MINNEAPOLIS — Senior citizens in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area are now able to have meals delivered to their front door, courtesy of a new program from General Mills, Inc. Not only that, but consumers in select markets can have a Whopper delivered or order their groceries on-line and arrange for home delivery through Peapod.

The new home delivery service from General Mills is called Betty Crocker Kitchens and is being done in partnership with CobornsDelivers, an on-line delivery service in the Minneapolis area. The program includes 25 frozen meal options ranging from pot roast, meat loaf, chicken dishes, pastas and breakfast omelets to pancakes. Most of the meals involve a protein, starch and a vegetable, and they have less than 700 mg of sodium.

“As more and more seniors strive to stay independent and live at home, new services will be required to support them,” said Martin Abrams, marketing director for General Mills. “One challenge facing seniors is the ability to get out and shop at traditional retail outlets. Our new Betty Crocker Kitchens meal delivery service is an opportunity to remain connected to this customer group as their personal needs change and evolve. From the very beginning of this project, we spent a great deal of time with both seniors and caregivers, and the response was overwhelmingly positive for this type of offering.”

To develop the service, Mr. Abrams said General Mills conducted more than 50 in-home interviews with seniors and caregivers, visited senior facilities and consulted with local health care providers to learn how such a service may help ensure seniors are able to receive well-balanced meals to maintain their basic nutritional needs on a regular basis, especially if recovering from a hospital stay. Additionally, the company considered the experiences of many of its employees as Mr. Abrams said a number of their employees found themselves in a situation of being a caregiver for an aging family member.

The goal was to create offerings combining good taste, easy meal preparation and a delivery method that places a priority on customer service. As a result, the frozen meals are in single-serving trays with easy-to-open packaging and simple heating instructions.

Mr. Abrams said the company will evaluate how the launch goes before introducing plans to expand the service to other markets.

“While it was designed with seniors in mind, the Betty Crocker Kitchens meal delivery service is for anyone who is looking for easy-to-prepare, great-tasting meals and the convenience of having them delivered right to the front door or even the freezer if desired,” Mr. Abrams said.


Burger King branches out

General Mills isn’t the only company testing home delivery. Burger King currently offers the BK Delivers service in Washington, Houston and New York.

“Burger King restaurants have been providing delivery service to our customers in various markets internationally for years, and we’ve had great success with it,” said Alex Macedo, senior vice-president and general manager of the U.S. franchise business for Burger King Worldwide. “We are excited to bring that convenience to our guests in the United States.”

Mr. Macedo said one of the challenges in developing the program was to design an efficient delivery system that ensured product quality upon delivery. He said they had to consider temperature, freshness, appearance and service. As a result, they developed new packaging technology. The delivery menu currently does not include fountain drinks, ICEE beverages, shakes, soft-serve desserts, coffee or breakfast items.

Mr. Macedo said the BK Delivers service may be useful for all consumers from working parents and busy families to catering get-togethers. The company is testing different delivery deals and a guest loyalty program. He also said the company is looking into a number of additional markets to expand the delivery service but has no specifics regarding the timing of a national rollout.

Groceries on the way

If one would rather cook for themselves, Peapod offers home delivery for groceries in Chicago, Milwaukee, southeast Wisconsin, Indianapolis, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, southern New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Washington, Philadelphia and southeast Pennsylvania. In addition to offering on-line shopping and the ability to set up delivery, the company offers a software program that acts as a “virtual nutritionist” by reading labels for its consumers.  Additionally, Peapod has more than 100 virtual grocery stores at commuter rail stations in the northeast.

Time will tell the success of the programs and if they will achieve nationwide service, but for now the companies seem pleased with the results of their delivery businesses.

“Overall guest satisfaction scores have been extremely positive with our new delivery service and the amount of work that we put into making sure that each delivery is as expected,” Mr. Macedo said of Burger King said. “The high satisfaction then translates into a higher number of consumers that are repeat consumers and become members of our loyalty program.”