Proliferation in meal kits, online grocery reflects consumer love of home-cooked meals
- A new survey found that 77% of Americans would rather eat a homemade meal than go out for dinner. The annual study was conducted by the online grocer Peapod.
- The survey pinpointed three major reasons for this preference: 77% of respondents prioritized cost savings, 51% cited eating healthier, and 41% noted cooking at home allows for more quality time with family.
- Now in its third year, the survey has consistently shown that more than half of respondents have continually expressed intentions of cooking more healthy meals in the new year. The most recent survey found that 59% of millennials said they plan to cook more in 2019.
It looks like consumers are going back to basics and want to spend more of their time and money in their own kitchens. But the survey reported that only 43% of overall respondents said they plan to cook more in 2019.
So how do food manufacturers interpret that juxtaposition? By thinking outside of the box. Consumers are driven by convenience, health and fresh food, but one of the biggest pressures they face is time. In today’s world, time is a premium ingredient, which has inspired a proliferation of meal kits, online grocery delivery and ready-to-eat meals.
A growing number of grocers like Hy-Vee, Kroger and Stop & Shop are carrying more grab-and-go items like meal kits to go along with a wider spread of foods like freshly prepared sushi, smoked meats and salad bars that can be loaded into a container and taken home. Meanwhile, the growing popularity of online grocery delivery companies such as Peapod, Instacart and AmazonFresh show consumers value convenience in getting their groceries delivered, and they are willing to pay a little more for it.
But Big Food can also take advantage of this trend and the willingness of consumers to turn on their ovens by promoting easy one-pot recipes or ready-to-eat products of their own. There are other ways manufacturers are digging into the convenience trend. They're utilizing the frozen foods category, which saw its first positive volume growth in five years this year. It's positioned well for convenience-minded consumers; the largest increase came from meals and appetizers.
At the same time, meals are being replaced by snacks. In 2017, a study from The NPD Group showed almost a quarter of all snack food eating (24%) occurs during main meals. Although this trend is nothing new, manufacturers could still try to capitalize on it by marketing snacks more like mini-meals — such as meat snacks with vegetables and granola bars that have more natural ingredients — where nutrients and proteins are being added to snacks to make them convenient and filling.
With so many avenues to go down to take advantage of this steady trend toward more homemade meals, Big Food may find it has to rely on technology to educate customers about products and how to use them. Manufacturers and grocers are already stepping in that direction. Tyson has partnered with Innit, a smart kitchen platform company, and Whole Foods has partnered with the June smart oven.
With smart technology controlled by phones permeating many U.S. homes, this may be an ideal platform for companies to utilize as they try to coach consumers through recipes and give them opportunities to interact with their brands. This type of interaction is gaining power as shoppers look for mission-based brands they can identify with, sustainability practices they feel good about supporting, and turning food into a form of self-expression.
If Big Food can get consumers to buy into their products, they will likely be able to keep consumers interested not only in their food, but also cooking at home — which could be beneficial to both in the long run.