Here's Why We Need To Make The Meal Planning Journey Easier
Home cooking has a reputation problem. It took a global pandemic to force people to embrace it as a necessary part of their day. That bad reputation is established before we even set foot in the kitchen. What seems like a simple task - deciding what to have for dinner - has become so tedious and offputting that would-be home cooks are seeking more convenient options. Just look at the meal kits boom of 2020. Pre-pandemic, meal kit companies were dealing with high customer acquisition costs and huge churn rates. Faced with the necessity of not only choosing what to eat for every meal but also purchasing all the ingredients while limiting trips to the supermarket, many consumers turned to meal kits. Pandemic aside, it has become so convenient to feed ourselves without cooking that a UBS report predicted that kitchens could be all-but dead by 2030. While we think this is pretty unlikely, particularly now home cooking has become a habit for many, the following statistics prove that many of us are falling at the first hurdle when it comes to cooking at home.
According to Minter (and pre-pandemic), 36% of Americans said that planning meals consumes more time and energy than they would prefer. To put this into a little more context, Kraft Heinz reported that consumers spend 40 minutes a week planning meals and finding recipes. Considering many of us strive to get dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less ('30-minute-meals' is our most requested recipe category by brands hoping to engage with busy consumers), 40 minutes just to plan those meals, not including a trip to the grocery store, seems excessive.
If people are happy to spend their money on eating out though, why bother trying to solve this aspect of the meal journey? Well, despite the barriers, home cooking appeals to more people than you'd think as these pre-pandemic statistics illustrate.
53% of U.S. adults claimed they really enjoyed cooking (Source)
51% of Americans would prepare dinner at home more often if they had new ideas (Source)
84% of households with kids wanted to eat more meals at home together or prepare more meals at home (Source)
77% of Americans said they would rather eat a homemade meal than go out for dinner (Source)
(Those last two statistics have backfired big time!)
What about now, almost a year into a global pandemic that has forced us to embrace home cooking whether we like it or not? Did all our free time translate into an easier meal planning experience? Not quite.
By September 2020, consumers were cooking on average nine times a week, yet they had eaten the same meal 28 times since the pandemic began (Source)
By October 2020, 54% of Americans were using their creativity to speed up the cooking process, such as buying more ready-to-cook items (Source)
55% of people are feeling cooking fatigue because of the pandemic (Source)
Grocery retailers benefit most from increased interest in home cooking, so it only makes sense for them to remove as many barriers as possible. They have never had a more captive audience though (where else is there to go, after all?) so why invest in making the meal planning journey easier for consumers when consumers have fewer out of home eating options? With Covid-19 vaccine rollouts underway, the home cooking boom will not last forever. Not without making the process more efficient, anyway. Grabbing the attention of consumers by disrupting the meal planning journey while they are fully engaged with online grocery will pay dividends when the pandemic is but a memory. Consumers crave variety to help counter cooking fatigue, but only a quarter of U.S. adults use grocery retailer websites for recipe inspiration. Increasing visibility of recipe content on grocery retailer websites and making it shoppable has several benefits. Not only does it position a retailer as a reliable source of recipe content, but it also has the power to introduce both novice and experienced online grocery shoppers to a more efficient way to combine meal planning and grocery shopping into one neat package. It can also increase basket values since consumers can easily add a week's worth of ingredients to their basket in just a few clicks.
Although 75% of consumers are planning meals up to a week in advance, there are still those who are happy to decide what to have for dinner on the day. These are the consumers who are most likely to visit brick and mortar grocery stores and pre-pandemic, 77% of millennials with children were looking up recipes in store, illustrating that the opportunity to improve the meal planning journey for consumers does not just exist online. Waitrose and Albertsons excel at this, using strategically-placed recipe cards and Pincodes to increase basket value and make meal planning more efficient. Although right now might not be the time to encourage consumers to linger in grocery aisles, that time will come again. Waitrose and Albertsons have figured out that efficiency is key when it comes to planning our meals, particularly when you're grabbing dinner on the way home from a busy day at work. Companies that combine the individual steps involved in getting dinner on the table into one seamless experience will change the way people see home cooking now and post-pandemic. For now, the real game-changer lies in decreasing the time spent deciding what to cook for breakfast, lunch and dinner every single day.