New Study Shows Growth of Home Meal Replacement

Perceptive distributorships have positioned themselves to take advantage of not only the takeout trend that has been spurred by national chains but also the home meal replacement fad that involves food retailers.

The driver of this trend is consumers' desire for convenient, prepared, hot food that can be quickly purchased by busy consumers and then eaten at home, according to Don Montuori, publisher of Packaged Facts, a division of MarketResearch.com, Rockville, MD.

Montuori told ID Access that the tendency is visible across the country though it is more pronounced in metropolitan areas, with their large populations of senior citizens and young professionals. Those two demographic groups, especially retired older adults, are taking advantage of home meal replacements more than other age groups.

Packaged Facts' study concluded that takeout sales, which have been growing at 6-8% annually, have caused a tremendous shift in the manner in which both retailers and foodservice providers do business. With American households taking out an average of 118 meals per year, up by 64% over 20 years ago, both retail and foodservice providers are scrambling to capitalize on what's becoming more than a niche market.

"As the trend of co-branding and partnering between retailers and foodservice providers, particularly convenience stores and restaurants, continues to explode, we'll continue to see an upward swing in the takeout business as consumers find it easier to get restaurant quality foods close to home," Montuori observed in a statement about the study. "In this regard, we'll continue to see the lines between retail and foodservice continue to blur as both sides try to keep their foot in this very lucrative sector of the food market."

Montuori also told ID Access that foodservice distributorships should continue to look beyond traditional foodservice operators as they grow their revenues. He said the home meal replacement market offers distributors "great opportunities," with such retailers as Whole Foods and Wegman's aggressively capitalizing on this trend.

Moreover, for distributors, the results of PackagedFacts' study dovetail with surveys about restaurant take out conducted by other researchers, among them Technomic, Inc. Chicago. This summer, ID Access reported, Technomic said 75% of all consumers currently make use of takeout for delivery from full-service restaurants at least once a month. Nearly 30% of these regular users would rather order takeout than eat in a restaurant, unless the meal was considered a special occasion.

Another sign of growth in this broad category is that twice as many regular users expect to order takeout and delivery more often in the next year – 19% expect more use, whereas just 10% say they'll order less often.

Finally, ID Access also reported this summer that the Foodservice & Packaging Institute, Inc., Falls Church, VA, said foodservice packaging converters are optimistic about revenues in their market segment this year. Its survey demonstrated the packaging industry's positive view of foodservice sales and supported foodservice distribution expectations that packaging-sensitive market segments such as take out or home meal replacement and quick service will experience sufficient growth to require abundant replenishment of packaging supplies.

Technomic noted that for takeout, at least, distributors should carry SKUs of the same products they already stock to meet different portion-size demands for takeout; they may see increased volume in paper, packaging and even more so functional plasticware; and they will need to deliver more single-serve packaged beverages.


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