Convenience, Health Drive Food Sales

Feeling hard-pressed to squeeze regular meals into your busy schedule? Well, it turns out that you’re not the only one reaching for on-the-go solutions, according to recent research.

The NPD Group’s A Look into the Future of Eating study, released on July 7, found that overall consumer preference for convenient food options will continue to grow in popularity over the next decade. Findings were based on results from NPD’s National Eating Trends, which collects data annually from about 5,000 individuals, and tracks subject consumption for 14 consecutive days.

Sales of both healthy and sweet/savory snacks are expected to increase by 16 percent. With more hectic schedules, more consumers are eating smaller and fragmented meals, many of which are on-the-go, said Ann Hanson, director of product development at NPD. “We are forecasting that in-between meal consumption, or ‘snacking,’ will grow over the next decade…It’s not necessarily ‘meal replacement’ but [changes in habit].”

Food marketers should consider providing shoppers with tips on how to put meals together in an easy way is important to think about, said Hanson. “Also, it’s thinking about how retailers can compete for business with people bringing restaurant meals home. Here is where prepared food options will be key. Is there a way [retailers] can play that up and be profitable to compete with restaurant meal options?”

The study forecasts that the number of diners who eat restaurant-bought meals at home will grow by 20 percent. Those purchasing restaurant appetizers to eat at home will also increase 16 percent.

“People are looking for the convenience of a restaurant, but it’s also about meal experience. They want to be in their home and bring that meal into the home with them. It could be pizza or any other restaurant meal; It’s one less meal you have to prepare,” said Hanson.

Consumer movement toward health foods will continue to rise. Organic products had the highest forecasted growth at 41 percent. “Light” or “low-calorie” labels are expected to increase by 18 percent. Several segments are expected to decline, including certain breakfast foods, bread side dishes and quick-assembly meal products, such as sandwich items.