Prepared meals becoming popular dinner option

by Staff
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CHICAGO — Take-out prepared meals are especially popular at dinner among consumers, according to market research firm The NPD Group.

“There was a strong demand for convenient, take-out meals in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, especially with the large influx of women entering the workforce then,” said Ann Hanson, executive director of product development at NPD. “Restaurants met that demand. However, the number of women entering the labor force is no longer growing, and supper meals eaten at home have been increasing. As a result, visits to restaurants for supper have not grown in this decade, with demand particularly weak over the past three years. We’re also seeing stronger demand for prepared foods from retail outlets.”

Restaurants are the primary provider of take-out meals, but with consumers eating more dinners at home, supermarkets and other retail outlets have become a good source of prepared foods and take-out meals. Nearly two-thirds of prepared foods bought at retail are from traditional supermarkets.

Consumers choose supermarkets over quick-service restaurants for prepared foods for convenience, good prices, variety and healthier choices. Consumers chose quick-service restaurants over other food stores because they say they like it, it satisfies a craving or they want a specific menu item. Drive-thru, take-out and delivery is a plus for quick-service restaurants.

“There is huge opportunity in take-out meals and prepared foods for both supermarkets and restaurants,” Ms. Hanson said. “Consumers are not going to wake up tomorrow with more time on their hands and the urge to cook. In the end, it will be about meeting the consumer’s need for convenience, whether it’s a restaurant or a supermarket.”

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