The Complete Food Survey ’19 | Over 1,100 Responses! Thank You


5 Takeaways from the Complete Food Survey

For those of you who are short on time or attention span, here are the 5 most important facts to take away from it:

  1. The demographic of Complete Food users is still majority male (77%), work in an IT related job and is between 24-35 (51%).
  2. People are sticking to Complete Foods. We have more experienced users than previous years (over 50% have been consuming for more than 2 year); but the consumption per user is lower.
  3. Furthermore, 70% of users are satisfied or very satisfied with the Complete Foods products that they consume. Plus, they find that Complete Foods are of great help to achieve their dietary goals. However, they would like to see more variety.
  4. Nutrition and price the most important factors when choosing a product, as well as the primary factors to try Complete Foods for the first time.
  5. However, boredom and the cost of products are of great concern for the consumers. In fact, 42% of the people have taken a break from Complete Food at some point.

The Full In-Depth Analysis of CFS’19

Complete Food Survey 2019 Analysis

Complete Food Survey Keeps Growing

It is very encouraging to see the participation in the Complete Food Survey increasing every year. In fact, in 2019, there have been 38% more responses than in 2018; a truly remarkable growth. A growth that has been possible due to a 70% increase of responses from North America. Unfortunately, SEA, SA and OCE combined are still below 3% of the total responses.

CFS responses per year
Complete Food Survey participation keeps growing per year. Included the participation of Europe (geographically except Russia) and North America (USA and Canada), as two major regions of CF consumption.

The objective for the following years must be to keep growing in all regions, either by improving the ways to reach people, involving more brands of the survey and/or organically.

51 Responses From People that Have Never Tried Complete Food

For the first time, there was a section allocated for people who have never consumed these kinds of products. 51 people (4.6%) stated that they have never eaten any Complete Food before. From those, almost half (49%) attributed this to never heard about them; plus, they would be open to try if they had more information, and they were available in supermarkets.

Reasons to not have tried complete food
Reasons not to have tried Complete Food before (n=51). Respondents could tick more than one answer.

Let’s Talk About Complete Food Consumption

Since When Have We Been Consuming?

We are here to stay. At least, the enthusiasts that have filled up the survey; since almost half of the participants have been consuming Complete Food for over two years now. It is a positive sign to see that we believe on the products, and we stick to them.

Time Using Complete Foods
In blue answers from 2017, in green 2018, and in yellow 2019.

In fact, they are not doing us any harm and over 70% are satisfied or very satisfied with how Complete Foods help them achieve their dietary goals (shown below). Only 3.5% of the respondents state any kin of dissatisfaction in this regard.

Complete Foods helping dietary goals.
Different goals that consumers have in mind when eating Complete Food. 5.2% are looking to gain weight (yellow), 7.9% are using them to help with help constraints (allergies, dietary restrictions… in purple), 9% have other goals in mind (white).

Our First Time

Complete Foods are still a niche market, one that many people are not aware of. As such, in 2017 and 2018, most customers reported that they first heard of these products reading about them on the news (double any other factor). While in 2019, news are still the primary source for a first contact, it is only a third (compared to over half in 2017).

On the contrary, it seems that more people are starting to become aware of Complete Foods via social media posts, which might reflect some normalization and acceptance on consuming them.

First hear about Complete Foods Sources
Where do we first hear about Complete Foods?

Why Do We Decide to Try Complete Foods?

Nutritional benefits and convenience are the two most important factors that push us to try Complete Food products. It is clear that we are conscious of our diets and that we like the nutritional advantages these types of products offer over our standard options.

Relevance of different factors when deciding to try Complete Foods for the first time (2017-2019)
Relevance of different factors when deciding to try Complete Foods for the first time (2017-2019). Environmental impact and convenience where added in the 2019 survey as an option.

Choosing a Product

Once we have decided we are going to try Complete Foods, we need to decide which product we will buy. This is a complex process where many factors can influence our choice. Nonetheless, nutritional balance and the price of the product are still the two most important factors when we make the choice, closely followed by the ingredients in the shake and the form factor.

Other factors that the respondents often raised were user reviews. While friend recommendations were low on the list, people trusted other users’ comments when making a decision.

Relevance of different factors when deciding which Complete Food product
Relevance of different factors when deciding which Complete Food product we will buy (1-not important to 5-very important). Data shown as number of responses for each ranking.

While the 2017 and 2018 survey responses are very similar (huge overlap), in 2019 customers seem to care more about nutritional balance and price than previously. Similarly, the form factor and which ingredients are included have raised in importance.

Besides that, it is worth noting that friend recommendations and the identity of the brands keep being the lowest rated. The second is rather curious, and it might be a reflection of low brand loyalty.

Change of the relevance of various factors when buying a Complete Food meal.
Various factors and the average importance when buying a Complete Food product, per year (2017-2019). Users where to rate from 1 (not important) to 5 (very important) for each factor.

Features/Tags

Nutrition is a very personal issue, and thus each consumer has different preferences when looking at what product they are going to buy. It is worth noting that the data is skewed by the fact that some of the participating brands where keto specific (like Keto Chow). In fact, 102 of the 178 people that chose Keto as an important factor where from the US (57%).

