Tops Markets, joining the meal kit trend that has gained favor for busy families, has rolled out an offering of its own in the regional supermarket industry: Chef'd.
"This is the next wave, another option, for those looking for a meal solution, to save time," said Jeffrey Culhane, senior vice president of merchandising for Tops.
Tops this month launched five new Chef'd meals, for a total of seven, in more than half of its stores in the region. Each meal contains all the ingredients – and nothing more – to make a balanced, dinner for two within 30 minutes, mostly on the stovetop.
The meals include 20 Clove Garlic Chicken, Black Truffle Butter Sirloin Steak, Smoky Maple Pork Loin, Chicken Tikka Masala, Weeknight Chicken Pad Thai, Herb Crusted Flank Steaks and Fried Chicken and Waffles.
Each meal kit includes nutritional information, a list of ingredients and step-by-step cooking instructions.
Smithfield Foods owns the Chef'd brand. Tops became the first grocer on the East Coast to start offering its meals about six months ago and has rolled them out gradually, Culhane said.
Q: Why has Tops decided to introduce them?
About a year and a half ago, we saw Blue Apron pop up. We saw Hello Fresh, all of these various meal kits, so we saw the trend coming. We've had a partnership with Smithfield for almost 10 years now, a tremendous partnership. … This solved the opportunity for us to get into the meal kit business at a value to the customer. We know Hello Fresh and Blue Apron require greater financial commitments. They're not as economical as the Chef'd program, so it answered that. It also gave our customers another solution beyond carry-out for one or more of seven days a week.
Q: This is a different approach than putting together a few ingredients in a wrapped package?
We have $6 meals where you can buy a starch, a vegetable and a protein in the Carry Out Cafe. They start with fresh but those are all precooked and you have to warm them up. Chef'd answers the question for the person who says, "I still want to feel like I've done all the cooking myself but I don't want to dedicate two hours to go through the whole process."
Q: Is there a nutritional standard?
From a fat perspective, these are to compete with the restaurants, so they are a little bit leaner. Because they're using fresh ingredients, there is less in terms of preservatives. … You have a good balance between protein, carbs and veggies but if you're on a low-fat diet and say, "I can only have 500 calories at dinner and 5 grams of fat, this isn't intended for that. This is intended for someone who likes good, quality food that's easy to prepare.
Q: What do the kits cost?
The retail price point is $19.99, so it's a restaurant quality meal for $10 each. We have digital promotions. Sometimes, the packages themselves will include an instant coupon. With your Bonus Card and ad, when available, your discount will come off directly at the register. The discount would be anywhere from $2 to $3.