More consumers are eating at home, a food industry movement that has remained unchanged for nearly 10 years. Today, 82 percent of American meals are home cooked, according to research by the NPD group. Restaurant sales are in their worst slump since the Great Recession. Today’s diners eat out 185 times a year now, compared to its peak in 2000 at 216 times a year.
Numerous factors are kindling the drop.
- High cost of restaurant meals. Eating out is expense — restaurant meals are almost three times as expensive as a home-cooked meal. And the cost for a restaurant meal is likely to increase as the minimum wage across the country increases.
- Convenience of streaming from home. Diners would rather eat in their own space watching a favorite show rather than eating in a public space with strangers.
- Comfortable home surroundings. Diners are practicing “Hygge,” the Danish art of coziness. Americans want to stay in their house “to find comfort and shelter from the maddening crowd,” the study notes.
- More people work at home. The American workforce is increasingly based at a home office, dropping the amount of workers who grab a bite to eat at a nearby restaurant on their lunch break.
- Healthy food is trending. Clean and healthy lifestyles are topping food prediction lists, like vegetarian meals, vegan milk and probiotic-packed everything.
- Popularity of pre-made meals. Meal kits continue to dominate the market, generating $1 billion in revenue worldwide in 2015. Predictions show meal kits will hit $10 billion by 2020.
- Ease of online grocery delivery. Fast, home grocery services are available nationwide now, with some retailers offering same-day delivery.
- Consumers changing preferences. New generations of diners prefer cooking at home more than their elders. And if they’re going out to eat, they prefer fast casual over a sit-down restaurant, another change from their parent’s generation.
This creates more opportunities for food companies, though. Today’s home cooks are itching for unique, healthy food — a niche fermented product fills. Here are five ways fermented food producers can capitalize on the growing eat-at-home trend:
1. Advertise Quality and Health Benefits
Health and wellness are leading the food industry — natural, organic, whole, gluten-free, preservative-free, sugar-free and clean are all buzzwords visible on labels at grocery store shelves. According to a Forbes article, this healthy eating trend is not slowing down. Eighty-eight percent of consumers say they’d be willing to pay more for healthier foods.
Fermented food producers must actively promote the health benefits of fermentation. Consumers are craving the probiotic-packed, nutrient-dense ingredients in fermented foods. Advertising a product’s health impacts will attract consumers.
2. Partner with Meal Delivery Service or Ready-to-Eat Meal Producer
According to Nielsen data: “ While the food retail landscape isn’t one that sees an over-abundance of frequent, market-shifting innovation, meal kits are proving to be just that. In just a few short years in fact, they have carved out a unique — and profitable — niche in the U.S. grocery landscape.”
About 9 nine percent of Americans purchased a meal kit in the last six months, totalling 10.5 million households. And 25 percent say they would consider buying a meal kit in the next six months, totalling more than 30 million households.
Fermented food producers who get their products into ready-to-eat meal kits will see big returns. David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of “Eating Patterns in America,” says: “We don’t look for this trend to change anytime soon and operators and foodservice manufacturers can take advantage of the stay-at-home movement by offering at-home eaters with innovative ready-to-eat meal solutions and a greater degree of convenience.”
3. Post Recipes Online
Don’t tell consumers why your product is so great — show them. Post recipes and an accompanying enticing finished meal picture on your website regularly. These recipes should feature your food product as a key ingredient. The internet is a powerful tool for promoting food — “food” was the second most searched category on the internet. Consumers are looking on the internet for recipes rather than relying on family favorites. A study found 40 percent of consumers learn about food via websites, apps or blogs, and half use social media sites to find recipes.
4. Share Quality Product Pictures or gastroporn
In the food industry, presentation is everything. Sharing a quick, blurry photo snapped in poor lighting will not appeal to consumers. Use “food porn” tactics. The term (meaning a glamourized image of food) is changing food advertising. A study found the most attention-grabbing shots feature:
- Moving food. A picture of a glass of orange juice being poured is more appealing than a picture of a static glass of orange juice. This is because, to viewers, it implies freshness. “Protein in motion” is another term used to capture successful food photography, like oozing egg yolk, melting cheese and steaming meat.
- First-person perspective. Feature food as if the viewer can pick it off their screen and eat it rather than a picture from a third-person perspective of someone else eating the dish. Adding a spoon approaching from the right, for example, results in a consumer being 15 percent more willing to buy the product than if the spoon approaches from the left.
- Healthy food. The food porn movement is famously dominated by unhealty eats, like pizza and desserts. But a study by university researchers called “Fetishizing Food in the Digital Age” found that healthy food garners more “likes” than unhealthy food.
- Market to Right Audience
The population segment most often eating at home: families and groups of five or more people. Single adults with incomes above $100,000 drive restaurant sales. It’s no major surprise — it’s much cheaper for one person to eat out than a family — but should be noted in marketing plans. Cooking at home is still synonymous with cooking for a group.
Photo from: Foodies Feed