Food trend watchers say one of the fastest growing markets in 2017 is grab and go healthy food. A company that started in Austin and has expanded to two other states is capitalizing on the increasing demand for convenient, good tasting food that’s good for you.
At the Snap Kitchen on Bee Cave Road in Austin, a small army of workers busily prepare thousands of meals, fully cooked, ready to be heated up in the oven or microwave.
"I think people want to have a very intense meal experience. But what they really want, people just want to eat better," said Ethan Holmes, Snap Kitchen's Executive Research and Development.
Holmes said what started in 2010 as a way to provide busy people with quick access to chef-cooked, healthy meals has blossomed into 55 locations. Driven by app technology where you can order and pay ahead…plus so-called “time poverty” of busy people…the grab and go chain features unusual dished like bison quinoa hash, chicken butternut macaroni and sweet potato black bean sliders. Holmes says they use no preservatives, cook gluten free, and create chef-inspired dishes.
"And that’s kind of the end game for us is we want you to eat stuff and not think ‘this is healthy food’ because that always had that rap of wheat germ and kale," Holmes pointed out. "So we wanted to find ways as chefs to take those flavor profiles of amazing chef driven food and turn them on their head."
"This is a better option than a burger," noted customer Denise Davis who works near this northeast Austin store.
Davis said for her, buying this kind of freshly-prepared food comes down to one thing. "Convenience," she remarked. "It’s already cooked and just heat it. I don’t cook at home. Microwave is my appliance of choice."
At a time when Uber Eats and Favor deliver to your door and other services ship you the makings for a healthy meal, Snap Kitchen is cashing in on the trend. The chain offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner ranging from two dollars for a simple snack to 14 dollars for premium salmon.
Manager Nikki Dillree said it’s not just millennials looking to stay out of the kitchen but away from fast food. "As a culture, we’re all looking for convenience and having wholesome options to nourish us in these crazy busy lives. All types of people come here: artists, lawyers, heart surgeons, teachers, moms.
As with all trends, it’s too early to know if these grab and go chef-designed meals will stay in demand…if people will keep hungering for dishes like breakfast sandwiches made with cauliflower buns, egg whites and turkey and sweet potato sausage. But a recent Business Insider columnist wrote that up-and-coming healthy quick eating chains could take a bite out of burger joints clientele.
Snap Kitchen is exploring San Antonio as a potential market for expansion.