Unilever is to target busy commuters with a new ready-to-cook meal-kit brand called Rocket, in its latest attempt to extend its brands and products into new areas.
Its Van den Bergh Foods business has been piloting the service via a kiosk in the reception area investment bank UBS Warburg in London. Customers order fresh ingredients for their evening meal via the internet, then pick up the kit from the kiosk, ready to cook when they get home.
Only UBS employees have access to the service during the trial, which ends this Friday. Brochures were circulated throughout the company advertising the service, inviting staff to place their orders on the web site at www.rocketlondon.com.
The concept is designed to compete with takeaway outlets. Meals reserved before 3pm can be collected between 4pm and 10pm. The idea is that meals can be cooked and ready to eat in just 10 minutes.
Recipes include cream and red wine beef stroganoff, caramelised honey and mustard coated pork with garlic and thyme potatoes, and thai-style coconut and lemongrass chicken with fresh lime and basmati rice. Kits cost pounds 6 for one person or pounds 11 for two.
Van den Bergh's head of corporate communications, Helen Park, said the 'signs look good' for Rocket but would not reveal roll-out plans. 'It is still at the experimental stage and as with all these ideas, it's necessary to move them from the drawing board into the real world on a small scale before they can be properly evaluated.'
She would not disclose whether Van den Bergh had plans to keep Rocket as an internal service within business premises or to extend it into high street outlets.
Rocket is not Van den Bergh's first out-of-home eating initiative - the owner of shop-shelf brands such as Chicken Tonight, Flora and Olivio also operates Ch'a tea shops and Cup-a-Soup vending machines.
Other Unilever divisions are also looking to extend traditional FMCG brands into new markets. Home cleaning service myhome.co.uk, operates in south London using Unilever products, and Lynx barber shops have also opened in the capital.
'We are constantly looking to develop and try out new ideas in this potentially fruitful growth area,' said Park.