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TF #006: Widen your Table: Engaging untapped audiences for the heat-and-eat industry

By July 31, 2023The Foodpreneur Newsletter3 min read

The Foodpreneur #006

The heat-and-eat meal subscription industry is on the rise – but it’s far from being over-saturated. While countless brands are tapping into core markets, there are still plenty of audiences hungry for the health, convenience, and overall value that comes with a heat-and-eat subscription delivery service.


Your job, then? Get ahead of the competition and engage these high-potential audiences – audiences with their own unique personas and compelling reasons to subscribe to your meal delivery service. Recognizing and reaching these potential subscribers could significantly expand your reach and scalability fast.

#1. Rural Communities

Meal subscriptions often focus on urban and suburban markets, leaving out potential consumers in rural areas. These communities often have limited access to diverse food choices and could benefit from the ease, convenience and breadth of meal delivery service options. However, this does require addressing logistical hurdles, such as ensuring food freshness during longer delivery times.

Leveraging local ingredients and regional cuisines could make rural customers feel more connected and represented – and eliminate some of the challenges of getting food to subscribers quickly. Partnering with local delivery services or post offices can also help solve logistical problems while supporting the local economy – another selling point as you’re reaching out to these communities. 

#2. Athletes and Fitness Enthusiasts

Fitness enthusiasts and athletes, professional or amateur, need meals that are high in protein and carefully balanced to meet their specific dietary requirements. Although some services cater to a “healthy lifestyle,” there is a significant difference between general health-conscious meals and those designed for serious fitness regimes.

Engaging fitness enthusiasts requires nutritional transparency — clearly displaying macros, calories, and ingredients. Collaborating with fitness trainers, nutritionists, or even sports teams can enhance credibility. Tailored meal plans for different athletic activities – endurance sports, strength training, and other key audiences – could also attract this demographic.

#3. People with Dietary Restrictions

While many meal subscription services cater to popular diets like keto, gluten-free, or vegan, there are plenty of other dietary restrictions and food sensitivities that are often overlooked. Consumers with uncommon allergies, autoimmune diseases requiring specific diets, or those following religious dietary laws represent untapped markets. 

#4. Senior Citizens

The senior population, often overlooked by meal subscription services, represents a substantial market with unique needs and preferences. Nearly half of seniors struggle with portion size – one in three eating too much and 10% eating too little. At the same time, nutritionally dense food is especially important as people age given the impact of diet on day-to-day and long-term well-being.

To appeal to this growing audience, promote the nutritional benefits of your meals – specifically those options low in sodium, high in fiber, and portion-controlled. Based on your existing business model, you may also want to consider emphasizing heart-friendly or diabetic-friendly meals or plans, making it easy to maintain a healthy diet now and in the future. 

Granted, engaging this market requires a highly-targeted approach – many seniors might not be as tech-savvy as your younger subscriber demographics. Simplified, user-friendly digital interfaces and alternative ordering methods, like phone orders, can facilitate access for this demographic. Collaborating with senior communities, healthcare providers, and even insurance companies can help build trust and recognition within this market.

To engage these consumers, it’s important to be meticulous about meal preparation, avoiding cross-contamination, and maintaining a transparent ingredient list – and ensuring your target audiences know about this strict adherence to these standards. Partnerships with allergists, dietitians, and religious institutions can be beneficial in reaching and catering to these markets effectively.

The Takeaway

Your next step? Exploring the untapped markets that best align with your existing business model and assessing the immediate and ongoing potential – then zeroing in on what would compel these audiences to buy. Don’t be afraid to engage multiple new markets in the beginning, and see who responds – and what you can learn from audiences who don’t. From there, you’ll be better positioned to map out new growth strategies without the heavy competition.


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