No one knows more about how people eat than The NPD Group. For decades now, we’ve been the definitive source of information on food and beverage consumption, whether at home or away-from-home. Snacks-on-the-go? Lunch at the drive-thru? Dinner with the family? We track them all.
We monitor a wide range of critical food industry trends and track consumer behavior, attitudes, and usage motivators – from diet and nutrition to food safety and brand awareness.
The smartest companies in the food and beverage industry depend on our information, insights, and expertise to understand what consumers are actually eating and drinking. In addition to providing this unique information, we can combine our data with your information or third-party data to help you solve specific, difficult business issues.
National Eating Trends
National Eating Trends® (NET®) monitors thousands of individuals’ eating habits each year to provide a complete view of food and beverage consumption in the U.S. This information goes far beyond supermarket scanner and purchase panel data to focus on consumers’ actual eating situations. For nearly 30 years, NET has captured preparation and consumption situations for foods and beverages, reporting on who consumes particular food and beverage products, when and where they consume them, and how they are consumed. This information can be used in research and new product development as well as in marketing mature brands.
Path to Consumption
Every day, millions of consumers make decisions about what to eat, both at home and away from home. Path to Consumption® identifies distinct paths based on the consumer decision-making process, revealing how these decisions are made and the critical decision moments where they can be influenced. Leverage these unique considerations and motivations to identify and monitor your growth strategies.
SnackTrack® is the go-to source for U.S. snack food consumption information. SnackTrack’s ongoing consumer data collection presents a complete picture of snack and convenience foods to help you understand critical trends in behavior, attitudes, and usage. It captures who, when, where, why, and how specific snack-oriented foods and brands are consumed, and examines situational and motivational dynamics that affect snack food consumption. Leading snack and convenience food manufacturers rely on SnackTrack to provide insight beyond conventional purchase databases.
Examine the top-of-mind dieting and health issues facing consumers today. Dieting Monitor helps companies understand dieting patterns, perceptions of dieting and health, and the influence these factors have on consumers. It also reports on awareness of and participation in specific diets, including all of the programs consumers and the media talk about most.
Food Safety Monitor
Understand the strong influence consumers’ food safety concerns can have on your business and your industry. Equipping your company with a clear view of consumers’ food safety worries, this tracking tool provides unprecedented insight into consumers’ food safety concerns, food safety knowledge, and future eating intentions, allowing for strong and strategic decision making.
International Food & Beverage Habits
Get a complete view of consumers’ food and beverage habits, both in-home and away, in Brazil, Russia, India, Mexico, and China (“BRIMC” countries). This report reveals the structure of eating and drinking occasions throughout the day and how food and beverage categories fit into those occasions. Based on a consistent survey methodology across these emerging markets and the U.S., this study delivers the insight needed to uncover the most promising opportunities for food and beverage marketers.
This inventory of American kitchens represents a key “ingredient” in recipe development. Since its inception in 1993, The NPD Group’s Kitchen Audit study has offered food and housewares manufacturers a comprehensive profile of the foods, beverages, appliances, cookware, utensils, and other cooking materials kept on hand in American home kitchens. It also identifies who uses recipes and where they source them from.
NET Hispanic Study
Explore eating habits of Hispanic consumers, both at home and away from home. The study reveals new details about the cooking, eating, and dining behaviors of Hispanics in the U.S. It also explores the many segments of the U.S. Hispanic population and their unique characteristics and needs that influence food behaviors, including detail on U.S. Hispanics by country of origin, acculturation, language, and first/second/third generations.
Grocery e-commerce is a game changer for both manufacturers and retailers. Now there's a resource that explains how it works for shoppers and sets the stage for the approaching tipping point.
With new labeling laws on the horizon, it’s critical to understand and address consumers’ concerns. Most consumers now say they are aware of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and many of them tell us they aren’t comfortable buying and consuming foods that include them. Our new report, Navigating GMOs for Success, gives you new information and expert insight into this consumer mindset. It’s how to get the knowledge you need to improve product positioning and deliver effective marketing messages to respond to GMO-related concerns.
