• September 21, 2017

Why can’t Americans make family meals a priority?

We’re supposed to be celebrating National Family Meals Month, says the Food Marketing Institute, but apparently our party pants got lost at the dry cleaners.

According to SHS FoodThink research, almost two-thirds (65%) of Americans – we’ll call them family-focused consumers – believe it’s important that the family gathers together for meals. Of those, 41% agree, “I want to prepare more meals at home, I just don’t have the time.” For many, family mealtime just isn’t happening.

So how can marketers tap into the busy lives of these consumers and provide useful dinnertime solutions? FoodThink research found grocery retailers, food manufacturers and restaurants can each play a crucial role in helping parents make family mealtime more attainable.

Grocery Shopping

The family-focused shopper prioritizes quality and value. Two-thirds choose their grocery store based on the brands the store carries (quality), along with available coupons and deals (value). They also pay attention to food labels, including organic and local.

More than half of families (54%) say their primary store is a supermarket such as Kroger (23%). But they’re also choosing to shop at multi-purpose options like Walmart (63%), Sam’s Club (18%) and Costco (16%).*

While 42% prefer shopping at national chains (Are We Chain Obsessed paper), they’re more likely than the typical American to select a store with a local feel.

Home Cooking

Though time to cook is hard to come by, families recognize its importance. As a result, they search for time-saving alternatives to cooking from scratch. By purchasing pre-cut fruits and veggies, preassembled raw protein products and even frozen sides, they can dish out some of their guilt while still preparing meals.

Eating Out

Americans prefer their families eat together in the home, yet they admittedly crave dining out. Especially on the weekends, consumers are most likely to frequent family-style (32%) and quick-service (30%) restaurants.

What Can We Do?

Food marketers need to meet families where they’re looking for inspiration. That means posting accessible and easily prepared recipes online and in-store alongside the ingredients necessary to prepare them and coupons to encourage their purchase. From the above insights, we might also suggest the following:

For grocery retailers:

  • Host and video-record in-store “express” cooking classes for parents AND kids, led by the store nutritionist. Arm families – both in-store and for reference online – with tips and tricks for preparing home-cooked meals.

For food manufacturers:

  • Promote “ready-to-eat” or “ready-to-heat” complete meal packages that also include simple, home-cooked options. Grant parents the social license to prepare foods that save time, as well as the confidence to serve those meals as healthy and family-friendly.

For restaurants:

  • Invite local families to participate in roundtable discussions to discuss their needs. In response, develop menu and promote meals accordingly. Become a partner in providing value and nourishment for families rather than being just another restaurant option.

The key for food marketers is to actively listen to the needs of their consumers and respond with solutions that encourage mealtime to also be family time.

*Figures do not add up to 100% because shoppers often frequent more than one type of store.