Supermarkets! Don’t Let Fast Food Delivery Make Us Fatter!

July 15, 2015

The delivery game is on, but supermarkets still may have the advantage when it comes to health minded shoppers.

Delivery may be one of the food industry’s more aggressive efforts as of late, now with big fast food chains getting in the game. Last week, Taco Bell launched their delivery service in a few cities, and Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds, Chipotle and Starbucks are currently testing delivery models. And with Amazon, Walmart, Instacart and Uber all competing for grocery delivery, it seems like everyone wants the opportunity to bring food to your door. But what will be the health implications of food delivery for a nation already looking at troublesome obesity rates with more than one-third of adults and 17.5 of children and adolescents overweight, according to the CDC?

Let’s face it. People are busier than ever and relying more heavily on the latest technology to make life more convenient. According to the latest BLS statistics, more than 60 percent of households include two working parents. Imagine how quickly the option for home-cooked meals regardless of health concerns can become overwhelming when both parents are employed. Food delivery to the rescue? 

Proponents of the menu labeling rules within the Affordable Health Care Act, which include online menus, believe that the provision could lead to restaurants producing healthier choices and also arm consumers with the knowledge of how many calories are in that pizza before they order, which in some cases could lead to making healthier choices. However, whether it makes a difference or not in the case of the producer or the consumer, compliance has now been delayed a year. A lot can happen in a year - those requirements could change as opponents are hoping, and according to the 2014 SupermarketGuru-NGA Consumer Survey, 61% don’t feel like they will eat differently as a result of the health reforms. 

Now consider this. In April 2012, Ryan McDevitt at the University of Rochester's Simon Graduate School of Business authored a study called “The Internet Lowers Inhibitions: Implications for the Long Tail," Over a four year period, he examined how consumers ordered pizza and found that their orders had six percent more calories than those who didn’t order online. Perhaps the lack of face-to-face communication or even speaking to a real human on the phone for that matter, gave consumers more personal freedom to indulge a little more without feeling judged. 

Here’s the other side of the story. Findings from the 2014 SupermarketGuru-NGA Consumer Survey show that 42 percent have been cooking more in the past two years, and 89 percent eat home-cooked meals at home three or more times a week. In addition, the survey found that 79 percent eat takeout or delivered foods three times monthly at most, and nearly two-thirds of consumers (63.8%) indicate they keep arms-length from fast food establishments: 24.4% say they “never” go there, and 39.4% “eat there less than once a month.”

To sum it up, we have fast food giants getting in the delivery game, we have busier than ever families, we have possible menu labeling requirements that could affect choices both producers and consumers make, we have possible increased caloric preferences when ordering online, but we also have a significant amount of people putting more time into cooking and eating at home and staying away from fast food.

First and foremost, the supermarket does not want to see their shoppers fall prey to the convenience, economics, and health implications of fast food delivery.  

The Lempert Report encourages supermarkets to tap into where their shoppers teeter on the ability and interest to shop in their stores versus a quick click for Taco Bell. Are they motivated to cook, eat healthier, and stay home, but is time their biggest obstacle? Approach these potential “delivery” shoppers proactively with more “boxed ingredient” recipes. Offer a tool on your delivery page or in a store app that basically asks, “What would you like to eat this week? Click on this recipe, and your shopping list is automatically added. You’ll save money and reduce waste.” And add this…”Here’s what you can do with the leftovers…” Blue Apron is a great example of delivery service for home-cookers. 

Or a supermarket could find it equally important to reach out to those shoppers that are less interested in delivery and would respond to more social spaces within the store. Cooking demos, tastings, dietitian talks…events that keep them focused on the personal benefits of preparing your own food, which in turn mean staying connected to your favorite supermarket, therefore no need to be seduced by the convenience of fast food. 

And speaking of dietitians, how about for online ordering, offer a live chat option for shoppers? Dietitians are not only knowledge bases for shoppers, but they are also real personalities representing the store. And loyalty can be built with a more human experience. 

Supermarkets are now more than ever charged with the challenge of retaining shoppers’ interest in fresh food. The good news is that the interest is there, and supermarkets are more equipped than any other food channel to serve their shoppers with a variety of options, healthy or indulgent, even if that means finding more innovative ways to bring it to their doorstep.