In the food and beverage industry, foresight about the future of how people will eat and drink and deep insight about what they’re doing right now can make all the difference to your growth trajectory. This year we’ve dug deeper than ever before into our unique data assets and industry expertise. The result? An unparalleled look at actual consumption behavior and how it’s changing, both at home and away from home. You can use the Annual Report on Eating Patterns in America to determine which emerging behavior patterns will help drive your business and identify new market opportunities.
Meal kit delivery services like Blue Apron and Plated have garnered a small, but seemingly dedicated, segment of enthusiasts in the U.S. Are these kits a passing fad, or is this a trend worth watching? Our new report, Thinking Inside the Box: A Fresh Look at Meal Kit Delivery Services, combines findings of our own custom study with ongoing NET® consumer tracking research, insights from our Checkout Tracking solution, and industry expertise. It uncovers answers to your pressing questions about this new player in your market.
Find out how the food and beverage consumption of key generations – Gen Z, Millennials, and Boomers – is set to change as these groups move through life stages. Our new report, A Generational Study: The Evolution of Eating, reveals whether their patterns will be similar to, or different from, those of previous generations. It’s how to develop marketing strategies and make long-range plans that position your business for growth.
The boundary between foods eaten between and during meals continues to blur, but now you can get clear answers to your most pressing questions about snack foods and between-meal consumption. Our Snacking in America report provides deep insight into consumer behavior to help you answer the question, “What’s the future of snacking?”. Partnering with CultureWaves, the Snacking in America report now has an added layer of qualitative behavioral insights, giving perspective and real time evidence about the evolution of snacking in America.
There continues to be a lot of buzz about meal kit delivery services — from celebrities launching their own services, ecommerce retailers partnering with food companies to develop meal kits, to major food companies investing in meal kit delivery services — but still adoption by U.S. consumers is relatively small at roughly 5 percent of households, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. One of the barriers to adoption is the expense of meal kit delivery services, according to an NPD Group study, but with the growth of online grocers offering meal kits, the kits will become more readily available, affordable and, as a result, more adoptable.
Grocery e-commerce has a lot of headroom for growth with only seven percent of U.S. consumers shopping online for groceries in the last month, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Consumers who are lapsed from grocery shopping online or have never shopped for online groceries point out a number of barriers to their adoption of online grocery shopping, the top reason being that they want to pick out their own fresh items. Amazon’s recently announced purchase of Whole Foods will help overcome this barrier for Amazon Prime members (52 percent of online grocery shoppers are Amazon Prime members), active online shoppers, like young adults and men, and urban consumers; but there remains a large sector of the population that will continue to be served by brick and mortar grocery stores.
The health benefits of eating seafood are well-documented but many consumers lack the confidence to select the right seafood and prepare it in-home, which is why many consumers turn to restaurants. Shellfish, which tends to be more costly and therefore to some consumers riskier to prepare at home, appear to be the seafood of choice when dining out, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company.
Innovation and Expansion Surround Plant-Based Dairy and Meat Alternatives but Market Still Remains Niche
In recent years there has been a lot of expansion and innovation surrounding plant-based dairy and meat alternatives in the U.S., even with dairy and animal-protein manufacturers finding ways to enter the space, but the market’s potential is still being determined. According to The NPD Group, a leading global information company, the market for plant-based alternatives is still evolving as consumers begin to leverage these items because of food allergies or they’re seeking what they believe to be more healthful options.
Snack Foods Are Increasingly Consumed At Main Meals and Gen Zs and Millennials Will Drive This Trend Over the Next Decade
Health consciousness, more solo households, and convenience are among the reasons more U.S. consumers, particularly young adults, are eating snack foods as part of their main meals, finds The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Although most snack foods are eaten between meals, snack foods eaten at main meals now represent 24 percent of all snack food eatings, which is up from 21 percent five years ago, according to NPD’s continual tracking of U.S. consumers snacking attitudes and behaviors.
