18 August 2016
Following our previous article, Brandon Miller, Wiley’s Innovation and Strategy Director takes a more in-depth look at the growing consumer trends surrounding the rise of convenience meals and the changes in consumer behaviours affecting the food industry.
The food industry is providing an increasing range of ready meals options in response to consumer demands for convenience.
2016 sees a continued push for ready meals and we have witnessed an increase in fresh and healthy offerings in particular. While frozen meals are still relevant, the shift to fresh and refrigerated food is set to continue. These products attract a premium price as consumers perceive them as healthier, tastier and more wholesome meal options. Consumers are also willing to pay a premium for ready meals that have celebrity or renowned chef endorsements leading to an array of gourmet ready meal options.
Similarly, consumers are increasingly interested in meal start-up kits. Such products provide all of the necessary ingredients and instructions to create a meal, delivering a rich cooking experience to even the most inexperienced of cooks. This helps consumers feel more at ease and in control of their cooking with the added benefit of being able to see what goes into their food.
Consumers are also increasingly aware of how their ready meals and other foods are processed. For example, modern processing techniques such as those that maintain nutrient and taste levels while avoiding the use of chemicals are at the forefront of many consumer purchasing decisions. Ready meal options processed using these techniques along with natural, organic and locally procured ingredients are increasingly important in securing that all important consumer purchase.
Food you can drink, or drinkable ready meals is also showing signs of promise this year, with recent developments such as drinkable peanut powder and expansion in drinkable soups. These innovations are working together to unify soup and smoothie products, suggesting that the market timing might be right for these products.
Finally, 2016 is bringing about changes to how consumers access ready meals. Traditional consumer channels face competition from online ordering and delivery services. Examples of this tech-driven food delivery trend include Google and Amazon who have both recently entered the grocery delivery game in some markets. Ready meal producers may well increase the perceived value of (and demand for) their products by aligning their offering with these trends.
Consumer shopping habits have shifted over the last decade. Dramatic changes in lifestyles, eating patterns and demographics are creating new rules in consumer preferences. For example, the once a week grocery shop is all but replaced with smaller, more frequent grocery store visits. Those grocery store visits are also being spread across different retailers as speciality and artisan stores take a slice of the traditional one stop supermarket shopping activity.
One of the reasons for this is the increasing importance for consumers to buy fresh, rather than preserving food from a single weekly shop. Extended trading hours have also seen more frequent visits for ‘top ups’ and treats. These trips to the store have become more an extension of lifestyle and less of a routine chore. Cooking has also evolved for many consumers into an experience and the store has become the environment to design that experience.
There is a growing tendency for snacks and meals to be eaten on the day of purchase, which is a strong trend with Millennials in particular. Immediate consumption trends like this represent an opportunity for food manufacturers to respond with snack sized products that are less about indulgence and more focused on healthy snacking. Similarly, traditionally popular ‘low fat’ options are being challenged by a focus on the taste and nutritional content of food products, particularly in the snack food categories.
Finally, online shopping is playing a strong role in the demise of the weekly shop. As consumers turn to online shopping for their staples and non-food purchases, the bricks and mortar store visits are increasingly about quick top ups of fresh foods. This is in turn leading to a competitive environment between retailers that is focused on fresh produce.
In order to respond to these consumer-driven trends, food manufacturers will need to focus on fresher, healthier and more convenient meals and snacks. As consumer shopping habits change and alternative supply chain channels evolve, it is more important than ever for food manufacturers to stay ahead of these consumer driven demands.