The Evolution of Convenience Food

Written by Suzy Clemo

For many years ‘convenience food’ has been defined by ready meals and prepacked food. Three minutes in the microwave and then ‘beep beep!’… Dinner is ready.

Along with the unquestionable quickness of these meals which have undoubtedly played their role in increasingly busy lives, there is a plethora of compromises, of which consumers are becoming less and less willing to swallow:

  • Ingredients: added sugar and salt, to mention a few
  • Added ‘stuff’: chemicals, preservatives… you name it
  • Plastic overload: individual plastic trays covered in ‘stab it with a fork’ unrecyclable film
  • Little sensory experience: not seeing, feeling, smelling or hearing the ingredients as they cook and come together as a meal

So, if traditional ready meals and prepacked solutions are coming under scrutiny, does this mean consumers are scratch cooking every night? Dreaming up Michelin star recipes and executing them on a Tuesday after the kids get in from football and swimming?

Well, not quite… But convenience food is evolving, and quickly.

Consumers are looking for the quickness and the ease of a ready meal, but without all those compromises attached – and ingredient and recipe delivery services are providing this solution.

We recently ran a survey with our Grapevine panel* and 34% of consumers reported they have used recipe or ingredient delivery services. Hello Fresh, Gusto, Abel & Cole and Riverford are currently leading the way, however we’re seeing more and more of these services come to fruition rapidly.

Sample: those who have used food / ingredient delivery services (122)


So why do we think recipe and ingredient delivery services have found a sweet spot in consumers’ lives and are revolutionising the world of convenience food?

  • They’re healthy: fresh ingredients with no added nasties
  • They’re pre-portioned: weighed out portions to ensure household members are not overeating AND not wasting any excess food
  • They’re inspiring and interactive: enabling consumers to try new ingredients , recipes or methods of cooking that they may not otherwise discover
  • They’re mindful: enabling consumers to be truly in the moment, methodically reading and following a recipe to produce a rewarding, wholesome meal
  • They’re sustainable: echoing other sustainable to-the-door delivery services (e.g. the milk man) with limited and / or reusable packaging, breaking away from the mountains of plastic debris

AND all this without stress.

No battle with the supermarket trolley, no dinner planning, no internet food shopping at midnight before you lose your delivery slot, no waddling home with bulging bags for life… Just a box that’s delivered straight to the door.

The question is how do other categories learn from and follow in the footsteps of these services? One thing is for sure, there are some golden rules.

  1. Make it sustainable – from the ingredients in your products, to the packaging it’s wrapped up in, give consumers the feel-good warmth of an eco-friendly purchase
  2. Make it easy – easy to order, easy to deliver, and easy to use to enable consumers to feel the satisfaction and reward of their efforts, with limited stress
  3. Make it fun – enable involvement and interaction with your product, considering opportunities for personalisation and opportunities for consumers to try something new and engaging


Do you want to hear more? Or do you have a burning question you wish to ask our Grapevine Panel? Get in touch to hear how we can provide you feedback within 24 hours with our RDSinstant rapid insight solution.



*361 people took part in the survey, non-nat rep sample.