Cracking the Code on Meal Solutions

Sep 20, 2018

Doing your part to bring families back to the dinner table is just smart business—especially when you consider the benefit family meals brings to both families and retailers alike.

“Studies have shown that just one more family meal per week can have a huge impact on family dynamics, shopper budgets, and even the health of the family. When you add to that the difference that extra meal per family brings to a retailer's bottom line, it’s obvious that retailers need to be thinking about their offerings in terms of complete meal solutions,” says Meagan Nelson, associate director with Nielsen Fresh Team.

Nelson points to the success of meal kits as support for the strategy, citing that 40 million households have tried or are likely to try meal kits.

And yet, Nelson insists that IGA retailers’ independent flexibility puts them at an advantage over other retailers competing with meal kits. “There’s no longer a blanket statement about how consumers are behaving with food. Some people never cook; some always cook,” says Nelson. “There are no golden rules, so it’s important to understand who you have in your store. As independents, IGA retailers have a clear opportunity to test what types of meal solutions and promotions will really deliver results for their customers, whether you’re providing shoppers with prepared meal deals from deli offerings, or merchandising items together so shoppers can cook a full meal at home," she says.

So what’s the key to creating successful meal solutions? According to Nelson, it all comes down to finding the right balance among these key shopper needs.

1. Variety
Even the most dedicated home cooks can run out of creative ideas when cooking night after night. In fact, one of the things meal kit customers love most about the kits is that they shake them out of their dinnertime ruts. Three quarters of meal kit customers say the kits enable them to try new foods and recipes and 57 percent say they learn new cooking techniques with the kits.

Variety Quick Tip: Make your store a destination for innovative meal solutions.

Offer a stir-fry recipe that can be customized multiple ways with Indian, Thai, Chinese, or Korean sauces; beef, tofu, or shrimp; rice or noodles; all with a pre-cut vegetable medley as the common element.Host in-person cooking demonstrations to help shoppers learn new techniques 

2. Value
Putting an affordable meal on the table is no easy task for many Americans, which is why so many people turn to inexpensive fast food for nightly dinners—and incidentally, one of the biggest reasons people haven’t tried meal kits (56 percent believe meal kit services are not affordable for everyone, and 38 percent of potential meal kit buyers say buying a meal kit is too expensive compared to buying the same products in grocery stores).

Value Quick Tip: Highlight the value of your meal solutions.

Include signage with your meal solutions display that shows the total price per meal (include a range if there are options for add-ons or premium ingredients). Want to get more creative? Show a comparison for what a similar meal would cost in a restaurant.

3. Convenience
Did you know that time-saving is a primary reason people eat away from home? Same goes for meal kits. 80 percent say meal kits save time on meal planning, 78 percent on meal prep and cooking, and 70 percent on grocery shopping.

Convenience Quick Tip: Make it fast and easy for your shoppers to get dinner on the table quickly.

Place daily “grab and go” specials from your deli at the front of the store for easy access (see IGA retailer Nakul Patel’s best practice).

Include pre-chopped produce and ready-to-cook proteins in "cook-at-home" meal solution displays.

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