52 Million Grocery Shop Online Now and Millions Plan to Increase Their Virtual Shopping Over Next Six Months
The internet is quickly becoming the virtual grocery store for many U.S. consumers with 52 million currently grocery shopping online, finds a new study from The NPD Group, a leading global information company. According to the NPD report, 20 million consumers who are current, lapsed, or new to online grocery shopping plan to increase their virtual shopping for foods and beverages over the next six months.
U.S. consumers will take a personal approach to their health and wellness in 2017, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Wearable devices that track footsteps and apps that track calories enable consumers to develop their own personal plans to meet their needs, rather than relying on health plans based on averages. Even though dieting is on the decline, “my own diet” is still rising as the most common way consumers take control of their intake, according to NPD Group’s continual tracking of consumers’ eating attitudes and behaviors.
In a world of uncertainty, one thing is certain in 2017: America will eat! But how and where people source meals and the attributes that will win share of wallet are ever-changing, and according to The NPD Group, a leading global information company, here are five overarching trends to watch in 2017.
Thanksgiving traditions are evolving to reflect the new cultural and societal makeup of the U.S., finds The NPD Group, a leading global information company, and its research partner, CultureWaves®, a consumer qualitative insights company that looks at consumer behavioral data. A mix of influences — economic, ethnic, generational, health, pop culture, and our social structure are shaping the new Thanksgiving traditions. Thanksgiving is now a meal with family or “family” redefined, a shopping experience, an entertainment experience, and, for many, a workday. An aspect of Thanksgiving tradition that has remained the same is that most Americans choose to celebrate the meal in a home, theirs or someone else’s.
Guess Who’s Eating Their Vegetables Now? Younger Consumers Drive Growth of Fresh and Frozen Vegetable Consumption; Boomers Not So Much
The continual parental reminder to “eat your vegetables” stuck with Millennials and Gen Zs because they are driving the growth in fresh and frozen vegetable consumption, but many of the parents who offered the reminder are not eating theirs, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Younger consumers, those under age 40, have increased the annual eatings per capita of fresh vegetables by 52 percent and frozen vegetables by 59 percent over the last decade. Boomers, ages 60 and up, on the other hand, decreased their consumption of fresh vegetables by 30 percent and frozen vegetables by 4 percent over the same period.
When you want detail on mobile gamers’ spending behavior, single-game in-app purchases, or the consumers who are most likely to spend on your title, there’s no better resource than our Checkout Tracking E-commerce service.
Bringing children into the world causes parents to make changes in their lifestyles – and Millennials are no different. The formation of families is one of the greatest causes of behavioral change in food and beverage consumption. As this generation continues to go through life stage changes they continue to exhibit changes worthy of attention.
Generational and situational shifts affect eating patterns for people of all ages. Right now we’re seeing it among U.S. marketers’ coveted Millennials — they’re having kids, and it’s changing the how, what, and why behind their consumption choices.
As the seasons change, U.S. consumers’ snack and meal choices also shift. Summer temps are on the way for much of the country, so interest will turn to outdoor grilling and icy delights that help people beat the heat.
Over the last decade, U.S. consumers have become less concerned about checking nutrition labels for calories, fat, and sodium. But sugar was holding steady . . . that is, until a recent uptick in 2016. Now it’s their number-one priority when checking labels.
Consumers are composing meals on their own terms, and this includes traditional snack foods. Learn the three keys to capitalizing on this consumer trend from Senior Industry Analyst David Portalatin.
We’ve all heard the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?” For many consumers, this question isn’t answered until right before dinnertime. This creates stress for some while others seem to solve for it by ensuring they keep a bountiful supply of ingredients available in their kitchens.
Understanding consumer behavior around scratch cooking versus foodservice usage is key to finding growth opportunities. Find out more about what is trending in food – it’s all in this video featuring David Portalatin, Senior Industry Analyst.