Other regional preferences also showed up with GMOs, with over 85% of the GMO-Free responses being from European countries. Furthermore, there were multiple instances of USA customers asking for “Proudly GMO” tags or dismissing GMO-Free products.

Tags that people look at before purchasing
Factors that consumer care about before making a purchase (n=749).

Flavours

No surprises when it comes to flavours, with Vanilla and Chocolate absolutely dominating, followed by Berry flavoured meals. Interestingly, Unflavoured and Unsweetened was also a popular choice, with more than a fifth of the consumers using it.

Obviously, this is largely a reflection of the offering most companies have, with Vanilla and Chocolate being offered by more than 3/4th of the companies available. Sweet and fruit flavoured shakes are the most prominent, and there are few consumers that would like to see more savoury options.

‘Salty’ flavors, tomato, pumpkin, not just fruits & chocolate.

Respondent #857
Most Popular Complete Food Flavours
The favourite meal replacement flavours are Vanilla and Chocolate, each with over 60% of popularity (n=1,054).

When Do We Consume Complete Foods?

For the first time since the survey started recording consumption habits, lunch has been the most popular meal to replace with Complete Foods (72%). Thus, it replaces breakfast (66%), as the primary meal to be swapped with a shake or a meal replacement bar.

How Often?

Another interesting factor is that per user consumption of Complete Foods has lowered. There are more people consuming it casually (less than once a day), and fewer “hardcore” (more than 1.5 meals a day) users. It is a trend that should stay that way, if Complete Foods become more and more mainstream.

Complete Food consumption per week
Consumption of Complete Foods per user has lowered has lowered in retrospective to last two years.

Let’s Take a Break

However, while we are very happy with our Complete Food meals, up to 42% of us has taken a break longer than 2 months at some point. There are multiple reasons for that; money and the cost of products being the most prevalent ones (20%). Other issues that people mentioned were boredom and lack of variety when it comes to flavours and options (hence leading to boredom). In fact, many still prefer to eat “normal” food when possible because they find it tastier.

Purchasing Habits

Where Do We Buy Our Complete Food?

95% of the people purchases directly from the brand online, to not surprise. Only 22% of the people said that they buy via Amazon, which is the second most common place to purchase them.

On the other hand, only 10% of the respondents said that they bought their products in the supermarkets. Perhaps because retail presence of complete foods is really low, many consumers don’t have the chance to do buy in stores. In fact, over 70% state that they would buy from stores, if possible.

Stores and locations where consumers are likely to buy Complete Food
Stores and locations where consumers are likely to buy Complete Food (n=1,057).

Among other popular places where consumers would likely to buy Complete Foods, according to the survey, are the gyms and similar sport facilities.

Which Form Factor Do We Prefer?

Following the previous year’s trend, bulk packaging is still the best method to purchase Complete Foods according to users. However, it is interesting to observe the rise of ready-to-drink products, 10 points higher than previous year. Similarly, bars were really popular with a third of the consumers liking them.

Optimal packaging size
Optimal packaging size is still bulk powder for over 60% of Complete Food consumers. In 2018, bars were not given as an option.

Subscription and Buying from Multiple Brands

When asked about subscription, the responses were split 50/50. Just under half of the responses stated that they do not use this method when purchasing. A fifth claimed that they sometimes do, and just 31% use it regularly.

Another interesting behavioural aspect is that over 41% of the consumers buy from more than one brand. Curiosity (63%), different flavours (58%), diversity of product types, different nutritional profiles (41%), occasional deals (40%) and better standard prices (33%) were the most important factors when choosing to use multiple Complete Food brands.

How Satisfied Are We with the Current Offering in Our Region/Country?

Measuring satisfaction levels is not very easy, since each one of the respondents might judge it differently. However, it is clear that most of the issues are related to variety (brands, products, formats and flavours).

That said, the average satisfaction levels are fairly high (driven by EU and NA answers). Particularly, when it comes to the brands and products that we are using, we feel that we are getting a good deal (70% being very satisfied and only 3% not satisfied).

Satisfaction with Complete Food products worldwide
Satisfaction with Complete Food products worldwide on issues regarding the products, brands and the buying experience.

In the countries with very few responses that are now shown here, like China, Venezuela, or New Zealand, the satisfaction levels were very low. This is usually a representation of both low consumption/adaptation of CF and consequently, low availability of products.

In fact, low satisfaction levels strongly correlate with remote locations (hard to ship to), lack of local brands and development level (South East Asia, South America). Furthermore, governmental restrictions and import taxes are a huge deterrent for buyers often pumping up the prices; and thus, making the population of these countries unsatisfied (Norway, Canada and Switzerland, among others).

Satisfaction levels with Complete Food offering per country
Only countries with more than 3 responses are shown. Australia, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland and Romania had also less than 10 responses. The average satisfaction for all regions was 3.5 (n=1,057) and the median 4.

US is Jealous of Europeans and Vice Versa

When asked to expand upon the previous answer, many US based responses showcased jealousy towards the European offering and variety of CF products. However, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. As such, there were many Europeans who felt the same way.

