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SA supermarkets make their move on meal kits

Food24 Editor, Tessa Purdon breaks down the pros and cons of meal kits and asks if the trend is killing our creativity in the kitchen.

by: Tessa Purdon | 01 Nov 2018
woman in kitchen chopping vegetables

(image: iStock) 

With the world's ever-increasing addiction to 'being busy', we've found ourselves on the hunt for convenience at every turn. Especially when it comes to food.
The meal kit movement 
The concept of the online meal kit delivery service arrived in 2012 in the US and it didn't take long for South Africa to follow suit. We've now got Daily Dish, The Pantry BoxGutsy Green and uCook, all delivering pre-portioned ingredients to people's homes. uCook is looking at a R80 million turnover soon and are even planning brick and mortar stores! 

Now, two local supermarkets - Checkers and Woolworths, are also offering pre-portioned meal kits using their own products. Genius? I think so!  And while it's exciting to know that a local grocery shop has a ready-to-go meal option that you can quickly whip up at home (not the kind where you simply prick the plastic film and pop it in the microwave), the question is: are they actually a good deal? Well, if you're focusing on price, then probably not because, let's be honest - you're paying for convenience. So if it means you can get dinner on the table in 20 minutes flat and still have time to read your kids a bedtime story, then I'd say the value speaks for itself. 

Woolworths said in a statement, "our convenient meal kits will be bringing time-saving dishes with impactful flavours to your dinner table."

I've always thought that the concept of meal kits quells one's culinary creativity, but I'm beginning to realise that often one actually doesn't want to (or can't!) think about putting together a wholesome and delicious meal for the family after a day of responding to emails and back-to-back strategy meetings. Brain fatigue is a real thing, especially now in the era of 'always on'. So while I don't necessarily condone them, I can appreciate their existence and know a few people in my life who benefit greatly from them. Some folk eat to live. And that's OK. 

Right now, the options from Woolies and Checkers are fairly similar; Checkers says, "ingredients are locally sourced from over 470 farms." They were also the first SA retailer to jump aboard the meal kit bandwagon and currently have 16 different options all together - with 4 meals (including a vegetarian option) available in stores each week.

checkers meal kits ready to chef

Woolworths have only released 5 meals at selected stores in Cape Town and we have no evidence or clarity about whether they will add more to the list (of both meals and stores!). Currently, neither Woolworths or Checkers has a plant-based or vegan offering. 

Pros of meal kits:
1. They offer an introduction to new or unusual ingredients you might have never tried before.
2. For many, it's often overwhelming do a lot of pre-planning and shopping. So meal kits offer a sense of portion control and convenience.

Cons of meal kits:
1. It dumbs down creativity - where you don't allow your brain to think about flavour combinations and exciting textures. 
2. You're limited in terms of what's on offer and thus, could become bored quickly. 

Packaging might also play a large part in your decision to get a meal kit. Checkers states that the boxes in which their meal kits come in are made from 100% recyclable materials and although we haven't tried one, Business Insider assures us that the contents are contained in minimal plastic, Woolworths presents their meal kits in a plastic netting similar to that of an onion or citrus bag. 

Woolworths meal kits

Price per meal for two people
Checkers: R119.99 to R179.99 
Woolworths: R155 to R210 

SPAR told Food24 that it will not be introducing meal kits into the market, while Pick n Pay spokesperson, Janine Caradonna said, "we have some exciting plans in the pipeline" but couldn't share more.

It seems like the meal kit game is on! 


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