Consumer Trends: Global Convenience Eating

See how the latest global consumer trends influence convenience eating

April  9, 2024 – Convenience eating can take many forms. It can range between multiple products, from complete ready-made meals, to prepared meal components such as vegetable or cooking sauces, to packaged snacks.

Through our consumer trend research, we identify broader consumer lifestyle trends that influence the usage of convenience foods by age group and country. We also identify the consumer drivers of convenience eating, to both spot motivations for choosing convenience foods, and highlight opportunities for future innovation and growth. Finally, we also examine consumer barriers to choosing convenience foods, identifying aspects that might impede growth.

Consumer Lifestyle Changes: Homebodies 

In response to the current market landscape, consumers are striving to strike a balance between enjoyment and necessity amidst escalating living expenses. As flexible working solutions continue, and cost-of-living expenses rise, consumers are spending more time at home. 45% of consumers globally work from home at least once a week. Additionally, there has been a 30% net shift globally towards consumers eating at home, as opposed to eating out. As more individuals opt for home-cooked meals, there is a possible shift away from on-the-go convenience foods.

Consumer Lifestyle Changes: Health 

This shift towards home cooking offers potential for the development of easy-to-prepare homemade meal solutions. However, as health and wellness become an increasing consumer concern, Innova’s consumer trend research shows that negative health perceptions of convenience food impacts customers’ willingness to purchase these products. For instance, three of the five factors stopping consumers from choosing convenience foods relate to negative health perceptions.

Consumer Lifestyle Changes: Finances 

Additionally, personal finances are concerning for consumers, with 38% placing it as their top issue of concern. Online shopping is now more prevalent, as a method to save money on fuel. Consumer trends indicate poor value for money as the top barrier for seeking convenient solutions in food and beverage. However, value for money is the driver for purchasing convenience foods for 15% of consumers; especially important to lower income consumers. Furthermore, 32% of consumers are cooking from scratch as a method to save money.

Thus, an increasingly savvy consumer, shopping online more, will be looking for affordable options or convenience products that can justify a premium price and offer good value for money.

consumer eating trends

Consumer Usage of Convenience Food 

Innova’s consumer trend research indicates three in five consumers globally are using convenience foods once a week or more, with one in five using them more than once a day. A net increase of 3% in convenience food usage has been observed globally, with developing countries, particularly India and Indonesia, showing the strongest growth. India has seen remarkable growth with our research showing a spike of 45% more consumers using more convenience food in the past 12 months. Notably, the US market remains a strong market for convenience foods, with growth also observed in Mexico and Brazil. The growth in convenience foods is largely driven by younger demographics and higher-income groups.

Consumer Drivers Supporting Growth of Convenience Foods 

Lack of time and energy to cook continues to be the primary reasons for consumers to choose convenience foods. One in five consumers globally say that the lack of time to cook food drives them most to seek convenient solutions in food and beverage. The consumer trend of eating at home is additionally on the rise, with 43% of consumers saying cooking at home is the top reason for using convenience foods less. However, almost a third of consumers see cooking from scratch as using some pre-prepared convenience products, which could drive demand for more convenient ways to cook from scratch at home.

Trying something new, and variety are also key motivations for convenience food consumers. 17% of consumers choose convenience foods because of the desire to try something new, or for the purposes of variety, with variety being the #1 driver in India, Mexico, and Spain.

The main drivers of growth in the use of convenience foods are younger consumers, and higher income consumers. Additionally, in some developed countries, such as France and the UK, eating alone is a top reason to reach for convenience foods.

Consumer-Driven Barriers to Convenience Food Growth 

There are several barriers to watch for that could hinder the growth of convenience foods. Firstly, the cost of living crisis is likely to affect growth, as cost is the main reason why consumers do not seek out convenience foods and beverages. In addition, consumers may be reluctant to purchase convenience products, as they are increasingly interested in fresh produce and home cooking.

Consumer health concerns also may hamper convenience product growth. Consumers consider lack of nutritional value, inclusion of preservatives, and higher content of undesirable ingredients such as sugar and fat as three of the top five reasons they don’t purchase convenience products.

Consumers are also staying home more, compromising the on-the-go convenience channel, alongside a net decrease in the percentage of consumers purchasing takeaway meals.

What’s Next in Consumer Trends: Convenience Eating

Innova’s consumer trend insights shed light on the areas where convenience products are positioned for innovation.

Due to consumers’ willingness to use pre-prepared convenience products as part of their scratch-cooked meals, companies can create products that aid consumers in cooking from scratch. These solutions cut time and effort while still delivering the sensation of freshly prepared food.

Over half of consumers would pay more for fresh products, but 18% don’t buy convenience foods because the ingredients are not freshly prepared. Companies can respond to this by developing products that are freshly prepared, frozen fresh or made with fresh ingredients. Additionally, development of healthier, more nutritious choices in pre-made snacks and ready meals can help recontextualize convenience products in a more desirable light.

Value for money is the top factor consumers consider when choosing a convenience food product. To address this, products can build value for money perceptions by offering added value benefits that meet consumers’ changing lifestyle priorities and needs, such as the promotion of conscious living benefits.

Finally, the consumer desire for variety in their convenience food and drink allows potential for products to provide easy ways for consumers to try new cuisines through ready meals or meal kits.

This article is based on our report, “Convenience Eating: Global Consumer Drivers & Opportunities.”
If you are interested in receiving this report, feel free to request a demo through our Contact Form.

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