The factors that influence family dinner choices

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 21st September 2009

New research from Wegmans Food Markets – an American grocery chain – has shone light on the key issues that families face when deciding on the right meal for dinner.

“Feeding the family is a big job and our customers deserve all the help we can give them in making that job a little easier,” said Jo Natale, Wegmans director of media relations. “In doing our research, we tried to listen with both ears. For example, we think customers are telling us two things when they mention the effort it takes to stay within the family food budget. They want … help in keeping food affordable, but they’re also saying they’d like to know what a meal will cost – without using a calculator as they plan menus or shop.”

The five challenges listed by families when it comes to choosing the right meal were:
1. Staying within the family food budget
2. Figuring out what to serve
3. Keeping meals varied and interesting
4. Having little time to prepare meals
5. Serving healthy meals

The research also revealed that dramatic changes in respondents’ meal consumption patterns had occurred, in part reflecting concerns about the economy. When asked if they were doing the following more often, less often, or if there had been no change:

· 30% of respondents said they were preparing more dinners at home from scratch
· 33% were now using some partly prepared foods, like cleaned and chopped vegetables, to create a meal
· A 24% drop in take out meals was reported, as well as a 45% decline in meals eaten at restaurants.

After distilling all of the comments from the research, Wegmans settled on three words that best captured what customers wanted their meals to be: Easy – Healthy – Affordable. The research also showed that although patterns had changed, in real life, most customers use more than one strategy during the week to get dinner ready: Some nights they cook mostly from scratch; other nights, it’s a combination of prepared and semi-prepared foods or a frozen meal. Sometimes, it’s fast-food or going to a restaurant.