Walmart’s In-Store Meal Kits Are a Strategic Play to Beat Blue Apron—and Maybe Amazon

Walmart is making a play for Blue Apron. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Walmart has recently been in the news for limiting assault rifle purchases and taking a bite of Amazon’s e-commerce profits. Can it conquer the meal kit world next?

As CNBC first reported, Walmart is now offering its own branded meal kits in over 250 stores. The retail giant plans to roll out this service to 2,000 stores by the end of 2018.

Walmart’s meal boxes serve two people and range in price from $8 to $15. Customers can order the food online and pick it up in store.

So far, entree choices include steak Dijon, basil garlic chicken and sweet chili chicken stir fry.

One major benefit that sets Walmart’s meal kit service apart is that it doesn’t require a subscription—any store customer can utilize it.

This is a strategic play for consumers who don’t want to be tied to subscription meal kit services. Making customers pick up the food in-store also cuts down on delivery costs.

The meal kit business has struggled in recent months, with Blue Apron in particular facing many obstacles. It went public just days after the Amazon-Whole Foods merger, and its opening stock price dropped from $17 to $10.

Since then, the company has laid off over 300 employees and appointed a new CEO. Its stock price has plummeted to under $3, and its market cap shrank from $1.9 billion to $568 million.

The few meal kit services that are doing well have tied themselves to higher-profile names. Plated joined forces with national grocery chain Albertsons, while Germany company Marley Spoon features recipes from Martha Stewart’s archive.

Walmart has made several big grocery bets in recent months. One of its subsidiaries, the Costco-like subscription retailer Sam’s Club, recently partnered with Instacart on a food delivery service.

About 10 percent of Sam’s Club stores have closed in recent years, but rather than letting the buildings gather dust, Walmart is retrofitting them as grocery distribution centers.

Like both brick and mortar stores and meal kit delivery startups, Walmart is also dealing with the ever-present threat of Amazon.

On the heels of its merger with Whole Foods, the online retailer recently announced it would start delivering groceries through its two-hour Prime Now service. Amazon also filed a trademark for a meal kit business of its own.

Will Walmart’s newest benefit be enough to keep Amazon at bay? Only time will tell.

Walmart’s In-Store Meal Kits Are a Strategic Play to Beat Blue Apron—and Maybe Amazon