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  • Recipe Guru Team

How Grocery Retailers Can Solve The 'What's For Dinner' Problem

Updated: Jun 12, 2020

Do you have dinner plans for tonight? Or are you like the two-thirds of Americans who don't know what's for dinner by 4 pm? This staggering statistic from Food Marketing Institute's "The Power of Foodservice at Retail 2018 Part 2" report took us completely by surprise recently. It shouldn't be too much of a surprise, though. We all lead busy lives, and when we're juggling work and family and housework and trying to fit in time to relax amongst the other 100 things on our to-do lists, something has to give. For many, that something is food.

It has never been easier to feed ourselves. Convenience foods such as ready meals and frozen pizzas are still a go-to meal option for busy consumers, but the average family spends a staggering 43% of their annual food expenditure on eating out. Faced with such statistics, what are grocery retailers to do to attract consumers back into their stores, both online and offline?

Are Meal Kits The Answer?

The recent adoption of in-store meal kits by grocery retailers such as Stop and Shop and Costco illustrate that grocery retailers are ready to compete for busy Americans' dollars, and for good reason. Research by Albertsons suggests that 80% of its customers would like to see meal kits in-store, while 85% of online meal kit subscribers are similarly interested. This is unsurprising when you remember that the holy grail for busy consumers is a convenient food option that is both nutritionally balanced and tasty. For many, meal kits are the perfect solution to all these issues. For grocery retailers and meal kit companies, it makes sense too. We have previously written about why it's a mutually beneficial arrangement. If two-thirds of Americans are only beginning to decide what to have for dinner by late afternoon and into early evening, grab-and-go meal kits should solve the 'what's for dinner' problem with zero hassle.

For many, they do. Sales of in-store meal kits grew by 26.5% last year, illustrating that there is an appetite for this convenient dinner option. Critics of meal kits would point out that there are a couple of issues that mean they aren't for everyone - they're not always cheap and many serve just two people, so they may not be an attractive option to larger families, and those on a budget.

To overcome this issue, grocery retailers need to think outside the meal kit box in order to attract the 4 pm crowd before they browse a takeout menu or head to their local restaurant.

Data-Driven Meal Planning

Meal planning is a great place to start. For many people, creating a meal plan for the week is routine. For those who struggle for inspiration on a day-to-day basis, it's an alien concept. What if someone could plan their meals for them, select the ingredients and deliver them right to their door? Working with the staggering amount of data they have collected from their customers, grocery retailers are ideally placed to offer personalised meal options, complete with recipes. Adding all the ingredients to the basket at once, consumers are suddenly faced with a fridge full of fresh ingredients, and a selection of quick and tasty recipes to go with them. For grocery retailers, it can mean higher retention rates and importantly, higher basket values. (By an average of 3.2% when celebrity chef recipes are employed.) In a way, it enables grocery retailers to offer the meal kit experience at a lower cost to the consumer and with a wider, more personalised variety than would be otherwise possible.

Feta salad with bread

The reality is that many consumers want to cook their own fresh, healthy meals at home. The issue is often not a lack of willingness to cook or even a lack of ability, but a lack of time. When you consider that 84% of consumers made changes including cooking and eating more at home as a family as a result of Family Meals Month, it's clear that there is an appetite for home-cooked meals. As Ahold USA's Shirley Axe noted in 2016, “We need to make it easier for families to be able to cook meals at home." This is what it comes down to for grocery retailers. Are you in the business of selling food? Sure, but you're also in the business of convenience, and when it comes to dinnertime, convenience wins.

If you're planning a campaign to encourage your customers to cook more at home, we'd love to chat about providing engaging, chef-authored recipe content to suit. Get in touch at to find out more.

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