Fresh Cut: the rise of meal prep kits

Convenience and healthy living haven’t always been fast friends. As we seek better work/life balance, we look for more ways to streamline our lives. Whether it’s cooking at home without the prep or grabbing a pre-sliced snack, fresh cut is on the rise.

Meal prep or cook-ready meal kits is a movement that’s shaking up our ideas of fast food. Answering the call for convenience while aiming for healthier and more quality foods, prepared meal kits ready for your range or oven are taking up more shelf space at stores in exchange for you saving more time.

The Meal Kit

A trip to your local grocer will likely reveal one or two meal kits somewhere in the fresh section, often as a group of pre-prepped ingredients packaged together with cooking instructions. These make it easy for us to zip in, pick up, and zoom home to cook a meal for ourselves or family. A good thing, as our lives get busier even as technology advances.

It was 2012 when we initially saw more ready-to-cook meal kit companies. Their goal was to take the hassle out of sourcing recipes and ingredients and have kits ready for delivery within 24 hours of ordering. The theory is there’s less food wasted as your kit includes only the required ingredients in set amounts.

There’s now a meal kit company that focuses on vegan versions of dishes from all over the world; it uses a subscription model where customers sign up to spend $X for Y number of meals. Expanding beyond dinner, one company in New York offers kits for at-home baking where customers order dessert kits or subscribe monthly.

Fresh Cut: Restaurants

The food service industry has a tough time turning a profit, with limited shelf life on fresh ingredients and rising labor costs in a price sensitive market. Some have observed that the rise of meal prep is opening a door to fresh cut options for restaurants.

This week, The Packer wrote about value-added products in restaurant kitchens. As convenience shoppers look for fresh-cut produce in stores to cut down on mealtime prep at home, restaurants can also benefit. Companies are offering pre-portioned cut vegetables to help reduce prep work in the commercial kitchen.

Food + Science = fresh

One of the challenges in fresh-cut is keeping freshly cut food fresh. With apples, that’s where our science comes in. As soon as you damage an apple’s cell, an enzyme starts a chemical reaction that turns the flesh brown and is called “oxidative” browning. We used biotechnology to reduce this enzyme, and presto – a freshly cut Arctic® apple stays fresh, without chemicals.

When we talk about reducing food waste and helping build a sustainable food future, it’s heartening to see other corners of the food industry moving toward the same things. For restaurants, it’s part of the bottom line: less food wasted means more funds for wages and consistent menu pricing. At the grocer, it’s good business: being on the forefront of what consumers ask for.

As for the rest of us: we’re all looking for fresh, healthy food that fits a busy life.

About Jeannette LeBlanc

Jeannette LeBlanc is the Communications Specialist for Okanagan Specialty Fruits, and lives in the sunny Okanagan Valley. She has a keen interest in sustainable food systems and the people working on responsible ways to help feed the planet.

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