business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kate McMahon

Laurin Mills was juggling a busy executive job and three kids just fine but for one piece of the working family puzzle – planning and executing a healthy dinner for five people five nights a week. “It was the stress at the end of the day that never went away," she says.

So Mills, an MBA-educated CPA, sat down at her computer with an excel spreadsheet and her local supermarket’s weekly flyer. She set out to pre-plan five meals that would take advantage of sales and specials and result in one shopping list for the week. The outcome: much less stress, better meals, and a savings of $300 in the family grocery bill that first month.

That was in 2011. Today her company, The Dinner Daily, creates customized dinner meal plans for shoppers at more than 16,000 grocery stores, including the major chains, in all 50 states.

I stumbled upon The Dinner Daily when I read about its partnership with Stop & Shop in conjunction with National Family Meals Month. Under the plan, up to 30,000 Stop & Shop customers can join and use the service at no charge through the end of 2019, bypassing the subscription plans which begin at $4 a month.

Always game to try a new shopping app or meal planning service, I signed on, completed my food preferences, dietary needs and family size, added my local Stop & Shop, and hit submit. Within 15 seconds my meal plan and shopping list were ready.

I’ll admit I was at first skeptical, but then happily surprised by the five low-carb meals and the shopping list, particularly since all of the proteins – chicken, pork and fish – were on sale. The recipes were fresh, healthy and easy to make. In fact, they were easier to prepare than many typical meal kit options at a fraction of the price. I could shop for the ingredients myself, or use one-click ordering for Peapod home delivery on in-store pickup.

I spoke with Mills about the evolution of The Dinner Daily, which started as an email chain among friends sent from her suburban Boston home, incorporated in 2016 and has since grown ten-fold. I was surprised I had never heard of the service, nor seen any promotion from Stop & Shop or other retailer. (The Shop & Stop rollout is happening in stages). I’ve seen plenty of other digital recipe apps that link to a particular store, but nothing this customized.

It also struck me that it was such a perfect way for a supermarket to connect with its customer, particularly those who still like to shop in a brick-and-mortar store, by providing an easy and affordable meal planning service. Or as Mils put it: “We are a piece of the grocery store ecosystem that’s missing.”

Successful retailers have to consider their entire ecosystem, from online apps to ease of checkout to home delivery services. Here’s what we know – busy consumers want options for meals. Those include picking up pre-made meals and/or pre-assembled meal kits from the store, which allow for more flexibility than the traditional (and struggling) subscription meal kit delivery services.

I think The Dinner Daily is prime example meeting shoppers’ needs and creating consumer loyalty.

Comments? Send me an email at .

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