Meal Service Plans Get Shaken And Stirred By Adding Alcohol


Subscription-based meal service eMeals wants you to have a drink with dinner. It has announced a series of partnerships with alcohol brands including Bacardi, Jackson Family Wines and Francis Ford Coppola Winery to build online revenue for both sides of the partnership with menu pairings that place wine, beer and spirits recommendations as options on the weekly eMeals shopping list, among other highlights.

Taking a different spin on curated meal plans, eMeals connects consumers and food brands to online grocery pickup and delivery by sending their shopping lists directly to Walmart, Amazon, Kroger, Shipt and Instacart. Subscribers have 15 meal plans. Based on those plans, the eMeals app automatically generates a grocery list that can be shopped in-store or sent for pickup or delivery by one of its retail partners. For example, subscribers can send their final food and beverage selections for the week to Walmart, Kroger, Amazon, Instacart or Shipt for online grocery fulfillment or in-store shopping.

The alcohol brand partnerships are part of what eMeals calls its BrandBuilder program, which includes various brands for product and recipe discovery. Many of its competitors in the meal service space have introduced cross-promotions and partnerships at different levels of scale and with varying levels of success. For example, Blue Apron signed high-profile promotion in 2019 with Crissy Teigen and Weight Watchers. Plated signed on to be an exclusive partner with Albertsons supermarkets, which still couldn’t stop the company from ending its subscription-based business model last March. At that point the supermarket giant brought Plated’s meal concept into its Own Brands (private label). But just last week Albertsons re-introduced Plated meal kits in stores. According to Albertsons, the decision came after testing at Safeway stores in Northern California. The company found that shoppers who purchase Plated products are more likely to have families and have a larger basket than the average shopper.

That finding is similar to what eMeals has discovered with its partner brands. According to the company, tests of particular meal ingredients demonstrate that its BrandBuilder program can as much as double a food brand’s online sales, “despite the fact that consumers have the option to either accept the branded recommendation or choose an alternative product.” All brands in the program get comprehensive analytics, including the products purchased through the eMeals app, along with competitive grocery services and ad spend ROI.

For the alcohol brand program, eMeals says its partners want to raise awareness about the availability of alcohol products within grocery pickup and delivery. Beer and spirits have very low online penetration compared with food products, but that is changing. A recent Rabobank report estimated that U.S. online alcohol sales increased 22 percent from 2018 to 2019, rising 115 percent in online grocery and 60 percent in online marketplaces. The report, however, also showed that alcohol’s share of online food and beverage spending remains 88 percent lower than in brick-and-mortar stores. The report said lagging eCommerce sales “also indicate a failure to build digital relationships with omnichannel consumers who purchase alcohol through both traditional and online channels.”

Highlights for the alcohol brands in the eMeals partnership include visibility through menu pairings on occasions such as Italian Night and summer cookout dinners and special events such as the Super Bowl, Mardi Gras, Friendsgiving and Christmas. The eMeals app also places the brands in an “impulse section” that enables additional products to be added to the shopping list with a click.