Why Satisfying Consumers at Dinner is Hardest
Foodservice manufacturers, operators and food retailers are looking for opportunities for growth. A key strategy is appealing to the desires of the consumer. Find out more about what is trending in food – it’s all in this video featuring David Portalatin, Senior Industry Analyst.
Insights and Opinions from our Analysts and Experts
I sometimes feel in the minority of men when it comes to grocery shopping because I actually don’t mind the task. Between NPD’s and my anecdotal research sources (a.k.a. my friends), men typically can’t wait to get the heck out of grocery stores and view the trip as a chore. However, even I don’t mind saving time by having someone else deliver my groceries right to my front door by using an online grocer.
My shopping patterns have changed thanks to the internet and it dawned on me the other day that I’m actually using more, not fewer, channels since much of my purchasing happens online. While I might be using more channels I’m spending less time in a physical store and I’m not alone in this shopping paradigm. Our National Eating Trends®(NET®) shows users of online grocers typically shop at twice as many channels as their offline counterparts (six versus three, respectively).
Are online grocers revolutionizing the shopping experience? I wouldn’t describe pace of change like the runaway grocery cart that’s heading for your brand-new car in the parking lot, but the seeds for future changes have been planted. As I mentioned, men typically have very negative views of grocery shopping but men are becoming increasingly responsible for acquiring their household groceries. More than 40 percent of primary grocery shoppers are now men, but they’re not taking on the task with open arms. This is a leading reason why men, ages 18-34, make up twice their fair share of all online grocery shoppers, according to our report, The Virtual Grocery Store. Since younger and tech savvy consumers are leading the way for the online segment to grow, we should expect this to be a larger behavior in the future.
There are a few things industry players can do now to prepare for this growth. Acknowledge that delivery/- online services have left the gate and are gaining favor with consumers. This underscores the need for manufacturers and retailers to partner on creating strategies to meet consumers wherever they shop. Whether it is delivery, click-and-collect, meal delivery kits, or traditional in-store, retail plans must now be holistic in their approach if they want to guarantee future success. Also, for slower moving or lower distribution products use this as an opportunity to drive sales. With online grocers, it’s less about shelf space and more about availability. And, don’t forget that your competition is just a click away so make sure you don’t give consumers an excuse to leave!
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration started a public process to redefine the “healthy” nutrient content claim for food labeling. They want to make sure the definition for the “healthy” labeling claim stays up-to-date. For example, public health recommendations now focus on various thresholds fat, added sugars, or nutrients that consumers aren’t getting enough of, like vitamin D and calcium.
Recently I was part of an FDA-hosted panel that was part of a public forum to discuss the definitions of “healthy.” Food companies, lobbyists, nutritionist, and even a grammarian who wanted the FDA to consider the grammatically correct term “healthful” instead of “healthy,” were among the hundreds of individuals and organizations who provided comment. All commented with the good intention of getting consumers to eat “healthy”… or should I say healthful.
Here’s what we know with our 30-plus years of tracking all aspects of how consumers eat: consumers today define “healthy” to mean fresh, authentic, and real. It’s clear to them that an apple is healthy. If the food is processed, they want transparency, meaning they want to know the makeup of the food, including the positive attributes of the food that they may desire in their diet. They want all of the necessary information to decide what they will eat and what they will not. In other words, the definition of “healthy” is personal.
I’m often asked if non-GMO is a passing fad or engrained behavior, and given how often I’ve been asked this over the years I’m going with the latter.
But it’s not just my gut instinct that’s driving that belief. We decided to take another look at the pulse of consumers’ concerns around GMOs and there have been some very interesting shifts in just three years. I used to joke in my presentations how most people had no idea what GMOs were yet there are millions of consumers who are saying they need to avoid them. Back in 2013, more than half of consumers said they had little to no awareness regarding GMOs. Well, that’s not the case anymore.
