For a couple years everyone has been singing the praises and future of meal kits and subscription boxes. We’ve written about it here, here and here. And as the likes of Blue Apron and Hello Fresh proliferated, retailers have scrambled to catch up with partnerships, acquisitions and their own proprietary programs.

But for every success like Hello Fresh saying they will reach profitability in Q2 2018, the Blue Aprons of the world are struggling as they bleed customers. And a recent educational panel at the National Grocer’s Association convention and expo showcased some of the challenges that retailers are facing with the platform as well. In fact, Pamela Reimenschneider, Editor of the Produce Retailer featured some of her thoughts on that session here.

What she learned is one of the busiest urban supermarkets in the U.S. sold only 400 meal kits in four months. Maybe that was an anomaly and New Yorkers really don’t want to cook. But another Midwestern retailer shared similar challenges.

So the question remains – are meal kits still on trend as a viable shopping alternative or have they run their course and consumers are ready for the next level of innovation in the meal kit revolution?

The answer might be both. Maybe meal kits will still be a fit for some consumers, but maybe it’s more about recipe or meal planning for other consumers. In fact earlier in January we talked about shoppable recipes as the next possible step in the innovation of online meal kit-esque experiences. But now, another tech savvy company is taking things a step further and offering meal planning with grocery cart integration. Meet Mindful Meals. This consumer friendly website lets shoppers build a family profile of food likes, special dietary needs, number of meals for the week, etc…and more importantly integrate with their shopping cart for online with delivery or in-store pickup. The traditional meal box subscription solves a few of consumers issues like meal planning, food waste and shopping hassle. Essentially, Mindful Meals can do the same and give consumers even more flexibility for greater savings while also rewarding the retailer with a bigger basket ring.

Still in its early integration stages, Mindful Meals is working with Transformational Retail Technologies to role this offering out to early adopter grocers, but this looks to offer a more practical solution to the meal box subscription that can yield a greater opportunity for grocery without the challenge of in-store meal kits, especially as more consumers move to more lifestyle based diets.

As we’ve said before. Innovation and the new shopping experience isn’t always about creating something so far out there that we’ve never imagined it – but creating something smart that improves the consumer experience. This just might be it for right now and the short future to come.

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