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STUDY: Consumers Eat More Meals at Home

In-home dinners will remain elevated above the pre-pandemic level through 2024, according to NPD’s Future of Dinner report.
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Inflation and other rising costs have consumers looking to cut expenses, and eating more dinners at home is one way they do it. Out-of-necessity dinners at home peaked during the pandemic but have since normalized but are still above the pre-pandemic level, according to The NPD Group. NPD’s Future of Dinner report forecasts that in-home dinners will remain at a heightened level through 2024.

Although in-home dinners will remain elevated, consumers have resumed their busy lifestyles and will look for convenience when preparing dinner, according to the NPD report. Little or no prep and fast dinner fixes, like frozen meals and ready-to-eat snacks, especially during the work week, will grow through 2024. Consumers will also increasingly turn to retail on-the-go meals to help with meal prep, like ready-to-eat chicken from the grocery store. Retail ready-to-eat foods are forecast to grow by double-digits through 2024. Restaurant meals eaten at home are also forecast to grow. The pandemic escalated the pairing of foodservice and retail prepared foods with in-home prepared dishes to create blended meals. This behavior will continue through the near future, reports NPD, which tracks all aspects of U.S. consumers’ eating behaviors daily.

Foods that require more effort and time will face headwinds through 2024. For example, seafood, hot and cold sandwiches, and homemade baked goods face headwinds as consumers reset their dinner rituals, finds NPD. Also facing headwinds are foods some may consider convenient, like pasta, an essential go-to during the pandemic.  

Here to Stay

“More dinner meals at home are here to stay. The shifting population life stages and economic situation will create greater reliance on dinner at home,” says Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst. “Consumers across all ages will look for breaks from routine, like making the same dishes out of habit. Food manufacturers and retailers can help consumers with dinner prep fatigue with convenient new foods and dishes that fit various cooking skill sets and needs. Value will also be top-of-mind with consumers during this time of high inflation. ”

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