In fact, most consumers now have some idea of what GMOs are and many more consumers can identify potential benefits to using them centering mostly around more resilient crops. But this increase in understanding hasn’t quelled any fears for consuming genetically modified foods. In 2013, about 70 percent of consumers had concerns and that figure is now 76 percent in 2016.
The reason why I think it’s more of an engrained behavior that will last has to do with who’s driving this increase. Adults in their 20s and 30s are the main reason for the increase in awareness and concern, and since their food preparation habits are beginning to solidify, we should expect more of these behaviors as they become more prominent players in the economy and raise their children under these habits.
I think a clear example of how this is changing is the increased use of organic foods, which is one method consumers can use to avoid GMOs. Previous generations saw this as a way to feed their children “clean” foods but the parents would use traditional foods as they didn’t see the need to spend the extra money on themselves. As evidenced in both our National Eating TrendsÒ information as well as consumer interviews, Millennial parents are now asking why shouldn’t they use organic foods for themselves since they use them for their children for healthful reasons.
With the new GMO labeling law set to take effect, the question isn’t if you should disclose but how you should disclose. You can use a QR code that consumers can scan but our research shows most consumers find that inconvenient. That being said, consumers also appreciate when companies are being open and honest about their manufacturing processes. If the QR code is the way you go, you might want to use that as a chance to talk about more than just GMOs. Talk to consumers about where you source your ingredients, charities you support so consumers feel they’re supporting them too, sustainable business practices, etc. Now more than ever, consumers want to know what happened to your products before they hit the shelves.
Driving with my family recently after a long trip away, we pondered what we would do for dinner. We spent the last several days eating restaurant meals and were craving a home cooked dinner. The problem was we were still hours away from home and too tired to stop and grocery shop. My wife suggested using online delivery from our local grocery store. I was skeptical. Would the fresh food sit out on our porch spoiling in the unseasonable Houston heat? She assured me that our retailer promised we could specify the delivery time. And so we placed the order while driving home.
An hour down the road we received a text from Kate, our personal shopper, who told us she was starting our order and asked for permission to text or call with any questions. This communication was followed with a text photo of apples to ensure they met our standards. The order delivered right after we arrived home. We were satisfied with the service and now about half of our grocery shopping has shifted online.
We are among the 52 million consumers who currently shop online and there will be many more of us in the coming months based on our recent The Virtual Grocery Store study. Like us, the majority of online grocery shoppers is satisfied with the experience and become repeat users.
Happy customers, the never-ending search for convenience, more delivery options, shipping deals, like Amazon Prime, the infinite assortment, and more aggressive online strategies being launched by major grocery retailers will drive the quick adoption of virtual grocery shopping. The tipping point will be here before you know it.
Watch, listen, and learn. Food and beverage manufacturers should monitor to ensure their products are part of the assortment where it matters. Grocery retailers should start developing e-commerce programs or to expand current services. Now is the time to act, while shoppers, like my family, are still experimenting and before virtual grocery shopping becomes an everyday reality.
In a world of uncertainty, one thing is certain in 2017: America will eat! But how and where people source meals and the attributes that will win share of wallet are ever-changing. Here are five overarching trends to watch in 2017.
- The battle for share of stomach will intensify. For several years now, more than 80 percent of meals have been sourced from home; fewer than 20 percent have been sourced from foodservice, and dollars are evenly split between the two. Food manufacturers will benefit from a trend toward eating meals at home by capitalizing on consumers’ desires for fresh, authentic foods. Foodservice operators will increasingly leverage technology to conveniently get their food on the in-home table. At the intersection of this trend is the retailer, who will continue to blur the line between retail and foodservice.
- Watch for the continued development of the “blended meal.” Consumers are dining at home more, and they value fresh and authentic foods, but convenience remains an important part of the equation. People don’t always source meals entirely at home or away. Look for various components of “homemade” meals to be sourced from items fully or partially prepared. Opportunity exists all along the preparation spectrum, from meal kits to restaurant delivery.
