Walmart will start offering prepared meals at its stores, starting now in 250 locations with plans to expand to 2,000 by the end of the year. The retail giant is selling four $15 meal kits in stores, expanding an online-only effort launched in December, according to the report.
And on Thursday, Walmart and BuzzFeed’s Tasty network unveiled an exclusive line of kitchen products, including more than 90 products in Walmart stores and online, ranging from non-stick cookware to high-quality bakeware, kitchen gadgets and accessories. Products range in price from $4.44 to $99, according to a company press release.
The Tasty cookware line is the cornerstone of a broader strategic partnership between Walmart and BuzzFeed, the two companies said, which will see them collaborate in a creative development of a wide range of consumer products, experimentation and innovation in e-commerce, media and marketing and more.
These announcements continue Walmart's effort to differentiate merchandise to reach a younger, more upscale and more urban customer, including collaborations and in-house development in furniture and home and apparel.
Walmart has apparently accelerated meal kit operations amid intense competition in the space and its expanding last-mile delivery capabilities. In light of all that, Gabelli & Co. analyst Matthew Trusz last month labeled Walmart a "logical buyer" for startup Blue Apron. Meal kit sales have "mushroomed" to $5 billion, according to a report last year from MarketResearch.com’s Packaged Facts unit, thanks to entry from traditional grocers as well as disruptive delivery players like Blue Apron.
Meanwhile, Buzzfeed’s Tasty reaches nearly 540 million people globally and can be viewed across social platforms including Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat, through its own Tasty.co and the Tasty app, and the New York Times-bestselling cookbooks and Tasty One Top, a smart induction cooktop that is integrated with the Tasty app, according to Walmart’s press release. The growing Tasty portfolio includes additional brands Proper Tasty, Tasty Demais, Tasty Miam, Einfach Tasty, Tasty Japan, Bien Tasty, Tasty Vegetarian, Tasty Grill and Tasty Jr.
Tasty is an effort from BuzzFeed Commerce, created in October 2016 and tasked with creating merchandise and social commerce experiences "to create commerce driven by sharing and human connections utilizing social media to lead the shift in the commerce space," the companies noted.
Walmart’s "always low prices" promise lines up "perfectly" with Tasty’s own mission, according to BuzzFeed Commerce chief Ben Kaufman. "We’re excited to unveil Tasty’s first cookware line with one of the biggest and most innovative retailers in the world, and make it even easier for Tasty fans to prepare our delicious recipes in their own homes," he said.
The partnership looks to be an effort from Walmart to expand its customer base and a recent shift to bring that into the wider Walmart fold. It's a shift for Walmart, which was poised to leave these efforts to its Jet unit. The items announced last week are also available through Jet, but that site didn't have the prominence of place it enjoyed in the retailer's December announcement of a collaboration with the Tasty recipe app.
This change was first apparent last week, when Walmart unveiled plans for a revamped home page that will begin in coming weeks, with a new "home destination" in furniture and home — curated collections guided by design trends and in-house stylists, nine shop-by-style options and an editorial-style imagery and design tips enabling discovery of various styles and complete looks. The new efforts in these departments appear to be a departure from the retailer's early embrace of its Jet unit, acquired in 2016, and is being positioned to appeal to millennials.
"Jet appears more and more like a superfluous appendage," Cohen said. "A price-reducing algorithm coupled with an expanding portfolio of SKU’s, which still lag far behind Amazon with no 'glue' a la Amazon Prime to bind their brand equity together, just doesn’t feel like a winning strategy, now or in the future."