Mars Acquires Omnichannel Meal Company Amid Rising Demand for Ready-to-Eat

Kevins Natural Foods

As consumers increasingly seek out quick, simple meal options in stores and online, Mars is getting into the space with its latest acquisition.

On Wednesday (July 5), the confectionery giant’s more health-focused foods division, Mars Food & Nutrition, announced its acquisition of meal kit company Kevin’s Natural Foods, which sells its products through its direct-to-consumer (D2C) online shop as well as at more than 17,000 retail locations, for an undisclosed amount.

“Kevin’s products are of a very high quality, nutritious, and convenient, without compromising on flavor, and are enjoyed by an engaged and loyal customer base across North America,” Shaid Shah, global president of Mars Food & Nutrition, said in a statement. “The Kevin’s Natural Foods team has delivered impressive growth since it was founded four years ago, and we look forward to drawing on our experience of nurturing and scaling founder-led brands to help bring their products to even more people.”

The company sells packs with cooked foods for consumers to heat and eat within five minutes. In addition to the D2C site, the foods are also available via Amazon and through brick-and-mortar retailers including Costco, Target and Albertsons, offering Mars significant reach in the category.

Overall, interest in prepared meals and meal kits is on the rise. According to data from PYMNTS’ study “Connected Dining: Ready-to-Eat Meals are Eating Restaurants’ Lunch,” which draws from a survey of more than 2,300 U.S. adults, 57% of consumers reported having bought ready-to-eat meals in the last month.

Indeed, the rise of more premium meals of this kind — like what Kevin’s is trying to do — has contributed to the increase in adoption. Seventy-one percent of those surveyed cited improvements in quality as an important reason for them increasing their purchases of ready-to-eat meals, a greater share than said the same of any other reason.

Plus, meal kits are also on the rise. Research from PYMNTS’ study “12 Months Of The ConnectedEconomy™: 33,000 Consumers On Digital’s Role In Their Everyday Lives,” which drew from responses from tens of thousands of U.S. consumers over the course of last year, noted that meal kit adoption increased throughout the survey period. In fact, the share of consumers who reported purchasing from online meal kit subscription services grew from 25% in December 2021 to 31% in November 2022.

That said, prepared meals are certainly not a guaranteed success. It has been less than a year since Mars’s competitor Nestlé bailed on its Freshly prepared meals business, offloading the company just a month before it ceased deliveries entirely.

The news of this latest acquisition comes as Mars looks for ways to expand its omnichannel presence beyond just doing eCommerce for eCommerce’s sake. In a 2021 interview with PYMNTS’ Karen Webster as part of the ConnectedEconomy™ series, Jason Thomstatter, head of Digital Commerce at Mars, explained that the company’s digital strategy centers not just on making products available online but on finding occasions unique to the digital space.

“Yes, consumers are going to want to buy your product online, and that’s certainly a good thing to offer, but in order to have a long-term sustainable business in [the digital] space, you really need something — a unique value prop that you’re delivering to them — to keep them engaged and really give them value that they can’t get in other location,” Thomstatter said.