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Get ready for the “blended meal”

Eating at home isn’t doomed, but it is changing shape

The family dinner is dead. Or is it? Like so many other aspects of our daily lives from streaming live television to grabbing an Uber, food is changing. Sure, every year brings new food trends (anyone remember the Year of Kale?). But the delivery and preparation of meals is seeing a huge disruption.

Meal kits and restaurant delivery are two trends shaking things up. You can read more about those trends and how they impact grocery here. For meal kits, it takes a person purchasing meal kits eight times for a grocery retailer to really feel a hit, and that’s something that only 11% of people who order meal kits do. So the jury’s still out on the long-term impact of this alternative channel.

Restaurant delivery, however, is a different story. That’s growing 100% year over year, according to Cardlytics, a data analysis company based in Atlanta that tracks consumer spending. “When you start thinking about the user data with third-party delivery, it does resemble an at-home dining decision rather than an away-from-home dining decision. So typically a lot of people are eating [delivery] at home. So what is it replacing? Is it replacing grocery or replacing restaurant?”

That was a question posed by Cardlytics’ Matt Drewes, SVP of restaurant ad partnerships. He said the company hadn’t done that analysis just yet but that it was something to keep an eye on.

Which brings me back to the family dinner. All the above seems to point to this occasion declining. Not so fast, according to new data from the NPD Group, a global market research company. The company found that four out of five meals are prepared at home, and that Americans are preparing more meals at home today than they did a decade ago. “Last year over 80% of meals were prepared and eaten in home,” the company wrote.

Hang on. Don’t we keep hearing about the growth of foodservice? Sales did grow, in fact, with a 2% increase in the year ending May 2018, but foodservice visits were flat in that same period. “Restaurant visits, whether onsite, drive-through, or ordered for delivery, are more indicative of foodservice growth than spending,” NPD said. “Foodservice spending is up primarily because the cost of a restaurant meal is increasing faster than the cost of a home-prepared meal.”

So while consumers might not be eating outside the house more, they are using some away-from-home options to help with their at-home dining. “Close to half of dinners purchased from a restaurant are consumed at home and a growing number of in-home meals are a blend of dishes prepared and items purchased ready-to-eat from a foodservice establishment,” NPD reported. The company predicts that so-called blended meals, those that include a restaurant or prepared food, will grow over the next five years.

“Due to a changing workforce, the ease of online shopping and the boom in streaming entertainment, there are fewer reasons than ever to leave the house,” said David Portalatin, NPD Food Industry Advisor.  “Even with consumers eating more of their meals at home, there are opportunities for both food companies and foodservice operators. It’s not a matter of where consumers are eating but rather what they’re eating.”

It’s time for retailers to figure out their place in the blended meal arena. You can learn more about the role grocery plays in the future of customer experience at the inaugural SN Summit, Oct. 1-3 in Dallas. We’ll be covering topics like competing for dining dollars, the rise of e-commerce and creating a compelling in-store experience. The Summit will be co-located with MUFSO (Multi-Unit Food Service Operators) conference, providing the only opportunity for retailers and restaurateurs to meet and learn from each other. Learn more at SNSummit.com.

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