By Mairead McElvanna, IRI Client Growth Partner
Australians are increasingly time-poor and struggling to manage their work-life balance. The implications of this are far reaching and even the shopping experience has been impacted, with one-in-five Australians feeling under time pressure when shopping.
Unsurprisingly given this time pressure, shoppers are lacking in inspiration and motivation when they head to the store. This means consumption decisions are often impulsive and even planning tends to be short-term. For many shoppers, it’s about finding the path of least resistance - the quickest and easiest way to get a good meal at a good price.
While in the past, this scenario would have led to fast food and other less healthy but more convenient meal options, the modern Australian shopper is also looking for something else - quality.
That’s why in this environment, it’s easy to understand why convenient mealtime solutions have been embraced by consumers. The so-called convenient mealtime solutions category spans a number of different formats, all underpinned by a key aspect: accessibility.
Pre-assembled meal kits
- Pre-assembled meal kits offered by direct-to-consumer companies and supermarkets
- Ingredients are portion-controlled with simple, easy to follow recipes
Pre-assembled kits satisfy those who want to cook from scratch but in a convenient way; in an Australian culture which has grown increasingly fascinated with food and cooking in recent years, they are an ideal option for many consumers. Other benefits include:
- Minimal food wastage – portion controlled ingredients mean you use what’s allocated, avoiding buying more of an ingredient than is required for a specific recipe (especially pertinent when thinking about fresh herbs and spices)
- Limited range of recipes to simplify cooking and offer exposure to different cuisines but in a highly accessible way
- Affordable, wholesome, balanced meal solutions driven by the scale of the suppliers and the relatively limited range of ingredients required
- Ready-to-eat chilled and frozen meals, ready in just a few minutes
- Removes the preparation stage of cooking, limiting required actions to a couple of basic steps
The pre-made meals category is now worth $275m in supermarkets, up 11% between 2016 and 20181, with ongoing high growth rates expected to continue. Pre-made meals are also being advocated by shoppers beyond supermarket aisles, with a wide variety of ready meal options now available direct-to-door.
- On-demand service, diversity of cuisine and price parity with restaurants just some of the benefits
- Australia has seen a surge in delivery operators in the market over the last five years
The past 10 years has seen mobile technology transform how we order food, including takeaways. A rise in the number of companies’ enabling delivery anytime and (almost) anywhere has led to the emergence of a sizeable, growing market valued at $2.6bn2 with growth of +18% between 2015-183. Despite convenient options becoming more readily available on supermarket shelves and through B2C ventures, three in five Australian households get takeaway at least once a week4, with the average household spending almost $1,600 a year on takeaway. Therefore it seems that the convenience and immediacy of takeaways can still trump the negative health and cost considerations.
What does this mean for grocery retailers?
In this era of convenient meal options, retailers are aware of the need to compete, with management at some of the major supermarkets confirming their focus on convenience.
With this in mind, retailers and manufacturers need to ensure their offering is:
- Convenient - saves time
- Affordable - minimal ‘convenience tax’
- Easy to make - straightforward instructions
- Diverse - offers a range of flavours and formats
- Socially conscious - comes with recyclable packaging, meat-free options
In addition, Australian shoppers are asking for more convenient options across the aisles, highlighting portioned, pre-cut fruit and veg, more cost effective pre-prepared meals and kits, more ready-made hot dinner options and specific floor / shelf areas allocated for specific recipes as things they would like to see more of in Australian supermarkets.
IRI has identified some of the ways in which grocery retailers can meet shopper needs in this space
“Portioned, pre-cut fruit and veg, cutting down on waste”
- Small portions for smaller households
- ‘Imperfect’ vegetables offering value
- Marginal price premium for convenience
“More cost effective pre-prepared meals and kits”
- Bundle deals allowing cuisine variety
- Multiple pack sizes catering to different size families
“More hot food options, saving time without compromising on taste”
- More in-store cooked meals and meal components
- Cross merchandising with QSR and foodservice chains, through either product selection or a store-within-a-store retailing partnership
“Specific floor / shelf areas for specific recipes, for ease of shop”
- Centre the in-store and online environments around recipes and meal options
- This could work particularly well in small store formats where average dwell time is lower
1 IRI MarketEdge MAT to Feb 2019
4 Australian Beef (via the New Daily)