Defining the convenience consumer

Convenience is still probably the most important attribute in a new food product for time-impaired consumers. As straightforward as the concept of convenience may seem, it is more complicated to define when it comes to Americans making food choices, according to a recent study by The NPD Group, which finds that 72 million adult consumers-nearly one in three adults-are "Convenience Consumers," but their needs are varied depending on their life stage and other characteristics.

According to The Many Facets of Convenience, convenience consumers, who attitudinally place a premium on convenience, tend to fall into one or more of the following groups: younger adults, males, singles who have never been married, single-member households, working parents, parents with a young child (age 5 or younger), or lower-income households.

Convenience Consumers feel their lives are hectic and rushed and that a dinner taking more than 30 minutes to make is inconvenient. While they believe convenient foods are more expensive, less healthy, and don't taste as good, they also indicate "convenience is worth paying for."

Examining how consumers define, value, and fill their need for convenient foods throughout the day, NPD also found that while convenience consumers differ attitudinally from other consumers in many ways, they are similar in some regards: two-thirds of them, on par with other consumers, say they enjoy cooking; and, like other adults, the majority of convenience consumers plan meals ahead of time.

"Convenience has been a buzz word in the food and beverage industry for a long time, but we found through our research that it's really not a one-size-fits-all concept," says Ann Hanson, director of product development in NPD's food and beverage unit. "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."