The pandemic has changed not just the way we shop for groceries, but the way we eat. Restaurant closures meant fewer nights out and more cooking at home. Remote working meant less opportunity to grab on-the-go breakfasts and lunches, so more cooking at home. And the closure of schools meant fewer packed lunches and, you guessed it, more cooking at home.
The return of real meals
“We’ve seen a notable shift towards people eating ‘real’ meals – home-cooked food instead of on-the-go options,” comments Northfork
Co-founder Erik Wallin. “That’s reflected in their grocery shopping behaviour, as well as in the shifting focus of many consumer packaged goods companies.”
Data from Murphy Research shows that 36% of consumers
ate meal replacement products in Q1 2020. A year later, that figure had dropped to 30%. Not great news for protein bar sales, but certainly an opportunity for CPG brands to evolve their offering.
The move towards real meals is also a major opportunity for grocery retailers looking to maximise their engagement with online shoppers. Recipe shopping is a cornerstone of this, opening up consumers to new recipe experiences and enabling them to buy the ingredients quickly and easily.
The post-pandemic landscape
Will the popularity of real meals disappear in the post-pandemic world? Unlikely. Working from home is here to stay, as a hybrid model if not an entirely remote arrangement. There’s also a reluctance to return to restaurants
on the part of many consumers, according to the OECD – at least while Covid variants are spreading.
Looking further forward, will we return to our former convenience-based habits and move away from ‘real’ food? Again, unlikely. Existing trends towards non-GMO foods, clean ingredients, veganism and other eco-conscious diets show that consumers want to connect with food in a more natural way. Home cooking is here to stay.