On meal kits and primary market research...Published by Mark Bodnar
Our intrepid BUS 345 students are embarking on a primary market research project focused on meal kits this term, so I thought I'd repost (with updates) a mini-guide I created to support a similar assignment a couple years ago. Even if you aren't in BUS 345, this post might give you a sense of the secondary resources available to establish the context for efficient & effective primary market research.
The students in this class have a lot of flexibility when it comes to choosing the exact research questions they want to explore, so it would be difficult to suggest specific resources and search strategies for them. Instead, I thought I'd try a different approach:
I'll highlight just a few of the possible research questions to give you a sense of the range of research that goes into marketing (section A below). I'll aim to demonstrate the amount of lateral/creative thinking that a market researcher has to do, but my list won't be anywhere near as detailed as that of a real marketer.
Then I'll list the guides and blog posts that cover the sorts of resources I'd normally use to answer such questions (section B).
Finally, I'll return to the target product and talk about research resources that are specifically about meal kits (section C).
Here we go...
Imagine that a new meal kit company needs to know something about their potential consumers so they can design a product/service (including its price, packaging, promotion, etc.) that will appeal strongly to a large number of people. They can't do that without lots of information about consumers — including both current meal kit consumers and those who have never tried such products.
The company would probably want to know something about consumer demographics, the barriers that keep them from purchasing the product (or from purchasing more of it), the alternative ways that consumers currently satisfy similar needs, and their preferences & interests. (Amongst many other things!)
Here are just a few of the questions that come to mind immediately:
Are there clear differences among current meal kit purchasers in terms of their age, ethnicity, income, gender, etc.? Is that mix fairly common across all meal kit companies and all countries, or is there some variation that could inform our decisions?
For those who haven't tried meal kits, as well as those who tried and quit, are the main barriers/concerns focused on the cost (what price point would remove that barrier?), the environmental impact of packaging (are they willing to pay more for more earth-friendly packaging?), the food choices available (would they like more varied options?), or something else?
How are consumers getting/making meals now, and how do they feel about it? How much time do they spend shopping and cooking? Do they buy frozen meals or eat out at restaurants often? What do people like about their current shopping, cooking, and eating habits? What would they like to change or improve?
What food interests or restrictions do people have, and how do those preferences overlap with the choices available from existing meal kit companies? Are vegan, organic, or local food options important? How about cultural diversity in food choices? How do they feel about the environment, and do those opinions factor into shopping choices?
Of course, this assignment involves using primary research to answer the questions you come up with, but that doesn't mean that secondary research doesn't play a role! A quick bit of research into what others have already done on similar questions will help you frame, justify, and develop your own research.
And in some cases you may even find that the question has been so well researched that you already have a solid foundation for a reasonable estimate, allowing you to instead spend your limited time and energy focusing on your other burning questions as you try to develop your product.
Start your research with our main Market Research resource guide — a list of databases and sites that covers a surprising number of questions.
Also check our Industry Surveys guide if you need an overview of the trends, players, and issues in an industry.
To see such resources in action, check out the following blog posts in which I use sample topics to teach/promote many key resources and search strategies:
- A feast of resources for those researching alternative protein markets!
- Ingredients for successful taste tests: Supporting your primary market research
- On orange juice and primary/secondary market research
- Market research resources on J. Crew and clothing retail
- One year in: The business of (legal) cannabis
I promised at the start that I'd end (eventually!) with a few resources focused directly on meal kits. What follows is just what popped up in my initial searches — not comprehensive, but hopefully useful!
SFU Library databases
Vividata — data on the interests, activities, and demographics of Canadian consumers of specific brand products and services
Vividata is not simple to use, but in this case it's worth the effort to use the Intro and Advanced guides to learn about it: the Vividata survey asks people for the reasons they have been using meal kit delivery services (from "add variety to meals" to "free trial") as well as the frequency with which meal kits have been used in households. (See this screen capture for details.)
That's only a couple variables among thousands, but you can cross-tabulate them with almost anything else in the database: demographics, hobbies, other purchases... If you want to know if those who bought meal kits to save time have large families, or if coffee drinkers are frequent meal kit users, explore Vividata!
