Fresh Food

Consumers Turn to Grocery Prepared Food This Thanksgiving

A new survey finds many will outsource the cooking this holiday season
Thanksgiving prepared foods
Photograph: Shutterstock

Whether its pandemic-related cooking fatigue or simply the desire for convenience, many consumers are expected to supplement—or outsource entirely—this year’s Thanksgiving meal with prepared food from their local supermarket, finds a new survey from consulting firm Oliver Wyman.

“Thanksgiving is going to look more like a hybrid of home cooked and prepared dishes,” says Oliver Wyman. Grocers that offer a variety of high-quality prepared food, mains, sides and baked goods are well positioned for growth this holiday season.

Traditional grocery stores are the top source of prepared foods for those who are not preparing their own Thanksgiving entrée, with 67% of respondents indicating this is where they will shop this year, according to the survey of 1,878 consumers conducted in November. Just 10% of consumers polled said they will purchase prepared food from a restaurant or a specialty provider, such as a butcher.

The survey further found that 25% of people preparing Thanksgiving will make everything from scratch versus 7% who will buy their Thanksgiving meal.

“There has been a decades-long trend toward out-of-home eating. Food retailers in the years before the pandemic developed meal solutions and shopping experiences designed to match the convenience of out-of-home eating with more control and better nutrition,” says Bobby Gibbs, principal in Oliver Wyman’s retail and consumer goods practice. “The pandemic and resulting lockdowns bolstered those efforts and reintroduced many to the joys of home cooking. The result is a high number of people this year cooking Thanksgiving meals while relying on outside help to make it easy.”

Over the last two years, prepared foods across grocers, apps and meal kits grew from a $30 billion market to over $100 billion and there was 250% growth in food delivery, finds Oliver Wyman. Better options, more choice, stronger brands and improved packaging have contributed to the recent success.

“There is no single meal occasion as big as Thanksgiving, but the benefits of hybrid meal solutions has broad implications for smaller holidays and day-to-day meals,” adds Gibbs. “As more people return to work and children’s vaccines hopefully lead to more reliable school schedules, food retailers will be under even more pressure to deliver convenient meal solutions. The pressure to deliver convenient, healthy, meal destinations is going to keep pushing grocers to innovate food shopping.”

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