- Companies will win by getting personal. Even in a mature, low-growth environment, there will be opportunities for double-digit growth. But today more than ever, the consumer is in charge. Access to information is empowering people to do things on their terms. The days of a one-size-fits-all blockbuster idea are over. Consumers will seek out foods with a variety of value-added attributes (fresh, natural, organic), positive benefits (energy, brain food, etc.) and social value (local, sustainable, transparent). Some of these opportunities may seem small by big-company standards, but that is where the growth is.
- The definition of meal occasions will evolve. People aren’t adding new eating occasions to their day, but how meal and between-meal occasions are composed will continue to change. Foods that offer the flexibility to compose an eating occasion to fit specific needs at a given time will grow, whether packaged goods or foodservice offerings. Consumers will make choices on price point, portion control, and portability – whatever allows them to craft a snack or full meal, spend a little or a lot, take a break or eat on the run.
- Experience will make the difference. To stand out, food manufacturers, retailers, and foodservice operators must go beyond sustenance. People will seek out experiences, whether through exploring street food vendors, emerging ethnic flavors, or hands-on experiences, such as learning new food prep techniques. Connecting your product or brand to an experience people are eager to share with others can be an important differentiating factor in 2017.
Get more insights like this. Contact your NPD account representative, call 866-444-1411, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I should go to more conferences.
I was just at a global foodservice conference in Dubai (with a distinctly American agenda) and came across the term "Generation Alpha," which covers anyone born after 2010. Sure this is likely a term bandied about in conference rooms all over North America…but it isn't in Asian or South American conference rooms. Even less here in the neighborhood of the Global Foodservice Blog Mountain Redoubt in California.
Boy are these kids going to be different. Boy they are different. You need to completely change your game to satisfy these kids like nothing before.
At the moment the oldest of Generation Alpha is 6-years-old.
So I thought (and I'm quoting myself here),"what are they eating so much of that's so different?"
Just to get myself started, I went to the U.S. CREST® foodservice market research database to see what it had to tell me. I found that the five most popular items for Generation Alpha were:
- French Fries
- Chicken Nuggets
- Regular Carbonated Soft Drinks
"No Way!" (I'm quoting you here). "They're eating fresh fruit and quinoa salads."
But these guys are supposed to be different from any previous generation? What if I went back to 2010, before any of them were born, to see what the favorite items of the youngest Generation Z kids were eating...
- French Fries
- Regular Carbonated Soft Drinks
- Chicken Nuggets
But we market researcher guys have a trick to tease differences out of the data to highlight things that might not be very important (quinoa) but are very different. We "index" the numbers for each generation relative to the average. This tells us the "propensity" to do a certain thing compared to (in this case) older people.
And when we do that we find that quinoa is the most important.
Just kidding. We find:
- Juice that's not orange juice
- Corn Dogs (!!!!)
- Yogurt-not frozen yogurt (that's better)
- Chicken Nuggets
And, to complete the circle, if we go back to 2010, we find the Under 6 set indexing "high" on:
- Juice that's not orange juice
- Grilled Cheese
- Corn Dogs
I love grilled cheese sandwiches so much I blogged about them last year.
So, I guess the thing about this generation isn't so much what they eat but how you're going to reach them. These kids are going to be as much younger than Millennials as Millennials are to Boomers. Sheesh! What are they going to be up to?
When I’m on vacation I do my best to turn work off in my brain, but since I study food trends for a living that’s often hard to accomplish. Take for example a trip I recently took to Munich, Germany, where I met up with a friend who lives there. Since it was Oktoberfest we certainly had a few beers (maybe more than a few) and traditional Bavarian food, but he also introduced me to a dairy product in their grocery stores, which is not easily found in U.S. stores.
I told him I wanted to get Greek yogurt, but he insisted if I liked Greek yogurt I would definitely enjoy quark. I like to take the when-in-Rome attitude during my travels so I threw caution to the wind and purchased the plain-flavored version of the brand he recommended.
