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Meal kits make a comeback

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They are convenient and ease the burden of shopping.

After years of ups and downs, the meal kit business is making a strong comeback in the age of coronavirus, reports the Wall Street Journal. Because of the pandemic, most people are at home and avoiding stores, but they need to cook something for dinner, and what could be more convenient than a box of pre-apportioned fresh ingredients that arrive at the door? Seeing the success of companies like Blue Apron and Sun Basket, it’s easy to see why restaurants are getting in on the action, too.

Formerly considered a fad, meal kits have seen demand increase. Blue Apron is producing more kits and limiting the variety of its menu. Some producers are putting new customers on wait lists and simplifying ingredients.

U.S. customers spent around $100 million on meal kits at retail stores in the four weeks ended April 11, nearly double that period a year prior, according to Nielsen. Sales in December and January, before the pandemic, had declined compared with a year earlier. Online meal-kit sales grew 63% in the week ended April 15 from the previous year’s period, according to an analysis of transactions by Earnest Research.

Chick-fil-A, Shake Shack and Taco Bell are adding meal kits to delivery menus, too, as they seek to bolster sales lost to the pandemic. Panera Bread, which recently introduced grocery sales at its 2,200 stores, plans to start selling make-your-own salad and sandwich kits by the end of May. “I definitely see an opportunity with meal kits in the future,” said Niren Chaudhary, chief executive.

Denny’s, the family-dining chain, said last week that it would sell takeaway kits for making meals at home, including bacon, eggs and biscuits, and Chick-fil-A is releasing chicken dinner kits for delivery or pickup next week.

Shake Shack, the New York-based burger chain, is selling kits of beef patties, sauce, cheese and buns to make eight of its burgers for $49. The chain’s same-store sales plummeted 29% in March compared with last year.

On May 1, Taco Bell began selling “At Home Taco Bar” kits via delivery and its drive-thru service for a limited time. Each kits sells for $25 in the mainland U.S. and contains flour tortillas, crunchy taco shells, nacho chips, seasoned beef, shredded lettuce and nacho cheese sauce to serve six people, CNN reports.

“It’s been a test of the entire food system,” Blue Apron’s Kozlowski said of the pandemic.

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