As Christmas approaches, a new report commissioned by Royal Mail reveals that food and drink are the most popular subscription boxes*, as the growing popularity of curated recipe subscriptions is sparking a renaissance in home cooking across the UK.
Barely registering on the radar five years’ ago, the food and drink subscription market was worth an estimated £129.2 million in the UK in 2017. Whilst the most popular type of food is the snacks and sweets category, with seven per cent of the UK population signed up to these services, this is closely followed by recipe box subscriptions with 6.5 per cent of the UK population signed up to these boxes. These offer a week’s supply of curated ingredients and instructions on how to make a range of dishes. The recipe box and meal kit market is a strong example of the rise in popularity of subscription box schemes.
Just under three-quarters (74 per cent) of those consumers signed up to subscription schemes buy into a type of food and drinks service. A quarter (25 per cent) of shoppers are considering or likely to consider signing up to a food and drink service in the future, with the ability to cancel when desired proving to be a key driver of consideration.
Consumers stay signed up to food and drink subscription services for on average seven months at a time, higher than the overall average of six months for all subscription boxes.
Niche tastes and specialised dietary requirements represent a strong growth opportunity
There is a growing opportunity for smaller companies which offer more niche food and drink assortments to carve out a slice of the market. In particular, there are plenty of opportunities to cater for specialised diets with shoppers often appreciating a helping hand when it comes to deciding what to eat. More unusual products that are not easily available in shops, such as Japanese candy, French gourmet specialities and spice blends, also offer an opportunity to service consumer tastes not currently being met by mainstream retailers. Many of these categories are particularly well suited to small companies, given that demand is unlikely to be sufficiently widespread to attract the attention of larger competitors.
Alessandro Savelli, Founder of Pasta Evangelists said: "We are entering a renaissance in food and drink. More and more, consumers are looking for high quality products whose provenance is clear. At the same time, though, consumers have less time than ever before to seek out high quality products. And as our lives have changed, so has the British high street: quality, local butchers have gone out of business and we plan our lives around "the weekly shop", conducted in sprawling supermarkets, which seem a more efficient way of conducting our eating lives. Although this need for convenience means that quality can sometimes take second place”.
“Food and drink subscription boxes restore equilibrium, giving consumers across the country the option to consistently eat and drink better products without inconveniencing them. After the rise of the ready meal, food subscription boxes have also allowed a nation that had fallen out of love with cooking to begin interacting with food more intimately again, experimenting with new and exotic ingredients and preparing meals from scratch... or, in our case, with a little bit of help from top Italian chefs."
A spokesperson from Royal Mail said “Food and drink boxes are very popular in the subscription box economy. In particular, boxes which cater to particular dietary requirements or simply help customers plan healthier meals offer further growth opportunities. Leading players in the market are also extending their offers to include fine dining with gourmet ingredients and other meals, such as breakfast.
“With the UK’s biggest by far "Feet on the Street" network covering 90.000 postmen and women, Royal Mail is playing a key role in keeping carbon emissions low. The vast majority of subscription items are letterboxable and so are ideally suited for on-foot delivery by Royal Mail and do not require a van delivery.”
This is the fifth instalment of Royal Mail’s subscription box series, with a full report set to launch in the coming months.