A recent Consumer Insider report from Innova Market Insights has evaluated consumer interest in and attitudes towards convenience in different parts of the world, assessing its relevance to product choice, shopping, home cooking and foodservice habits. In general, the research shows above-average interest in convenience concepts in Asia and Latin America, regions where the firm says, to date, convenience trends have perhaps been a step or two behind those of the developed western world.
As well as interest in convenience as a whole, the report suggests emerging markets are catching up fast in terms of the role of technology in boosting convenience. Internet-active Asians and Latin Americans are now more ready to embrace online shopping and foodservice, Innova says, with consumers in Continental Europe being least likely to adopt technologies simply for the benefit of convenience.
The research firm suggests the lack of interest among western populations owes much to consumers’ pre-existing expectations of convenience in these areas. The availability of convenient products is such that consumers have moved beyond this as a single reason to purchase and are now expecting convenient foods with additional value in terms of freshness, health benefits or ethical credentials. As an example, John West has added products with MSC claims regarding healthy omega-3 content to its range of convenient fish.
The pandemic is also affecting attitudes towards convenience. When asked why they shopped online, social distancing was the most common reason given in 2020. However, three of the next four reasons alluded to convenience, shopping at any time, the speed of shopping and being able to plan better. This suggests many consumers who turned to online shopping during the pandemic value the added convenience and are likely to maintain these habits going forward. The foodservice category is following the same pattern, research suggests. More than half of all consumers said they had visited restaurants less frequently in 2020, but more than a third had increased their use of delivered foodservice. This is also expected to persist into the coming years.
The pandemic lockdowns also resulted in higher levels of scratch cooking. This does not mean all convenience foods suffered as a result, with many consumers switching to semi-convenience. A total of 43% said they had been doing more home cooking using convenient solutions such as ready-made sauces. Meal kit services have also seen growth, with leading player HelloFresh reporting an increase of 3 million subscribers in 2020. Although many of these trends were already under way prior to the pandemic, Innova notes, it suggests the global health crisis has accelerated consumers’ shift towards convenience opportunities.