Meal Solutions Mean More Than Just Food Service
in Eyes of Consumer
WASHINGTON, DC — June 22, 2000 — Meal planning and preparation times are
the primary frustrations for contemporary
consumers, according to a new FMI research
report, Beyond Foodservice…How Consumers
View Meals. Drawing from qualitative and
quantitative research, the report addresses
the most fundamental requirement of a successful
Meal Solutions program – understanding the
consumers’ wants and needs – and it suggests
that well-designed and managed Meal Solutions
programs yield many opportunities for retailers.
The data presented in the report is
on four Meal Solutions concepts, each
by the level of consumer involvement
Ready-to-eat: Convenient meals for
consumption (e.g. prepared food). Ready-to-heat:
Partially or fully prepared meals requiring
heating for later consumption. Ready-to-prepare:
Meal assembly requires minimal planning,
purchase and preparation. Ready-to-create:
Programs designed to build consumer
interest and capability.
Overall, the combined data suggests
retailers approach Meal Solutions as
utilizing fundamental principles associated
with category management. Instead of
it as an extension of the deli, the
indicates that retailers should develop
Meal Solutions program as a distinct
operation. Retailers should also strive
understand and market to specific consumer
tastes and preferences – that is, identify
the Meal Solutions concepts that appeal
various consumer groups in a particular
area – and create programs accordingly.
Focus groups conducted around the country
and across all demographic strata identified
six needs related to meals:
Physical: Providing nutrition to fuel
enhance daily health and performance.
Mental: A transistion between day parts,
a key signpost throughout the day.
Spiritual: A time to renew one’s own
and familial bonds.
Cultural: An opportunity to share values,
cultural beliefs and ethnic heritage.
Entertainment: A time of joy and fun.
to spend time with family and friends.
Reward: The opportunity to indulge
self or one’s family and enjoy life.
Retailers need to recognize and understand
these need states as they develop their
Solutions programs, the report suggests.
Addressing specific need states makes
particular meal program more relevant
the consumer – thereby enhancing and
consumer interest and driving sales.
report also suggests that retailers
in merchandising and advertising to
the need states. For example, Thanksgiving
is an example of a cultural need state
a program can be developed around,
program of desserts and specialty coffees
might complement the reward need state,
The second portion of the report highlights
responses from a nationally representative
survey distributed to 2,600 households
the country. It identifies six consumer
On-the-Go Jugglers: Time-stressed,
who rely heavily on the retailer’s
to satisfy their food preparation needs.
Comprising 18 percent of consumers
this group would respond well to fax,
and online ordering options, separate
dedicated parking and convenient packaging.
Healthy Family Cooks: At 13 percent
sample, this group spends heavily for
food. They prefer brand names and eat
of fresh fruit and vegetables. They
be especially attracted to foods prepared
fresh daily, retailers with trained
posted ingredients and nutritional
an energetic and upscale atmosphere,
a variety of ethnic food. This group
to spend some time preparing a meal.
Gut Stuffing Indulgents: Representing
percent of the sample, this group is
best understood and served by the fast
industry. They frequently purchase
and delivery food, and they enjoy dining
out. They spend little time preparing
planning meals, meaning they are interested
in speedy service and convenient packaging
that allows for quick consumption.
Meat & Potato Cooks: This group,
percent of consumers surveyed, prefers
family meals and usually takes time
and prepare each meal function, which
often cook from scratch. They are most
attracted to Ready-to-Prepare and Ready-to-Create
meals, and they also will buy in quantity.
Price is important. Retailers may try
frozen food products – entrée, vegetables
and dessert, for example – at a set
in order to reach these consumers.
Strict Food Monitors: This group, representing
20 percent of the population, needs
what is in their food. They tend to
and a good target for Meal Solutions,
they are more interested in healthy
choices than fast ones. Retailers reach
group by marketing healthy meals –
information easily available.
Thrifty Food Balancers: This group,
of consumers, is driven by price and
They plan ahead for dinner, have time
cook from scratch, and normally consume
meals per day. They are also interested
serving a balanced diet. Private label
appeal to this consumer. Retailers
reach this group by promoting value
The report concludes that retailers
develop Meal Solutions programs around
consumer tastes, preferences, schedules,
incomes and so on. Varying the types
offered and the days of the week in
they are available –combined with strategic
marketing and promotion – also provides
great opportunity for the program’s
Beyond Foodservice…How Consumers View Meals
was prepared by The Partnering Group and
sponsored by Hobart, Inc. To purchase the
report ($35 FMI members, $70 non-FMI members),
please contact FMI publication sales at 202/452-8444.