Passport — data and analysis about Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCGs)
Passport seems to have very little specifically on meal kits, but they appear to have grouped such products into the "Ready Meals" category. Try searching for reports such as "Ready Meals in Canada" and read them closely to catch mentions of meal kit trends and sales.
Statista — easy-to-use portal to statistics on almost any topic
Search for "meal kits" and be sure to follow the links to original sources for each statistics so that you can understand the context and spot any related stats! For instance, this Statista chart came from this source. Also check the Market Insights section of Statista via this path: Insights (top navigation bar) > Explore Market Insights > search for Meal Kit Delivery, then adjust the default region to reflect your target nation(s).
(If you don't see "Simon Fraser University" mentioned at the top of the screen after following those Statista links, come back to this page and try clicking them again.)
Factiva and Canadian Newsstream — news databases, perfect for a fast-changing topic
Start with this rough search in Canadian Newsstream. Also try looking in both databases for any articles that mention two or more of the major companies, as well as for any mentions of studies or surveys.
- Check out this local news story about a zero-waste initiative at a meal kit firm that has Burnaby connections.
IBISWorld - industry reports
See this US report: Meal Kit Delivery Services, but also check their site directly for articles and posts such as: Meal Delivery Kits Pose Threat to Traditional Food Providers
Plunkett's Sharing, Gig & Freelance Economy Almanac 2023
Touches briefly on meal kits in a few places.
Beyond the Library
Public Opinion Polling Firms
- Ipsos - Canadian Meal Kit Craze & a brief mention in their 2023 Most Trusted Brands report
- Abacus - What’s the Deal with Meal Kits (link goes to archived version of that 2018 page)
- Research Co. - Quebec Leads Canada in Time Spent Making Dinner at Home (This one doesn't mention meal kits, but still seems potentially useful).
- Angus Reid - Price Check: Four-in-five say they’ve changed food buying habits because of increasing costs
This last section is a catch-all of industry association reports, industry magazine articles, free content from research firms (especially social media posts about expensive research reports), and random news stories that I've come across. This list is definitely not exhaustive, but it might give you some ideas of similar places to search.
- Research from the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University: Food Delivery Apps (includes meal kits) & their ongoing research on food inflation touches on meal kits
- The Senior Director of that lab, Sylvain Charlebois, is often mentioned in industry/general news articles. For instance, see this Retail Insider article: The Meal Kit Market in Canada May have Peaked: Charlebois (2022)
- Canadian Grocer - A new look at grocery’s meal opportunity & Have Canadians lost their appetite for meal-kit services? (Survey) (search their site for more)
- Restaurants Canada - Foodservice Facts 2021 & Trends Shaping Canada’s Restaurant and Hospitality Industry in 2022
- National Restaurant Association (US) - Restaurant Industry Trends (registration required for free download)
- Nielsen Research - The Meal Kit Opportunity in Canada (link goes to archived version)
- Mintel - How can meal kit delivery services maintain their momentum in 2021? & 85% of Canadians purchase prepared/made-to-order foods from a retailer that sells groceries
- Field Agent - Food for Thought: Americans Share Attitudes Toward Meal Kits
- Packaged Facts - The Meal Kit Delivery Services Market (link goes to archived version)
- Advantage Group - Making A Meal Of It: The Pandemic and Perishables (link goes to an archived version -- scroll way down to see the text)
- ComScore - What's Cooking with Food Delivery? & Comscore Finds Online Food Delivery Surge Driving Growth in Digital Payment Usage (registration needed to download these slides)
- CBC News - Meal kit makers jostle for a slice of Canada's market in growing, competitive industry & Price may not get in the way of meal-kit purchases
As always, please do contact the SFU Library for help if these resources don't have what you need. Start with our Ask a Librarian online help services, but feel free to email me if my colleagues aren't able to help you.
P.S.: As a reward for reading all the way to the bottom of this long post, here are some bonus links:
- Pre-set searches in PsycINFO for research articles that touch on "meal kits" and for broader research done on food shopping, preferences, etc.
- Sample: the second search above led me to: Home chef meal kits: Product attributes, perceived value and repurchasing intentions the moderating effects of household configuration
- A case study from our Sage Business Cases database: Meal-Kit Delivery Services—a Flash in the Pan or a Cooking Tradition in the Making?
Business & Economics Librarian