Prepared meals

When it comes to food choices, convenience has been a driving force for a while now. A new survey from Acosta and Technomic uncovered one reason convenience is so important: most people don’t plan their meals in advance. A full 85% of respondents said they decide what they’re going to eat on the same day as the meal.

Lacking a meal plan, people turn to easy options. Seven in 10 respondents said they had ordered carry-out in the three months prior to taking the survey, while almost half had ordered delivery, and nearly 20% had ordered a meal kit online. In addition, two-thirds had eaten prepared foods at home that they’d purchased at a grocery store, one-third had eaten prepared foods in the grocery store dining area, and more than 1 in 5 had ordered prepared foods from the grocery store delivered to their home. While these trends spanned all generations, Millennials were the biggest buyers of convenient foods.

Aside from Millennials, the demographic that took the most advantage of convenience options were diners with kids. This was especially true for meal kits — 42% of Millennials and 37% of diners with kids had ordered an online meal/ingredient kit in the past three months.

They did this not just because they wanted to cook more meals at home, but also because they wanted to learn new cooking skills. The survey asked how much work people wanted to do on their meal kits. On a scale of 1 (“Requires little to no prep time, and basic cooking ability”) to 10 (“Requires significant prep time and cooking experience [new skills]), Millennials and diners with kids averaged a 7.5, which was slightly higher than the average for all diners.

Finally, of all the generations, Millennials and diners with kids also spend the most on food, especially food prepared outside the home. When they go out, which is often, they report looking for healthy choices, like salads, meals made with locally-sourced and organic ingredients, meals with fish, and vegetarian meals.

The survey provides key takeaways for how restaurant operators can cater to these audiences. But it provides insights for other stakeholders as well. Namely, younger and busier consumers are spending a lot of money on food. This means there’s plenty of opportunity for innovative food manufacturers, meal kit companies, and retailers to gain market share by supplying the convenient healthy options these consumers are looking for.

Download the full study results here.

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