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Meal kits poised to eat restaurants’ lunch, study finds

The threat posed to restaurants by so-called meal kits is underscored in new research that shows where consumers will squeeze billions of dollars from their food budgets to buy the assemble-your-own dinners.

Sales of the kits—fresh, prepped ingredients shipped to consumers’ home for assembly and cooking—topped $1 billion in 2015, according to new data from Technomic, a division of the company that owns Restaurant Business. U.S. sales totaled about $400 million.

Technomic projects sales will increase to about $4 billion in the next five years, a tenfold jump.

Instead of buying the meals one at a time, consumers usually pay for a subscription—regular, automatic shipments of the kits to the customer’s home over a set period. Among consumers who said they may consider a subscription in the future, 94 percent indicated the funds would come from cutting back on other food expenditures. Forty-seven percent of those would-be subscribers said they would buy fewer delivered and takeout restaurant meals, and 37 percent reported they would dine out less often.

A majority of the necessary dollars, or 57 percent, would be redirected from grocery budgets, according to Technomic.

It terms the emerging field a “niche market” that is “disrupting food consumption norms.”

The findings are part of a new study by the Chicago researcher, the Fresh Food Subscription Study. 

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