A Healthy New Year: A Look at Consumers’ Food Habits & Meal Subscription Services

So Many Food Trends, So Little Time

The New Year signals a time to think about a new you and jumpstart those healthy eating plans you might have left behind over the holidays. But which food trends are right for you and how can you choose when every day it seems there is a new diet plan causing a heated debate on social media?

Should you eat like a caveman? Remove all carbs from your life? Increase carbs but decrease fats? Alas, we don’t have the answers to those questions but we can tell you what eating plans consumers are following and whether they are preparing and cooking their meals themselves. We surveyed 500 US consumers who currently subscribe to a meal delivery service (or have subscribed in the past) to find out their food habits and opinions on meal kits.

Food Habits: The Basics

  • 59% eat three meals per day
  • 59% cook dinner at home five or six nights per week
  • 62% bring in take out for dinner one or two nights per week
  • 63% eat dinner out one or two nights per week
  • 70% “always” or “sometimes” do meal prep for the week ahead
    • Males were more likely to say they “always” do meal prep

 

Don’t Diet, Live It

When asked which eating plan they currently follow, we found that low sugar and low carb plans were the most popular. This is not surprising as most eating plans are chosen to improve health and/or lose weight. According to the 2018 Food & Health Survey from the International Food Information Council Foundation, 33% of surveyed US consumers blame sugar for weight gain, 25% blame carbs, and just 16% blame fats. We asked whether these plans had been prescribed by a doctor, chosen for religious reasons, or strictly a personal choice; in all cases, consumers predominantly said it was their own choice to follow their chosen plan.

Diets Followed:

  • 48% – Low Sugar
  • 43% – Low Carb
  • 42% – Organic/Non-GMO
  • 24% – Raw Foods
  • 23% – Keto
  • 23% – Gluten-Free
  • 22% – Vegetarian
  • 21% – Weight Watchers
  • 17% – Vegan
  • 17% – Paleo
  • 16% – Atkins Diet
  • 15% – South Beach Diet
  • 14% – Macrobiotic

Demographically speaking, consumers ages 18-24 were more likely to choose to be vegetarian vs. all other age ranges; and males were more likely than females to choose Atkins, South Beach, and macrobiotic eating plans.

 

Meals on Your Doorstep

The subscription box economy is growing by leaps and bounds. According to the 2018 McKinsey survey titled Thinking Inside the Subscription Box: New research on e-commerce consumers, 15% of online shoppers have signed up for one or more subscription box services. Food subscription boxes are some of the most popular providing meal kits and ready-made meals to meet every dietary need, as well as food of the month clubs to satisfy any craving.

33% of the 500 consumers we surveyed are currently subscribing to a meal delivery service. The most popular subscription type chosen by 63% was meal kits where you receive portioned ingredients and cook the meal yourself. Females were more likely than males to choose meal kits. The top three meal kit subscriptions services were HelloFresh (36%), Blue Apron (32%), and Home Chef (15%).

When asked about the importance of selected meal kit benefits, our respondents chose these as the top five:

  • 66% – Ability to pause or cancel at any time with no extra fees
    • Females were more likely than males to choose this response
  • 64% – Freshness guarantee
  • 60% – Quality of ingredients
  • 48% – Variety of meal options
  • 45% – Free shipping

The least important benefits were “simple recipes with six or fewer steps” and “kid-friendly recipes”. 43% chose “subscription price” as “extremely important” and when asked what they would like to change about their meal kit subscription, consumers overwhelmingly would like it to be cheaper.

 

Why Food Subscription Boxes?

Reasons for subscribing to a food subscription box were varied but “convenience” and “saving time” were the leading choices with 71% and 61% of consumers, respectively.

Asked why the stopped subscribing to a meal delivery service (or never started in the first place), the number one answer was price, with 79% choosing “too expensive”. Females and both genders ages 25-34 were more likely to have chosen this response. Rounding out the top four reasons were “not enough meal choices” – 26%, “prefer to do my own shopping” – 26%, and “prefer to prep and cook myself” – 24%.

We asked respondents who are currently not subscribed to a meal delivery service (but have subscribed in the past) which types of services they might subscribe to in the future. 44% of consumers said they were “likely” or “extremely likely” to choose local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) or meal kits for future subscriptions.

 

The Takeaways

Consumers are eating three meals a day, cooking dinner at home most nights, and spending time prepping their meals for the week ahead. Many consumers are following low carb and low sugar eating plans. With their busy lives pulling them in all directions throughout the day, they crave the ease of subscription services delivering all of their food right to the doorstep. Meal delivery services not only save us time, they also provide healthy, delicious meals that keep us on our chosen eating plans.

Consumers prefer meal delivery services that give them the most control with the ability to easily pause/cancel their subscription or get a refund if the food does not live up to the freshness guarantee. Consumers are also watching their budgets and the number one reason to cancel a meal delivery service is pricing. There are, however, a plethora of affordable meal delivery services available and more entering the market every day.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Allie Smith
Allie Smith is the former Director of Charts for eMarketer with over 15 years of experience in the world of market research. Her love for charts and graphs is only outweighed by her love for her whippets. She spends her free time watching Law & Order reruns while knitting cute hats for dogs.