Since I enjoyed what I was eating I did a little online research to see what was so great about quark. First, quark is technically not yogurt but instead a curd cheese that has been smoothed, but the end result is a texture that nearly matches that of Greek yogurt. Quark also boasts health benefits that many manufacturers claim exceed what you’ll find with Greek yogurt. In Europe nutrition content labels show nutrient levels per 100 grams of the product versus per serving in the U.S., which allows consumers to compare across products regardless of the size. Protein levels per 100 grams of quark are claimed to be nearly twice that of Greek yogurt while having slightly less sodium. And just like with yogurt, quark can come in a variety of fat levels.
Quark is in limited distribution in the U.S so is it time to think about expanding its availability? A few years ago I might have said that yogurt is doing just fine and it’s growing organically. From the 1990s through 2012, consumption of yogurt in the U.S. nearly tripled, but the last few years have seen mostly stagnant consumption rates. And with nearly half of consumers telling us that they’re trying to get more protein in their diets, quark might be able to give them more bang for their buck.
I’ve also found that food and beverage innovations that attempt to evolve consumers’ behaviors versus revolutionize behaviors, have a greater chance of success since our consumption behaviors are habitual. Quark might be a new name and is not actually yogurt, but it is consumed the same way, tastes and looks similar, and wouldn’t ask consumers to make any drastic changes in their behaviors.
In my experience it was the perfect counterbalance to the beer, brats, fried food, and sweets I ate while celebrating Oktoberfest!
I don’t mean to harp on meal delivery kits in my posts but I keep finding new areas of discussion as I continue to use them!
In my last post, I updated you on my experiences with a few of these services and how I think I will continue using them. I made a small comment that my monthly groceries spend, which includes the meal kits, seems to have dipped. And for those of you who don’t know me, I’m talking about real numbers since I track everything I spend in a financial software on my computer ( yes I’m one of those people).
Shortly after that post went live a colleague forwarded an article that said, “Subscribers to meal kit services are spending 6 percent less at supermarkets than they did before using the service, according to a new study by Atlanta-based credit and debit card spending analysis firm Cardlytics.”
I too am spending less at grocery stores simply because I’m not in them as often, but how am I overall spending less on groceries when the average meal cost per person from a kit is about $10 while getting the groceries yourself is less than half that much? A few things seem to be in play and it hit me when I set foot in a grocery store for the first time in a while. I needed some basil for a recipe I was making but of course I couldn’t simply purchase a few leaves. I could only buy an entire bunch most of which will likely go bad before I will have a chance to use it. Essentially half of that spend will be wasted. Also while I was in the store, I figured I might as well get a few other items like eggs, yogurt, bananas, hummus and other spreads. Remember, I only went to the store for one item but I walked out with about seven so just by being in the store I’m very likely to spend more than what I actually need. Since I subscribe to a meal kit I’m making those impulse purchases far less frequently.
A few retailers have taken note of these services as threats and for good reason. Two thirds of adults in a recent NPD study said had they not made a meal from one of these kits they would have made something else in their home. In other words, meal kits are replacing meals where the ingredients would have been sourced from a grocery store.
It’s still not time to hit the panic button if you’re a retailer since only 3 percent of adults have tried a meal kit in the past year, but they are gearing up to be a formidable disruptor in the food industry. As more consumers are seeking fresh solutions that save time in the kitchen or grocery store, these services are becoming attractive to a greater base of consumers.
Some time ago I posted about my first box from the Plated meal delivery service and since then I’ve tried other services as well. Our research on meal kit delivery services has shown many consumers leave these services due to cost concerns but I wanted to share my experiences now that I’ve sampled a few players.
There are several services competing in this space now with a few new ones on the way, so I wanted to make sure I went with one that best fit my needs. Like most newcomers to meal delivery kits, I started each one because I had a discount code or was gifted a box from an existing user, making it easier to start the service. I eventually settled on one (which I will not name so as not to appear partial) for a couple of reasons. First I felt the recipe instructions were clearest and led me from step to step most logically. There were some recipes in other services that seem to leave a gap making me wonder how I would get from one step to the next. Second, the one I chose seemed to have more food-forward recipes representing a departure from the foods I would normally make on my own.
