With shelter in place orders and social distancing forcing consumers to stay in their homes, many are turning to online grocery delivery services to avoid crowded areas. However, NPD research partner, MFour, revealed a staggering number of consumers currently have issues finding groceries for delivery. While shopping for grocery delivery, 63% of shoppers couldn’t find what they needed. Of that group, 17% gave up, 38% went into a store, 15% switched apps, and 30% decided to wait until the items they need are available on the same app. This need to get food into the home without going into a grocery store has shined a new light on meal kits, which had been losing popularity with consumers prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.

And the trend for meal kits could be on the upswing. For the last year, our National Eating Trends® (NET®) research showed the percent of U.S. adults who used a meal kit in the last 30 days remained steady at 5 percent. However, our new NET® COVID-19 Pantry & Food Strategy Tracker for the first two weeks of April has that at about 7 percent. The data, although preliminary, is a barometer of shifting consumer priorities.

Meal kits can save consumers trips to crowded grocery stores where social distancing is difficult to maintain, and provide everything that is needed for a meal versus having to shop multiple stores only to find empty shelves. For those who suddenly find themselves in the position of having to cook but not really knowing how, meal kits provide ingredients in the right proportions along with step-by-step instructions that even a beginning cook can understand.  For older or more vulnerable populations, meal kits deliver well-balanced nutritious meals right to their door steps with little or no-contact delivery.

Being a researcher, it’s been amazing to me how quickly our needs and wants have changed over the last few weeks. Just like disinfectant wipes and the other things that have grown mightily in importance in our current environment, meal kits have the opportunity to do the same. Generally speaking, consumers are looking for convenient ways to prepare in-home meals more frequently and seek short cuts in food preparation as well as acquisition.