Publix explains meal kit expansion strategy
Nearly one year ago, Lakeland, Florida, U.S.A.-based grocery chain Publix Super Markets launched a meal kits pilot project in two of its stores.
At the time, shrimp and salmon were featured in the kits, which feed between two and six people. Currently, the kits’ recipes change every other week and may include different seafood species as well. The meal kits — still a test project — are being offered in six Publix stores in Tampa, Lakeland, and Valrico, Florida. By the end of May, they will be offered in 50 stores.
SeafoodSource talked with Brian West, media and community relations manager for the 1,144-store chain, about meal kits, Argentine red shrimp, and the grocer’s advances in sustainable seafood.
SeafoodSource: How is the Publix meal kit pilot program going?
West: Our meal kits continue to be a convenient option and our customers are enjoying the convenience. Each kit includes all the ingredients to make that meal, and the prices range from USD 9.99 (EUR 8.33) to USD 37.99 (EUR 31.68). Even though the prices start at USD 9.99, it doesn’t mean there are only meals for two available at that price; we have meals for four at USD 9.99. The price variant is more about what the meal is and what the ingredients are.
SeafoodSource: Which seafood species are included in the meal kits, and will Publix add more seafood meal kits?
West: Currently, the meal kits include salmon, tilapia, and shrimp, but we are always looking to bring other recipes in. So, absolutely, there will be other seafood offerings; it’s just a matter of time.
SeafoodSource: A number of other U.S. retailers now offer meal kits in their stores. Is this a trend that has staying power, or is it a short-term fad?
West: I don’t see this going away at all. Pretty much everybody is getting into the meal-kit game, but the trick is providing what your customers are looking for. I think we are doing a pretty good job of that. Currently, every other week, the recipes turn over. However, with the rollout to around 50 stores, we are changing how we are doing the selection available. Instead of every other week, there will be five standard meals through the month, but one meal will change weekly.
We have hundreds of recipes available through the Aprons Simple Meals program, and those are the recipes offered through the meal kits. One of the neatest things is that the kits have the seasonings and everything you need to make that recipe.
SeafoodSource: Argentine red shrimp has been a popular addition to Publix's fresh seafood departments. It is priced lower than other wild shrimp, and farmed shrimp, in some cases. Why is that?
West: We have offered it for about a year and sales have been strong enough to continue offering the product. At Publix, retail is a function of cost. We sell these shrimp at a lower price because we’re able to get them at a lower price.
SeafoodSource: Is Publix adding other new items to its fresh and frozen seafood departments? If so, which items, and are they sustainable?
West: We continue to add new items to our product offering, with sustainability as a key component to those decisions. Our goal is to continue to transition our product offering to a higher percentage of sustainable products being offered every day. Many of the offerings are in the ready-to-cook arena, utilizing existing product in our seafood case. A great example is our Seafood Cook-in-Bag dinners.
SeafoodSource: For Earth Day, Publix ran a promotion that helped raise money for Sustainable Fisheries Partnership. Why did you decide to partner with SFP?
West: When looking for a partner to help guide us through our sustainability efforts, we felt SFP was the best match philosophically for Publix. We fell they best understand how to blend the business needs with the environmental needs. Our support is geared around specific projects that address specific fisheries that are included in our supply chain.