Food and Nutrition

‘Half-Scratch’ Meal Kits Will Have Dinner On the Table In Less Time

Emily Laurence

Photo: Hungry Root
All parts of wellness had a shake up this year—how we work out, what we eat, the products we put on our faces, the way we rest—and the reverberations of those changes will be felt into 2021 and beyond. Here's how the innovations born of this year will usher us into the future. See All

For many folks, the novelty of the quarantine kitchen has officially worn off: A September 2020 report by marketing firm Acosta found that 25 percent of people have grown tired of cooking. And to lessen mealtime stress, 53 percent of American adults are now turning to heat-and-eat meals. Weary home chefs will be happy to hear that the new class of healthy, quick-to-make options are a far cry from the microwavable bowls and TV dinners stashed in the freezer.

“Half-scratch cooking” meal kits—which come with pre-prepped ingredients so all that’s left for you to do is cook and consume—are leading the charge. “Sales for meal kits have grown tremendously this year,” says Laurentia Romaniuk, a trends expert at Instacart, speaking to the growing interest.

New pre-prepped options are already available, including Down To Cook (boxed meal kits that only require adding your veggie of choice), which launched in May 2020. Fast-casual chain Just Salad also launched its first-ever deliverable zero-prep meal kits in April as part of its New York City-focused grocery service, Just Groceries. And more products will be on the way in 2021, such as expanded offerings from Hungryroot, which sells pre-prepped ingredients meant to be mixed and matched together, and Kevin’s Natural Foods, a Paleo-inspired line of five-minute cooking kits. “The focus in 2021 is expanding the menu,” says Kevin’s Natural Foods co-founder Kevin McCray—such as launching a steak-based entrée early next year. You can also expect Down to Cook products (including soon-to-launch breakfast options) to arrive in retail markets starting in 2021, says Trishna Saigal, the brand’s founder and CEO.

Even established meal kit companies are taking note and adding more time-saving options to their lineups. Sun Basket launched its own heat-and-eat meals that are ready in six minutes flat—even quicker than its standard recipe cook time of 25 minutes. Vanessa Meyers, Sun Basket’s senior vice president of growth, says more than 50 percent of the brand’s customers have added the new quicker options to their orders since the launch in August. Home Chef, a subsidiary of Kroger, also announced in November that its meal kits line will be expanded to include dinners that can be prepped in five minutes (as opposed to its current offerings, which typically require 45 minutes of prep).

With meal kits this quick to assemble, you’ll be able to give your Grubhub app a break, too.

Explore the rest of our 2021 Wellness Trends.

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