Northfork insights series: The value of a menu

10 sept 2021

Erik Wallin

Northfork’s sister company, Gastrofy, has garnered a wealth of consumer behaviour insights through its recipe shopping platform, which is integrated with Coop in Sweden. These touch on all elements of the online grocery shopping experience, from discovery through to checkout.

Northfork is documenting and using these insights to fine tune its recipe shopping offering.

This week, we’ve taken a deep dive into menu shopping. What is the value of a menu to consumers? How can it level up their shopping experience? Let’s find out.

The ultimate time-saver

Perhaps the most exciting finding to come out of our research in this area is that menu shopping – where the consumer is served with a dynamic menu in line with their saved dietary preferences, with easily swappable options within each meal category – means that customers can do their weekly shop in as little as three minutes.

Analysis of a cohort of Gastrofy shoppers found that 54% of users completed their menu planning in under five minutes, while 33% completed it in under three minutes.

Consider how long the weekly shop takes in-store, and the time saving delivered by online menu shopping comes into sharp focus.

Shoppers don’t want to buy seven meals per week

Gastrofy’s experience around menu shopping has also revealed that shoppers don’t want to buy five to seven meals per week. Traditional meal kits, which include five meals, often leave families wasting one of two of them. Life gets in the way, from after-school classes and clubs to workdays that overrun.

By suggesting three to four recipes per menu, Gastrofy has tuned in more closely to shoppers’ needs. Shoppers also make use of the site’s portion changing functionality, which means that they can factor in evenings when fewer (or more) people than usual will be having dinner.

Gastrofy’s Chief Product Officer, Peter Simon, comments:

“We learned through interviews that weekday meals are very different for families than weekend cooking. And even days within the week can be different, so shoppable recipes and shoppable menus have to factor in plenty of flexibility. People don’t want to have to stick to a pre-set schedule for every single dinner. Planning that surgically just isn’t fun.”

This is why Gastrofy doesn’t use a weekly planner – the addition of a calendar simply adds friction to the menu shopping experience. Consumers are happier to simply know that they will be cooking three or four meals during the week, rather than having to eat set dinners on set days. It’s more spontaneous, more enjoyable and less wasteful.

New consumers are embracing menu shopping

Gastrofy users can shop by recipes, where they browse individual options, or use the site’s menu suggestion wizard, which generates suggestions based on the user’s answer to a handful of questions. Users can then tweak the suggestions to rapidly come up with the perfect menu. Gastrofy uses historic behaviour to continually enhance the process. Recipes that the user has eaten recently, for example, won’t appear again for several weeks, while recipes that they user has rated poorly won’t ever be suggested for them again.

Overall, there is an almost equal split between those who prefer to shop by recipe and those who use the menu wizard – there’s just a slight majority for the menu path. However, what’s interesting is that new users tend to prefer going down the menu route, instantly grasping the time saving and discovery possibilities. Gastrofy’s Peter Simon comments:

“We launched the menu wizard in August 2020, after learning from interviews with shoppers that they wanted help with menu planning, not just recipe shopping. Since then, we’ve seen a gradual, continual increase in the use of the menu planning functionality on Gastrofy, with this trend most notable among the site’s newer users. It’s a question of balancing mental effort – browsing individual recipes is simply more taxing than being presented with three or four varied and easily swappable menu choices based around set ingredients.”

Levelling up the online grocery shopping experience

Gastrofy has fine-tuned the menu shopping experience based on a vast number of qualitative interviews with consumers. The insights gleaned from those interviews are fed into the site, which then delivers insights of its own around consumer behaviour. And it is these insights which are supporting the evolution of the Northfork backend that sits behind Gastrofy, making the magic happen.