So the big question is, will I stick with it now that I chose one? Well that remains to be seen. Just the other night I realized there are a few recipes piling up in the fridge. That’s probably because I’ve been busy with travel as well as just enjoying the summertime and I’d rather be outside versus cooking dinner. I had to improvise a little with the last meal I made because the basil had gone bad since I didn’t make the recipe right away. Fortunately, I had some dry basil and the recipe didn’t suffer but next time I might not be so lucky.
While I might be finding some struggles there are still elements of the service I enjoy. First and foremost, I’m not going to the grocery store. Like I said previously, New York City grocery stores can resemble a rock concert in that there are lines to enter and can be packed to the gills! Meal delivery kits have greatly reduced my trips to the store. I also appreciate that I’m not struggling to answer the age-old question, “what’s for dinner?” The recipes are consistently tasty and I don’t have to search for ideas or ask friends and family what I should put on my dinner plate.
Interestingly, although the average cost of a meal from these kits is more than had you acquired all the ingredients at the grocer, I seem to be spending less money on groceries overall. I can’t say if this is true for the typical user, but perhaps I’m saving on all those impulse items I grab while in the store, or perhaps I’m also saving on restocking fresh foods that went bad because I couldn’t use them in time. I’m in a household of two people so when I have to buy bunches in the vegetable aisle I often can’t use the entire bunch before it rots.
For now, it seems I will stick it out but I did just decrease the number of meals per box from three to two and I’ll see if that will help prevent the buildup of recipes in the refrigerator. I also want to see if I return to cooking more often when the weather gets cool in fall and winter and perhaps I’ll go back to three meals in a box.
I’ve often wondered if I could convince Grubhub Seamless to give me equity in the company given the number of times I use their service. I probably order food for delivery from the internet too often so I decided to take a different path. I’m still using the internet but this time I’m using a meal delivery kit.
A friend already uses Plated so she sent me a link to get my first complimentary box. Just like at meetings in the office, free food is a great motivator! The selection process was fairly easy and I was even able to make slight recipe adjustments that fit my tastes. Everything arrived as planned and I was even impressed with how little packaging was required. All the ingredients were separated by the appropriate recipe and everything still looked fresh despite having been on a delivery truck.
Now the real test – how easy was it to prepare and how did it taste? Well, I still had to do a fair amount of chopping, slicing, and preparation, but the key convenience of the service is that I didn’t have to make a trip to the grocery store. In some areas of the country, going to the grocery store is merely a chore, but in New York City it’s a nightmare with long checkout lines (and sometimes lines to enter the store), crowded aisles, frequent out-of-stock items, all on top of having to take the Subway to get your items home. A little chopping and preparation is a small price to pay here for avoiding the shopping experience. The recipe was easy to follow with pictures to show me exactly how it should look when I’m done with each step. In about an hour, my zucchini lasagna was finished and, I have to say, quite tasty.
The plan I used for Plated costs $72 per week, and each box has three meals that feed two people. If you do the math that comes out to $12 per person per meal and for me that’s a bargain! It costs much less than going out to dinner, ordering for delivery and is probably only slightly more than going to the grocery store to get the ingredients. I fully understand, however, that prices where I live are higher than the rest of the country (and don’t get me started on Hamilton tickets).
At NPD we recently conducted a study on consumers using these services and one of the most interesting findings was that the majority of users said had they not prepared a meal from the kit they would have made another meal from their homes. In other words, meal kits are mostly replacing meals from the home but at higher prices. I’m often asked about the long-term viability of these services and my answer is always that meal delivery kit companies need to convince consumers they are worth the extra spend for the convenience and time savings they provide. Consumers also tell us a key challenge at dinner time is finding new and different recipes to make, which meal kits inherently provide and can be a key marketing message as well.