Digital Grocer Podcast

Mercatus Radio - Interview with Sean Butler (formerly with Chef’d) on the Future of Meal Kits in Grocery

August 12, 2018

Here it is. Episode 5 of the Digital Grocer Podcast. In this episode, Sylvain interviews Sean Butler, formerly Senior Vice President of Retail at meal kit provider, Chef’d, where he created, launched, and scaled the company’s chef-designed in-store meal kits. Sean left Chef’d in May 2018 and founder The Emerging Brand Studios, a global strategy consultancy serving the food & beverage industry and a division of LIDD, Inc., retail operations and supply chain infrastructure consultants.

This interview took place just prior to Chef’d announcing its insolvency on July 17, 2018 and laying off 350 employees.  Chef’d supplies about 25 retail customers, including Walgreen's and Duane Reade drug stores in New York City, and has about 200 licensing partnerships. Soon after the announcement, the company’s assets, including plant, property, equipment, brand and intangibles were scooped up by True Food Innovations for an undisclosed amount. Chef’d products will continue to be sold in U.S. grocery stores, but the firm’s e-commerce offering will be suspended. The grocery store effort is more in tune with where American consumers are headed. Sean lays out his vision for the future of meal kits, the fastest growing food channel in the U.S. (including grocery as well as foodservice delivery). In-store grocery sales of meal kits is what’s driving revenue growth in the space. He says the right way to do meal kits is not the subscription model. ​The future is a curated non-subscription model supported by a fresh, rotating set of in-store offerings. He says “pretty dramatic change is going to happen on the earlier side of that three to five year prediction. We've seen the convergence of retail and perishable e-commerce through meal kits. But much more interestingly, says Sean, the next level is going to be involving restaurants as well, and meal kits will be on the cutting edge once again."