With so many Americans cooking more at home due to the pandemic, retailers, food and beverage manufacturers, and kitchen appliance companies, are upping their game to make preparing meals as seamless as possible.
“Whomever provides the home cook an integrated approach to dinner will win,” said Susan Schwallie (pictured above), president, food and beverage, The NPD Group in Chicago. “That means connecting the steps along the path to consumption—inspiration, planning, shopping, cooking—resulting in fewer steps, less time, and hopefully better outcomes.”
Kroger offers Chefbot on Twitter which provides recipe suggestions using ingredients that someone already has at home. Users snap and provide a picture of up to three ingredients that they have on hand, tag @KrogerChefbot in their tweet, and Chefbot sends back a recipe.
There’s also the Innit app that lets home chefs chose recipes, create a shopping list, and sends it to retailers including Albertsons, Amazon Fresh, Walmart, and Instacart. Its sister app, ShopWell, allows customers to create a food profile featuring likes, dislikes, food allergies, and lifestyle requirements, then scan products to understand how they match their food profile.
E-Meal is a subscriber service that allows users to plan meals and recipes for the week, and then sends their grocery list directly to a retailer. The site is linked with Amazon Fresh, Walmart, and Instacart.
Walmart launched its own app a couple of years ago in combination with BuzzFeed’s Tasty. Shoppers can add ingredients directly from recipe videos to their Walmart shopping cart and place orders for pickup or delivery. And AmazonFresh has been offering shoppable recipes through AllRecipes for even longer.
“It’s the next evolution in what convenience means to the consumer. It used to be the microwave that was time saving,” said Schwallie. “Now technology is offering a whole other way to save time along the cooking experience.”
And this has all kicked up in the past year as consumers have been forced to cook and eat at home and many have relished the role. And companies that help take the time and the guesswork out of it are currying favor with consumers.
“Everybody is trying to figure out how to get foods into people’s hands, while cutting down the time aspect of it,” said Schwallie. “They’re hoping to control the outcome for the home cook. While for the retailer, if they can be a source for meal planning, shoppers are more likely to re-order, and they become viewed as a solution provider.”
The NPD Group forecasts that the number of consumers eating more at home will remain elevated long-term. “People will always want restaurants, but they’ve found there are new ways to make meals and to connect,” said Schwallie. Even before the pandemic, she pointed out, more restaurant meals were for takeout or delivery than eaten on-premises. “Home is the place we want to be.”