North Bergen, NJ—The Vitamin Shoppe is cooking up something new: prepared foods.

According to The Record of Bergen County, NJ, the vitamin mega-store launched a pilot program to offer healthy pre-made refrigerated meals at 10 stores in NJ and NY. Housed in refrigerator walls, the on-the-go meals are intended to increase Vitamin Shoppe's traffic and sales.

"I can understand why The Vitamin Shoppe is doing it, because prepared foods boost shopper frequency...The Vitamin Shoppe is correct that perishable, fresh foods are perceived by the consumer as more desirable and more nutritious than shelf-stable foods," states Jay Jacobowitz, president and founder of Retail Insights and merchandising editor for WholeFoods. "But, Vitamin Shoppe is sort of bolting on a category to its mainly supplements offerings, and I don't know how closely it fits with their core identity."

Meals are sold in three sizes (small, medium and family), are all high in protein and can be frozen to extend the one-week shelf life. During the pilot program, meals will be delivered weekly. Many choices accomodate special diets like paleo, gluten free and dairy free for all times of the day, and range from about $6.99 to $19.99 at retail. "High-protein, prepared foods isn't a bad idea," says Jacobowitz. "But, I think The Vitamin Shoppe is going to have a steep climb to get over the hurdle of consumer perceptions of what they go to Vitamin Shoppe for now and changing it to going to Vitamin Shoppe for prepared's an open question of what the success is going to be."

Jacobowitz anticipates the store will see increased sales from existing customers, but it will be difficult to generate new traffic with these offerings.

The Record says the meals are made by California-based Fitzee Foods in a Long Island kitchen. Fitzee has a healthy meals-to-go retail store in San Diego and also delivers ready-made foods nationwide.


Published in WholeFoods Magazine, March 2015 (online 1/26/15)