Who Wins the ‘I-Hate-To-Cook’ Consumer?

Rebuild your portfolio, adapt, and advocate for the future. Change the world, just as you did before.”

Good advice, especially for restaurant companies that include a casual-dining chain. Only this guidance is directed at grocery store operators. According to the Harvard Business Review, they are way behind food trends. “This time, the numbers had shifted,” writes Eddie Yoon, grocery consultant and author, referring to new research he has done. “Only 10% of consumers now love to cook, while 45% hate it and 45% are lukewarm about it. That means that the percentage of Americans who really love to cook has dropped by about one-third in a fairly short period of time.”

It also means unless grocery stores adapt to the needs of that 90 percent restaurants will continue to steal their customers. Or worse. “The risk to traditional grocers and Big Food is not just market share declines but category obsolescence,” he adds.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank’s Economic Research, food service sales outpaced grocery stores by 6 percent, $56.6 billion vs. $53.1 billion, in August.

Yoon’s advice?

  1. Food manufacturers must identify categories that are long-term losers, and exit by selling them while they can.
  2. Raise the price dramatically by going super-premium or by becoming very focused in local markets.
  3. Implement MATS technology, or microwave assisted thermal sterilization.

In a way, grocers’ reluctance to change or adapt their business is understandable. It wasn’t until recently that supermarkets took the lion’s share of the food dollar (see the chart below). Even though food-away-from-home sales were inching closer by the early aughts, many grocers merely upped their game in the area of prepared foods. The margins were great, but now they faced food safety issues similar to restaurants. Two years ago, restaurant sales finally caught up.

Two years ago, sales at grocery stores and restaurants finally intersected.

Today, with center-of-the-store packaged goods out of favor with many shoppers, grocery operators have bulked up their store perimeter with displays of fruits and vegetables, cold beverages and bakery emphasizing “fresh.” Nonetheless, many of these items must still be cooked or, at least, incorporated into an assembled meal — largely by consumers who don’t like to cook.

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