Interest in food and drink subscriptions has grown massively since the pandemic and Brits are now more up for trying new things in the kitchen, our latest survey shows.
When we last polled UK consumers about food and drink subscription services in June 2019, more than half of people said they had no interest in them (54%), but as of August 2021, that figure has halved to 25% (check out the data from 1,000 working age consumers).
Only a quarter of Brits have no interest in food and drink subscriptions.
Now, more than half of Brits (55%) say they’re potentially interested in food or drink subscription services (up from 33%), while the number of people who say they’re currently subscribed to one (or have been until recently) has risen from 13% to 20%.
It’s worth noting that Millennials (aged 26-40) show the strongest interest in food and drink subscriptions (62%), while Gen Z (aged 18-25) are most likely to already have one (27%).
Because we’re cooking more, we’re becoming more confident in the kitchen and more adventurous. Today, people say the main benefit of food and drink subscription services is that they let them try new products and recipes, whereas before the biggest reason for subscribing was for help eating healthily.
30% of Brits think food or drink subscriptions are great for trying new things, up from 16% in 2019. We also see a small increase in people who think convenience is the main benefit; 22% say subscriptions save time because you don’t have to go to the supermarket (up from 20%).
The opportunity to try something new is seen as the main benefit of food and drink subscription boxes.
But on the other hand, consumers are less motivated by the ease of not having to decide what to cook and eat (11% say this is the main benefit, down from 16%). Surprisingly, we also see a big decline in people valuing subscriptions because they give them confidence about food provenance (think organic farm veg boxes and the like). Only 3% say this is the main benefit, down from 12%.
Remaining consistent are the numbers of Brits who value food and drink subscriptions primarily because they help them to eat healthily (21%) and because they provide a nice treat or surprise (14%).
There are a few notable differences in drivers between the demographics. Gen Z over-index for choosing subscriptions because they help them to eat healthy, while Millennials over-index for valuing them because it means they don’t have to decide what to cook. Meanwhile, Gen X (aged 41-55) stand out for liking subscriptions because they provide monthly treats and save them time in the supermarket. And Boomers (aged 56-65) over-index for saying the main benefits of food and drink subscriptions are that they let them try new things and provide confidence over the origin of the products.
Meal kits are on the menu
Consistent with this explosion in people interested in cooking, we find that the most popular type of food and drink subscription is meal kits. 58% of Brits are interested in receiving (or are already receiving) boxes with ingredients for meals. They’re a huge hit with Millennials, with a massive 69% expressing interest.
Behind meal kits, 43% are interested in fresh produce subscriptions, like fruit & veg or meat boxes, which provide the raw ingredients for consumers’ own recipes. A further 38% are interested in prepared meals, showing that convenience does still remain a factor, especially for Gen Z (41% of whom are interested in this type of subscription).
43% of Gen Z are interested in snack boxes – more than any other demographic.
Just under a third of Brits are interested in a snack or treat subscription, which is perhaps not surprising given our love of snacking; we previously found that 41% of Brits eat unhealthy snacks most days/every day, with Gen Z being the biggest snackers. Indeed, this generation significantly over-indexes for interest in snack boxes (43%).
It’s interesting that drinks subscriptions are significantly less popular than food subscriptions; only 15% of UK consumers are interested in receiving alcohol via subscription and 8% in non-alcoholic beverages. What we do see is that older people are more likely to be interested in alcohol subscriptions; 18% of both Gen X and Boomers versus 9% of Gen Z.
Up to £30 per month is the subscription sweet spot
Interest in F&B subscriptions may be high but how much are people willing to spend? According to our data, pricing your subscription at between £10 to £30 per month will be on the money for the mass market (26% are willing to pay £10 to £20, and 25% will pay £21-30).
With that said, a sizable 26% would be willing to pay in excess of £30 each month, although only 4% would spend over £90. Meanwhile, only 7% expect to pay less than £10. The demographic that has the most people willing to pay more than £30 per month is Gen X (48%), followed by Millennials (45%), Gen X (39%) and, finally, Boomers (36%).
If a friend says a subscription is good, you want it too
Now we know how much UK consumers have to spend on food and drink subscriptions, what’s the best way to get them to buy yours? Unfortunately (or fortunately) depending on how you look at it, word-of-mouth is the most effective marketing in this sector.
Brits rated a recommendation from a friend or family member as the number one factor to influence them to consider a food or drink subscription. Clearly, recommendations are not entirely within your control, but you can encourage them. Primarily, this will be through having a great product offering but, secondly, by incentivising referrals. Tracking your Net Promoter Score will let you see how well you’re doing when it comes to customer satisfaction.
Brits ranked recommendations as the No.1 factor likely to influence their purchasing decisions.
The good news is, advertising is effective too. In fact, it’s the second most influential factor. It even comes before seeing a subscription trending on social media (with that said, the younger demographics are more influenced by social media than adverts).
The fourth most influential factor is seeing a food or drink subscription featured in the news, while last is an influencer or blogger talking about it. It’s encouraging for subscription startups that UK consumers pay so much attention to advertising, which is arguably the most straightforward type of marketing to obtain.
HelloFresh tops the subscription charts
The UK F&B subscription sector has matured significantly over the last two years and we now see deep penetration by two particular brands. HelloFresh is the leader in terms of unprompted brand awareness – they were named by nearly a third of respondents when we asked if they could think of any food or drink subscription brands.
Fellow meal kit provider Gousto also enjoys impressive share-of-mind, named by 20.5% of people. Meanwhile, snack box Graze – which has been in the market the longest of the three brands – comes third, but with significantly fewer mentions at 7%.
Some people just prefer spontaneity over subscriptions
Before we go, let’s look at why Brits aren’t interested in food and drink subscriptions. We asked the 25% of respondents who stated they had no interest in F&B subscriptions about the main reason why.
Primarily, it comes down to having the freedom to choose what you want, when you want it (37% said this). Another 29% say subscription boxes are too expensive or they just can’t afford it. But there are some other abstainers who could potentially be persuaded with the right product positioning. For example, the 14.5% who don’t see the benefits – how can you better communicate these?
Flexible terms could convince some consumers not currently interested in food and drink subscriptions.
Then there are the 8% who don’t want to receive products too frequently and the 7% that worry about receiving products they don’t like – brands can remove these barriers by making subscriptions more flexible. Finally, a small 4% don’t want a subscription because they find it inconvenient to receive the delivery, so giving customers some control over delivery date and time is a great idea if you can.
Regardless of whether you can win over those consumers not currently interested in a food or drink subscription, the opportunity in this sector is undeniably huge. If you want to dig further into the types of food and drink offerings UK consumers would be interested in, why not get started with a free 5 question survey?
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Bel has a background in newspaper and magazine journalism but loves to geek-out with Attest consumer data to write in-depth reports. Inherently nosy, she's endlessly excited to pose questions to Attest's audience of 100m global consumers. She also likes cake.