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A recently published marketing research report provides intricate details regarding what COVID-19 has done to people’s grocery and meal preparation habits. The changes are dramatic. In turn, it is up to retailers and service providers in the grocery industry to find new ways to meet the shifting needs and demands of consumers.

Consider some notable statistics. According to the market research report, 55 percent of people acknowledge eating as home much more often since the start of the pandemic, cooking an average of nine times per week. Similarly, 55 percent of the respondents to the survey indicated they are sick and tired of cooking at home! That is, people are taking on new behaviors that leave them frustrated and fatigued.

Such fatigue likely reflects their lack of experience, time, and creativity, all of which are valuable and necessary resources for supporting frequent home cooking. Many people feel as if they are making the same meal over and over, and they complain about the extensive effort associated with prepping the meal, planning future dishes, and cleaning up, even beyond the energy needed to cook the meals themselves.

Yet despite these clear expressions of irritation and exhaustion, most of the respondents to the survey indicated their plans to keep cooking at home, though perhaps with a bit more frequent takeout options. For food service providers and grocers, these insights represent powerful directions and guidelines for developing their offerings. They need to help people find ways to come up with creative meal ideas; ensure they have the necessary ingredients on hand, as well as the skills to use them; and find some way to add enjoyment to the chore of cooking at home.

FreshDirect appears to be achieving some of these contributions through its efforts. The delivery service’s sales already had increased due to the pandemic and people’s efforts to avoid visiting grocery stores in person. But it also is seeking to continue leveraging the new normal, by creating and promoting what it calls “meal hacks.” These options suggest easy ways to use familiar products in novel ways, such as listing four ways to use rotisserie chicken. People also can use the prepared meals like a planning guide too, because they provide ideas for seven days’ worth of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that change each week.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How have consumers’ needs and preferences regarding cooking at home changed during the COVID-19 pandemic?
  2. How is Fresh Direct using data to improve its services?
  3. Given these findings, what do you think are ways other companies in the food industry can address consumers’ continuing meal-related needs?

Source: Tom Ryan, “How Can Grocers Help Ease Home Cooking Fatigue?” Retail Wire, September 14, 2020; Kat Martin, “Fresh Direct Sees 46% Bump from Pandemic Back-to-School Sales,” Winsight Grocery Business, September 10, 2020; Acosta, “New Acosta Report Details How COVID-19 Is Reinventing How America Eats,” September 10, 2020, https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-acosta-report-details-how-covid-19-is-reinventing-how-america-eats-301126801.html