The concept of consumers paying more to save time on food can be related to the growing demand for convenience in today’s fast-paced world, but it also speaks to the consumer-awareness specifically related to product quality and sustainability factors. Many people lead busy lives and are willing to spend extra money to save time on tasks such as meal preparation and cooking. It is a common phenomenon that consumers become more and more “carbon-educated” and are driving the fight against the effects of climate change. It is also true that recent research has proved that consumers are willing to pay more for products if the product contains a sustainability label / recognition.

When it comes to healthy eating, time can often be a significant factor. People may opt for convenient food options like pre-packaged meals, fast food, or takeout due to time constraints. These choices may not always align with the goal of maintaining a healthy diet.

In South Africa Loadshedding also impacts decision making for South African consumers. Loadshedding often results in lengthy power cuts, leaving households without electricity for several hours. During these periods, cooking becomes a challenge as traditional appliances like stoves, ovens, and microwaves are rendered useless. This has created a demand for alternative cooking solutions that require minimal or no electricity. In response, innovative kitchen appliances such as gas stoves, portable induction cooktops, and solar-powered cookers have gained popularity among consumers. These appliances allow individuals to prepare meals efficiently and without relying on the grid.

The food industry has recognised this demand for convenient and healthy options, leading to the emergence of various solutions. Some examples include:

  1. Meal delivery services: These services provide pre-prepared, portion-controlled meals that are often designed to meet specific dietary requirements. Consumers can choose from a variety of meal plans and have the convenience of ready-to-eat or easy-to-prepare meals delivered to their doorstep.
  2. Fresh ingredient delivery: Companies offer meal kits that include pre-measured ingredients and recipes, allowing consumers to cook their own meals without the hassle of grocery shopping. These kits often focus on providing nutritious and balanced options.
  3. Grab-and-go healthy options: Supermarkets, cafes, and restaurants are increasingly offering convenient, healthy food choices. These may include freshly prepared salads, sandwiches, or ready-to-eat meals made with wholesome ingredients.

While these options can save time and promote healthy eating, it’s important to note that consumers remain mindful of their nutritional needs along with the quality parameters of the products, and whether the product is deemed ethically and sustainable, especially if one focus on the global consumer who are the primary market of those who export products.  Reading labels, understanding portion sizes, and making informed choices are key to ensuring that convenience doesn’t compromise overall health. This is a key element to programmes such as SIZA, where consumers become more aware of sustainability-related factors that play into the product price. The cost of businesses having to undergo audits and verification to provide the labelling of sustainability adds to the cost of the product, however the consumer trend re-affirms the need to view a product’s ethical and sustainability factors, and then the cost of the product is justified.

It’s worth noting that the affordability of these convenience options can vary, and some healthier alternatives may indeed come with a higher price tag due to factors such as quality ingredients, preparation, convenience, and sustainability elements. However, with the increasing demand and competition in the market, more affordable options are becoming available to consumers.

Ultimately, the decision to pay more for convenience in saving time on food while maintaining a healthy diet is a personal one, yet all the popular amongst consumers. It involves considering individual priorities, sustainability labelling, lifestyle, budget, and health goals. The impact of audits and programmes such as SIZA can therefore not be underestimated when taking consumer needs into consideration.