Evolve Meals

Meals are a huge part of people’s lives. And with meals, naturally come drinks, so every meal is an opportunity for the beverage category!

Different types of meals call for different beverage choices. Today, alcohol is consumed in just 5% of all meals. And yet, meals is still the largest, and most important occasion for the beer category. If we can increase alcohol showing up in 5% of meals to just 6%, it would be $2.8B in incremental sales across total alcohol, and $1.2B for beer. To encourage more people to broaden their drink choices at mealtime, we need to understand that there are various types of meals, ranging from everyday meals to social or celebratory meals.

There Are 3 Primary Meal Occasions

meal occasions

everyday meal

When we talk about everyday meals, we are referring to your standard, weeknight meal, at which you are either alone or with your immediate family.

In general, people prefer to cook these meals, which is why 75% of everyday meals happen in the home.1 The motivation is clear: people see cooking at home as a way to save money. Some also see it as a healthier option.2

People prefer to cook their everyday meals from home

This need has fueled growth in convenient, quick meals such as meal kits, prepared foods and foodservice.  Meal kits are a booming business because they allow families to cook new food without having to do any of the hard work. That’s why they have become an $800M industry, growing almost 19%.3

The same thing is true about prepared food.  Pre-COVID-19, it was an $11 Billion business for Grocery, growing at nearly 4%.  It is clear there is a need, as 90% of shoppers have purchased prepared food in the past year, with more than a third of shoppers getting something from this segment every single week.4

1 Kantar Demand Landscape, 2020
2 https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/america-keeps-on-cooking-301208005.html?tc=eml_cleartime
3 https://nypost.com/2018/05/14/parents-are-so-busy-they-eat-156-meals-a-year-standing-up/
4 Mintel Food Service in Retail – Dec 2020

So What Is It That People Are Looking For In A Beverage For Their Everyday Meal?

Like any other meal, people want a drink that is refreshing and compliments the food. However, a unique need for these weeknight meals is that people want something that won’t affect them the next day when they get up and go to work. Beer, especially balanced choices such as lagers and light lagers, deliver exactly what people are looking for in these moments: Sessionable, goes with any food and has a low ABV.

This is exactly why beer makes up more than half of what people are drinking in this everyday meal occasion. Spirits also play an important role in the everyday meal, often as a mixed drink such as a vodka soda, or a small pour of a favorite spirit.

social meal

Social meals are typically in a group, somewhere between two and six people, and the primary purpose is to catch up and socialize. In fact, the desire to connect with others is just as important as eating and preparing food in these moments.

Social meals are a big territory for alcohol: they account for one-third of all meals and 13% of total alcohol consumption. They are a big opportunity in Grocery as well, because 66% of these meals happen at home.  This moment is all about sharing a meal with people you care about, and what the host or hostess wants is to create the right environment for catching up.

These meals are very casual, along the lines of pizza night or a backyard BBQ. These occasions often revolve around well-known foods that everyone loves. 

For drinks, it’s really a similar story. Consumers say they want something that allow them to have fun, socialize, and that may even be a part of bonding and connecting with their friends.  This means the host needs to make sure they have a range of drinks available that everyone will enjoy. This can be a daunting thought for people that aren’t an expert in the category.

As one of the most approachable drinks out there, beer really dominates this occasion—it’s 61% of what people drink.  So, the host is going to want to make sure they have the kind of beer people like.  But that’s complicated, because there are a lot of beers out there.

celebratory meal

Like a social meal, a celebratory meal is typically in a group and has an important social or bonding component.  But what makes these meals different is that they are special, as the group is celebrating something.

Certainly, these celebrations include those big holiday moments like Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter.  They also include big milestones like birthdays, engagements and promotions.  But they also include everyday events—a friend moving back to town, finishing a big project at work or celebrating a pet’s birthday.

While these celebrations tend to skew more On-Premise, it’s important to note that 46% of these celebrations are happening in someone’s home.  This means there are a lot of hosts and hostesses trying to cook something special, and it’s a big opportunity for the Grocery channel.

Only one in four people say they have a standout dish.  However, people are willing to put in the time and effort to learn something new for a celebratory meal.

So where do they get their inspiration?

40% of people turn to social media for recipe ideas.  Food is actually one of the most popular topics on social media, with 32% of tweets being about food or drinks.  Top food influencers from all around the globe continue to stimulate the appetite of billions of consumers.

While the food is extremely important at a celebratory meal, it’s not just the food that needs to be special—the drinks do, too.  Alcohol plays just as important a role in the planning as the meal. Consumers are looking to build on the excitement of the evening and have fun, and with a renewed appreciation of being social, you need to make these choices easier for the host.

62% of people want to serve drinks that make the meal feel special.

Hosting these special meals comes with another unique challenge: Figuring out the perfect pairing to compliment and elevate the food.  To understand how people think about this, Anheuser-Busch surveyed 2,400 people to see how they pair food and drinks, why they make the choices they do, and how comfortable they are with their pairings.  Here’s what Anheuser-Busch found out:

meal occasions

Consumers have natural broad associations with specific meals and beverages, but we need to make consumers more comfortable with their pairings—across all alcohol types, but especially beer.

Keys to Unlocking Growth

In order to unlock growth in hosted meals, both the more casual social meal AND the more special celebratory meal, it’s important that we find ways to make it easier for people to identify beer that will meet the moment.  People need help finding a specific taste profile to delight a guest and finding the perfect pairing to go with the food.  With that comes the need for more education about the styles of beer and the flavor profiles, even taking the guesswork out all together by suggesting the perfect pairings.

Displays, trade assets, sampling and recipe programs both in-store and online can be used to educate consumers and make it easy for shoppers to understand which beer to pair with a meal. Display beer near the prepared food and meal kits to engage more shoppers, drive purchase and increase basket size.

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Anheuser-Busch knows it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Contact your local Anheuser-Busch Category Management representative today to learn more about igniting category growth through the Evolve Meals growth driver.