for example, and dinner is solved,” Triail said.