08 August, 2021

Northfork insights series: Product-first versus recipe-first buyers

Louise Taylor

When you plan your weekly shop, what do you start with? Do you root through the cupboards and fridge, looking at what ingredients you have, then plan your meals based on those? Or do you decide on what you would like to cook/eat first, then investigate what you’ll need to buy in order to make those recipes?

These are two very different approaches to achieving the same outcome. But what do they mean for retailers looking to serve these shoppers? Gastrofy, Northfork’s research and development arm, set out to explore this topic in depth. Through its integration with Coop in Sweden, Gastrofy has worked to understand consumer behaviour across a range of topics, through both data analysis and qualitative interviews.

Product-first shoppers versus recipe-first shoppers

Gastrofy interviewed shoppers with a view to discovering the mental models behind their weekly grocery shop. When it came to planning the shop, users fell into two groups: product-first shoppers and recipe-first shoppers.

Product-first shoppers are those who take stock of what they have at home to cook with and consider current offers (either online or in-store) before deciding on their menu plan for the week.

Recipe-first shoppers do this the other way round. They will use cookbooks, magazines, websites or a supermarket’s own recipe suggestions first. Once they’ve decided what they want to eat, they look at what they already have that they can use to make those dishes – or what offers the store has that would be helpful.

How do grocery retailers serve these different groups?

Gastrofy’s research identified an almost 50/50 split between product-first shoppers and recipe-first shoppers. Yet most grocery retailers are tailored to deliver a product-first experience. As such, they are only meeting the needs of half of their customers.

Unless, that is, they bring in a recipe shopping and menu planning solution. This is what Northfork can deliver – a solution tailored carefully to the needs of recipe-first shoppers. This enables retailers to provide all their customers with a shopping experience that intuitively meets their needs, no matter which approach they take to the weekly shop.

Blending the shopping experience

While these two groups of shoppers take a very different approach to filling their grocery cart, there are ways in which retailers can serve both.

Discounted products are a great example of this. The product-first shopper can browse discounted items and benefit from using them as the basis of their meals. The recipe-first shopper may at first appear to miss out on this financial advantage, as deciding their recipes first means it’s then potluck as to whether the ingredients are on offer. However, there are ways that retailers can address this. Northfork’s tech, for example, could be applied in a way that suggests recipes based on discounts first. That way, the recipe-first shopper sees menu suggestions that lead with discounted products as soon as they start to browse. They benefit financially, just as a product-first shopper would.

The retailer can benefit too, as this approach presents an excellent opportunity to avoid food waste – an issue that all grocery retailers need to do more to address.

The opportunity

The opportunity here is huge. With so many stores focused on serving their product-first shoppers, retailers who crack the recipe-first shopping experience stand to gain plenty of happy, loyal customers.

The meal kit industry is an excellent example of this in action. It is filling a gap in the market by serving recipe-first shoppers with inspiration, in terms of recipes, and then a super-simple solution to receiving the ingredients they need in precisely the right quantities. The figures speak for themselves in terms of how big the opportunity is here. In 2020, according to Statista, the global fresh and packaged food meal kit service market was worth USD 10.26 billion. That figure is projected to more than double, to USD 24.14 billion, by 2027.

Grocery retailers who can tap into this, serving recipe-first shoppers just as well as they do product-first shoppers, will likely have a bright future ahead of them.

About the author

Louise Taylor


Louise is Northfork’s editor and is passionate about all things food.
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