Convenience still important to consumers

While “value” may be the buzzword of the year for cash-strapped consumers and the restaurants that serve them, two reports released Wednesday indicated that convenience is another factor nearly as important for many adults making food choices.

One third of adults are “convenience consumers,” according to market research firm The NPD Group, which on Wednesday released a report called “The Many Facets of Convenience.” These consumers ranked convenience as most important in choosing the foods they eat, both in supermarkets and restaurants.

Another market research firm, Mintel, also on Wednesday released data showing that more than half of younger adults — those under the age of 34 — cite convenience as very important or important when deciding where to dine.

“Though value remains important to diners in this economy, our survey reveals convenience may be equally as important,” said Chris Haack, senior analyst at Mintel. “Young adults and young families, especially, are pressed for time, making restaurants an easy and often necessary solution for meals.

“As foodservice establishments struggle for revenue, improving convenience may help them get diners in the door,” he said.

Those younger adults consider factors such as proximity to their workplace, the ability to order online, offering late-night hours and speed of service as factors in restaurant selection, Mintel said.

While the Mintel survey indicated that consumers overall are spending less on takeout and delivery, among 18- to 34-year olds, one in six said they spent more on convenient services in 2009 compared with the previous year. Over the past three months, for example, 30 percent of respondents in that age group said they had picked up food from a restaurant, compared with 20 percent among all age groups surveyed.

The full report is available through Mintel at www.mintel.com [3].

The NPD report found that convenience is a complex attribute assigned to food choices, as consumers vary in how they define and value it.

“Convenience has been a buzz word in the food-and-beverage industry for a long time, but we found through out research that it’s really not a one-size-fits-all concept,” said Ann Hanson, director of product development in NPD’s food and beverage division. “Americans differ in how they define and value convenience. It’s important that food-and-beverage marketers differentiate the various meanings of convenience among their consumers and message accordingly — or they’ll miss the target.”

Generally, those who seek out convenience are young, male, singles who have never been married, single-member households, working parents, parents with young children or lower-income households, according to NPD.

“Convenience consumers,” as NPD describes them, tend to feel their lives are hectic and rushed, and that spending more than 30 minutes preparing dinner is inconvenient. While those consumers also view convenient foods as more expensive, less healthful, and not as tasty, they still see convenience as something worth paying for, the NPD report said.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected] [4].