In the most recent edition of Acosta’s quarterly Why Behind The Buy?, researchers found “every generation seems to wait until the last minute” to decide what to have for dinner and as a result “many are looking outside the fridge for meals,” meaning increased competition for CPGs.
“Compared to 2015, convenient meal solutions are growing across almost every category and generation” with 70% of consumers ordering carry-out food from a restaurant in 2017 compared to only 63% in 2015. In addition, in the three months prior to the research, 48% of US diners ordered delivery food from a restaurant compared to 42% in 2015 and 18% ordered a meal or ingredient kit compared to 8% in 2015.
Millennials in particular are more likely to buy prepared food at a grocery store, a meal kit or from a restaurant than any other generation, but early data suggests that Gen Zers could overtake them.
Gen Zers are “already out-pacing both Boomer and Silent diners in their monthly food spending on food prepared outside of the home, as well as their spending on groceries,” and with an average budget of $102.80 for food outside of the house they are close on the heels of Gen Xers who spend $148.60 outside of the home and Millennials who spend $205.20 outside of the home on food, according to the report.
Convenience is a major factor in more consumers buying ready-made meals than the ingredients to cook for themselves, according to the report.
It notes that food delivery services, such as GrubHub and UberEats, are “experiencing exponential growth,” with 44% of millennials using third party delivery services in the three months prior to the report compared to 20% of total US diners.
Meal kits also are gaining share – up to 18% of shoppers in 2017 from only 8% two years prior. However, this space is evolving quickly as grocery stores buy players in the space – creating more opportunities for CPG brands to participate or be purchased alongside kits that are sold in-store, according to a principal at Technomic.
Healthy options often win out over indulgence
While eating out or ordering in used to be synonymous with an indulgent meal, that is no longer the case with a significant portion of shoppers – especially millennials or families with children – ordering healthy options, according to the report
It found that 55% of millennial diners and those with children report looking for healthier options at restaurants or when ordering in. This includes nearly twice as many millennials (48%) and diners with kids (46%) choosing salads at restaurants compared to total US diner (27%).
The same trend holds true for eating more restaurant meals with fish, organic ingredients, vegetarian meals and options made with locally sourced ingredients, according to the report.
There is still plenty of room for indulging in classic takeout treats, according to the report. It found 28% of diners who order in expressed interest in hamburgers, 27% in chicken wings, 21% in Mexican fare, 14% in barbecue and 11% in desserts.
This shift in how consumers find their way to dinner signals changes in how brands should relate to them, according to the report.
It recommends businesses offer diners more convenient, on-the-go choices, including online menu ordering options and opportunities to use third-party delivery services.
It also notes that brands and food service providers should keep healthy, locally sourced and organic ingredients front and center as well as offer a variety of options for vegetarians and salad-lovers.