The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we're eating, with many restaurants facing shutdown over stay-at-home orders. According to Don Barnett, Sun Basket's CEO, "In 2019, over 50% of food dollars were spent out of the home." However, writing for Fast Company (opens in new tab), Barnett has revealed how COVID-19 has forced meal kit delivery services (opens in new tab) to provide innovative solutions to cater to those now stuck at home, but still craving the convenience of quick and easy meals:
"I expect this rapid change will affect consumer behavior, creating a 'new normal'. In just two short months, Sun Basket has seen significant changes in consumer cooking behavior - with now nearly all food being transferred to home preparation and serving."
Lockdown measures are boosting many in the takeout market - in fact, Papa John's has recorded all-time high sales figures for two months in a row since the start of stay-at-home measures. The pizza chain estimated that same-store sales have increased by a massive 33.5% in America in the last month alone, and this is coupled with a 92% increase in sales of frozen pizza (opens in new tab) for grocery stores across the US. Frozen food is recorded as the fastest growing department (opens in new tab) in-store across the nation, which could mean that shoppers are shifting away from perishables and toward food which is easily stored for emergency or last-minute use.
Cooking-in could outlive coronavirus
Even as lockdown restrictions begin to ease nationwide, Barnett is confident that the boost to the meal kit delivery service industry will prevail:
"The changes we are experiencing in food consumption due to COVID-19 are here for the long term. People will slowly return to some of their past practices, but it’s likely that companies occupying a special space at this time can play a part in customers forming new - and likely enduring - behaviors, especially as they sample new and convenient products."
Although it may appear that the worst of the pandemic is over, buying trends suggest that Barnett's estimations are correct. Record sales of baking yeast and fruit and vegetable seeds (opens in new tab) coupled with many facing an increase of free time due to working from home could well lead to a long-term trend in the rise of eating-in. Barnett even suggests that we could be seeing an increased array of meal prep kits coming to online stores soon.
"In addition to customers’ desire for convenience, my advice to food delivery and meal kit companies is to fulfill other consumer preferences, including contactless delivery, pre-prepared meals, and foods for different dining occasions, such as breakfast, lunch, and snacks."
That means we could be seeing new cuisine and meal options coming from meal kit delivery services in the near future. Alternatively, check out the best grocery delivery services (opens in new tab)for all your brunch essentials.