The rise of the Dinner Tonight shopping trip


dinner, fork, knife, cutlery, food, mealSupermarket shopping trips are becoming more frequent, with smaller baskets. Dinner tonight is currently 20 per cent of all supermarket shopping trips, and increasing, and is often part of the most common trip type, top up shops (36 per cent).

Let’s have a look at how dinner tonight shopping trips work, and what some of the opportunities are.

Who buys dinner tonight? Neraly everybody, but what they need differs.

Dinner tonight trips as a percentage of total trips actually skew slightly to young family and older family lifestages, because single/double income no kids (sink/dinks) eat out more often. Empty nesters are more likely to buy dinner as part of a stock up or top up shop (particularly frozens, as noted in my Inside Shopper article on Getting frozens out of Siberia, because empty nesters are ‘over’ cooking in general after 20 years of it).

As a portion of shopping trips within their lifestage, sink and dinks overindex on dinner tonight and top up trips.

What this means, is that there is opportunity to provide dinner tonight solutions of different serving sizes to cover the different lifestages and household sizes (two, four, six people).

How they shop for dinner tonight

How shoppers shop for dinner tonight is very different to stock up trips, where shoppers seek inspiration for a variety of meal options for the week via recipes, tasting demonstrations, and other mechanisms. Dinner Tonight trips overindex on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and interestingly, Saturdays. Fridays tend to be takeaway/pizza night or ‘fish Fridays’.

Shoppers on dinner tonight trips are in problem solving mode, and don’t want to be instore very long. Nearly half of dinner tonight shoppers are instore for 10 to 20 minutes, and a further 15 per cent are instore less than 10 minutes. More than half have a mental list of some sort (which may only mean meat plus veg) and a further 14 per cent have no list at all, whether mental or written.

Supermarket, meat, butcherSo unlike stock up trips where recipes provide inspiration, dinner tonight trips are about all in one solutions.

These need to be presented either all in the one packet (such as frozen, shelf stable, or chilled meals in a box), or various elements presented together in the same location. Woolworths has made a start on this with dinner meal bundles in its new small format supermarkets, such as Woolloomooloo, Erskineville, and Southern Cross.

The majority of dinner tonight shoppers still start in the fresh section looking for proteins, as the type of protein (meat) selected determines the rest of the meal. They are less likely to be shopping the centre aisles unless they have decided on a meal and are putting the components together (such as sauces and seasonings).

This means that bundles and solutions need to be displayed in, or as close to, the fresh and meat sections as possible. This is an opportunity for some shelf stable meals to be off located in fresh, where the fresh acts as a side dish.

Because shoppers of dinner tonight tend to look at what’s on the meat packs more than POS, recipe ideas should be communicated clearly on or close to meat packs.

Supermarket, meat, mealsOpportunities

  • Dinner meal bundles that include recipe components located together.
    Fresh pasta + sauce + garlic bread deals are a start at this, but this could be extended to include fresh plus protein bundles, whether they are shelf stable or from the fresh section.
  •  Dinner meal bundles including dessert.
    Time was, it wasn’t dinner unless it included dessert. Given the macro trend of everyday indulgence, there’s no reason dessert can’t be reinstated as a formal part of dinner, whether it’s ice cream or something more sophisticated.
    Shoppers tend to start the week healthier and get progressively less healthy as the week wears on, so desserts will probably work better from Thursday to Saturday than Monday to Wednesday, but it’s worth giving it a shot through the whole week and see when moves most.
  • Present a bundle as representing value, but not necessarily cheap or low price.
    It’s not just about feeding the family for $10, although this is a good start to get it on the radar. It could be extended to include dessert for under $20.
    Better to communicate quality and taste or flavour, and with meal types that are slightly special or that shoppers may not normally consider or make themselves (e.g duck rather than spaghetti bolognaise).
    Only half of dinner tonight shoppers are likely to be influenced by price promotions, because they need their problem solved and they are in a hurry
  • Frozens under index in dinner tonight trips, either because they are already in the freezer at home or because they’re located at the other end of the store.
    Opportunities are to locate or at least communicate frozen meal solutions in the fresh area, as many dinner plates are a combination of fresh, shelf stable and frozen components.

Norrelle Goldring is head of shopper insight and retail strategy at global research and retail datahouse, GfK. Norrelle can be contacted on 0437 335 686 or email



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