• Recipe Guru Team

How Changing Consumer Appetites Are Challenging The Grocery Sector

Updated: Jun 12, 2020

In this follow-up to our blog about helping consumers reach their wellness goals, we're exploring the statistics and trends that point towards a healthier future for consumers and retailers.

In marketing, it’s all about staying ahead of the trends. Trends like pumpkin spice everything in the fall have become part of mainstream culture, with everything from dog treats to cream cheese getting an autumnal makeover. These kinds of consistent, year-in-year-out trends are easy wins for brands. There’s no real risk involved in creating products and recipes that make use of popular flavours such as pumpkin spice. (Unless you’re making pumpkin spice cream cheese. Don’t do that.) Not all trends are so easy though. When is the last time you heard someone talking about Atkins? Millions of R&D and marketing dollars have been spent on creating products and recipes to leverage food trends that no one is going to remember in a year’s time. Recipe Guru is working to solve this issue, and our upcoming analytics platform will make spotting trends a breeze. In the meantime, there has been a very obvious shift in the way consumers are choosing to eat, and for grocery retailers and food brands hoping to meet customers where they are, it’s an excellent place to start.

"More than one-third of consumers said they are eating more healthily than a year ago."

Healthy eating is in. Of course, this means different things to different people. Some are ditching animal products in favour of a plant-based diet. For others, getting into ketosis is the ultimate goal. For the majority of consumers, it most likely means replacing processed foods with more natural alternatives or cutting down on chocolate. There’s a difference too between healthy eating and adopting a specific diet.

Healthy porridge and fruit inspiration

For grocery retailers looking to leverage recipes to increase basket value, forgetting about specific diets initially and focusing on nutritionally-dense, well-balanced and, most importantly, tasty recipes is the place to start. This broader strategy captures the attention of the one-third of consumers that are eating more healthily than a year ago while engaging consumers who are interested in making simple changes. For this group, flavour and convenience are everything. If the food isn’t delicious and easy to prepare from scratch, discouraged consumers will simply switch to ordering in or buying convenience foods. Personalisation strategies help too. By personalising recipe suggestions, grocery retailers can send the message that they’re ready to solve the ‘what’s for dinner’ issue on an individual level. ‘We know you buy chicken, broccoli and sweet potatoes regularly and that you search for quick, family-friendly recipes. These recipes tick all the boxes.’ When you consider that consumers spend as much as 40 minutes a week planning meals and searching for recipes, this strategy becomes all the more powerful.

When it comes to healthy eating, consumers don’t just struggle with inspiration. Willpower is also an issue.

"More than 50% of UK adults intend to eat more vegetables in the next 12 months."

Intent and reality are often exclusive of each other. Grocery retailers obviously can’t increase willpower, but they can help. Since consumers consider grocery retailers an ally in their healthy eating efforts, a little hand-holding in the form of personalised emails, meal plans and customised recipe pages can help keep consumers on track. Quick, healthy, delicious recipes that help motivate consumers to stick with their healthy eating plan can foster loyalty.

Recipes that fall into a generic ‘healthy eating’ category are the ideal way to interact with and engage the majority consumers, but they won’t suit everyone.

"36% of U.S. adults are on some type of specific diet."

We've previously written about the power of special diets in food marketing, but when someone makes a conscious effort to adopt a particular diet, whether for health reasons or ethical reasons, it can be a significant lifestyle change. It can also become all-consuming. Food plays such an important part in all our lives, and specific dietary requirements require significant planning. Take, for example, those who adopt a plant-based diet. Whether for ethical, environmental or health reasons, everyday decisions such as choosing what to have for dinner become a significant and deeply personal part of life. This statistic from Pinterest comes as no surprise:

"Searches for ‘plant-based recipes for beginners’ are up 85% year-over-year."

The ‘plant-based’ trend has been building for several years, with food and fitness influencers joining those who have followed this particular lifestyle for many years in encouraging the wider community to ditch animal products. The increased attention that has been placed on environmental concerns has also played a part. While a relatively low percentage of US consumers (3% according to a study by Gallup) follow a vegan diet, we’ve noticed a trend towards more meat-free days, with consumers taking a more ‘flexitarian’ approach to what they choose to eat.

Plant-based milk on table

Grocery retailers have access to more data than they know what to do with – data that can powerfully predict what customers want and help guide marketing strategies. (We’ve all heard the Target anecdote about the angry father whose daughter was sent pregnancy-related offers.) If a customer reduces the amount of meat and dairy products they’re buying, it might be a sign that they’re attempting to move to a plant-based diet. And given that searches for ‘plant-based recipes for beginners' have jumped so significantly on Pinterest, it’s clear that consumers crave not just inspiration but also guidance in taking on this lifestyle change. This applies across a wide spectrum of special diets. Everything from gluten-free and sugar-free to low-FODMAP and keto requires increased planning, quick and easy inspiration and a little hand-holding.

Grocery retailers that capture a consumer’s attention during a transformative period in their eating habits can expect the dual benefits of increased basket value and loyalty. It's up to retailers to rise to the challenge of giving consumers the healthy recipe inspiration they truly crave.

Our vast catalogue of 100,000+ recipes can help your customers live their best, most delicious lives. We can curate a selection of recipes to suit any dietary requirements, including gluten-free, vegan, sugar-free, 5-2, low calorie and low-FODMAP. Get in touch with jane@therecipeguru.com to chat about your recipe requirements.