The DinnerTime meal planner takes into account product promotions at Peapod, as well as a shopper's personal tastes, time constraints, tastes, budget and dietary restrictions, and creates a parallel shopping list, which is then either programmed for home delivery or pick-up.
Shoppers can choose from more than 10 millions of meal combinations, with the service suggesting meals based on individual preferences. Prices start at about $3 per serving using on-sale ingredients.
The DinnerTime concept turns online food shopping trends on their head, focusing on fresh ingredients rather than pre-packaged foods and consumer goods. In the U.S., non-food items account for about 60% of groceries bought online – the exact opposite of in-store shopping, where 60% of groceries are food products, according to a recent Nielsen report. Fresh foods such as meat, fish and vegetables also tend to sell less than packaged foods online, although the report noted that specialized meal delivery services are managing to overcome this hurdle.
One of the major challenges for online grocers is convincing shoppers to try new products. Physical grocery stores can offer samples, or rely on the smell of freshly baked bread and the vibrant color of ripe fruits. Online grocers need different strategies. They could look for ways to put fresh ingredients like salmon and asparagus together into a meal. DinnerTime is doing just that with meals such as herbed pork chops with cinnamon apples and fresh green beans.
Meal planner services could be a feasible successor to the meal kit trend. Meal kits average about $10 per person, and they still take time to prepare. Meal planners linked to delivery still allow consumers to choose fresh, convenient foods, but also keep costs around the same as a typical home-cooked meal, at about $4 per serving.
For Peapod, the gamble is whether its link with DinnerTime will bring new customers, or just simplify the shopping lists of current shoppers. The focus on fresh ingredients may even do both – and tip the proportion of online grocery shopping further toward food.