Meal Planning Prior to Grocery Shopping Drives Purchases

Most consumers don't enter the grocery store with a blank slate; nearly 3 out of 4 U.S. households typically plan at least some dinners in advance, and half plan breakfast and lunch meals, according to a recent food and beverage market research report by The NPD Group, a leading market research company. 

The NPD report, entitled Before the Store, which takes a holistic view of the grocery shopper from menu planning, meal preparation, eating behavior, to shopping, found that of the 71% of households that plan at least some dinners in advance, 24% planned nearly all dinners in advance. Of the 53% of households that plan at least some lunches in advance, 13% planned nearly all lunches in advance. Fifty-​one percent of households planned at least some breakfast meals in advance, and 26% planned nearly all breakfasts in advance.

"The frequency of meal planning is an indication that many purchase decisions are made prior to grocery shopping," said Ann Hanson, executive director of product development at NPD and author of the report. "Retailers and manufacturers who can help consumers address meal planning challenges have the potential to become ingrained in the family meal planning and shopping cycle."

According to the report findings, the primary shopper and meal preparer is typically the woman in the household. The most common challenges for these meal preparers are getting new ideas for main meals, finding meals that are quick to make, and staying within a budget.

One way for meal preparers to address these challenges and find new ideas is through recipes. Thirty-​four percent of households indicate they use recipes weekly and 69% said they use recipes at least monthly.

Impulse purchases are often a response to the cost and convenience challenges. The top reason for making an impulse purchase was because the item was on sale. Prepared foods are frequently purchased on impulse when shoppers are looking for ideas while in the store.

"Cost, variety, and convenience are constant challenges for household meal planners, and an opportunity for manufacturers and retailers to become part of the solution," says Hanson. "Understanding the meal preparation process prior to grocery shopping, behavior around recipes, impulse purchases, and the use of prepared foods can help manufacturers, food retailers, and marketers design effective strategies for increasing loyalty, trip frequency, and basket size."

[Source:  Before the Store.  The NPD Group.  1 Dec. 2010.  Web.  7 Dec. 2010.]