Besides this, the most common wish across all regions was more retail availability (despite the fact that many also showed content buying the products online). Overall prices, shipping expenses and lack of diversity were also very prevalent answers.

Discussion

Growth of the Survey Mainly in NA

The overall growth of the survey was very positive, when considering there were fewer brands and media sites promoting it this year. Perhaps it is due to this fact that the European scene hasn’t increased accordingly. All in spite of having Jimmyjoy back; as well as, Küik and Jake also joining (3 European brands).

On the opposite hand, the growth in the North American responses was a welcome one, despite the fact that Soylent (the biggest US based company) not participating. A partial cause for this growth was the participation from Canadian respondents.

Unfortunately, relating the growth of the survey with the growth of the market is not possible at this moment. For that, there would have to me more data and more stable participants.

High Levels of Satisfaction Among Consumers, a Positive Sign

In early stages of any market, proof of concept is a key factor. In this case, proving that Complete Foods can be a staple food of a healthy diet has been a statement that early adopters have been pushing for (CFS ’17 and CFS ’18). Therefore, the high satisfaction levels of consumers (70% very satisfied) with their product and brand is a very reassuring sign.

In fact, 72% of the people were satisfied or very satisfied with how Complete Foods helped them with their dietary goals. Perhaps more importantly, only 3% showed dissatisfaction; which shows that they can be used for many purposes including weight loss, weight gain, sustenance or overcoming health constraints.

In a world where obesity has tripled since 1975 (WHO 2018), chronic diseases have raised due to lifestyle choices (WHO, 2003); an improved nutritional awareness and accessible nutritional food are key (Alkerwi et al, 2015). Thus, Complete Food could fill this gap by providing an “easy” solution for consumers with less knowledge and smaller incomes.

Price Is A Raising Concern

Accordingly, the price of the Complete Food products is a big concern. Many consumers see them as a more expensive option than “normal” food, and cost was the leading reason why people took a break from Complete Food.

While consumers are expecting prices to drop as the market demand, competition and supply grows; this does not correlate with reality. In reality, 2 of the biggest brands increased the price of their powder this year (Huel, Jimmyjoy). While there are exceptions to this (Saturo), raising prices should be carefully monitored if we are looking to increase the reach and market penetration.

Boredom, Another Issue to Tackle

Besides price, boredom with the products and flavours was a big issue for the consumers. Not only was an important factor that pushed people to take a break, but it also had the lowest satisfaction level and was brought up in different questions by multiple respondents.

Despite this being one of the most innovative years; with products such as, Vite Ramen, Feed. Crunchy, and Mana Burger; there is an overwhelming feeling that variety of products is lacking. Plus, the offering of flavours was criticized, remarking that there were too many sweet flavours, and too little savoury ones.

There is no doubt that, in order to move forward, variety of products and flavours will have to increase and the boredom factor will have to be overcome. However, for that the prices of these innovative products might have to drop, since currently they are no match for the powder meals. Or the consumer will have to be willing to increase their budget.

The Consumer Does Not Have Much Knowledge of the Market

Somewhat linked to the above, many respondents showed ignorance of the brands and products available in their region. This was displayed by often requesting Complete Foods that were available to them. There are many factors are to blame here: brands being protective of their customers; lack of multiple media outlets discussing these products; websites such as Latestfuels and Blendrunner failing to reach these people; etc.

Issues like this highlight the relevance of the Complete Food Survey as a tool for brands to “reveal” themselves, as well as, giving the opportunity to consumers to access websites with relevant information on meal replacements.

Is the Profile of the Consumer Changing?

On another note, the Complete Food Survey revealed a change in consumer habits. First, the weekly consumption per user has been lowered to a more casual usage (less than once a week). Secondly, RTDs have risen in popularity and bars were also popular.

While the first could be attributed to more newcomers; the fact is that 2019 has been the year with the lowest percentage of new users (30% less than a year compared to 46% in 2018 and 50% in 2017).

The second is backed up by the push ready-to-drink Complete Foods have seen this year with over 4 products (from different brands) and 15 new flavours launched this new year alone. Thus, it is clear that the market and the brands are trying to push this format, despite the concerns from long term users about it (CFS ’18). Preference for this format from the brands is supported by many angles, but importantly it makes it easier to sell it on retail (supermarkets), as shown by Soylent, Feed., Saturo, Huel, Mana etc (Latestfuels Are RTDs the Future).

In fact, Complete Food consumers want to see more meal replacement options in supermarkets (60% would likely buy) and many believe it would help to normalize them. If they were thinking of RTDs or Powder, or they do not care about the format, could be an interesting question to pursue.

The Complete Food Market Beyond EU and NA

First, I would like to thank you for those who fill the survey and are not from these major regions. The truth is that because there is a very low number of responses from this region; it is hard to make any conclusions on the major topics.

These regions (OCE, Asia and SA) had the lowest satisfaction levels (below 2 out of 5). They shared the same complaints: low variety, not many local brands, low availability and high shipping costs. Unfortunately, while some brands are making efforts to change it (e.g. Jimmyjoy establishing a warehouse in Australia, Superbodyfuel subsidizing worldwide shipments) this paradigm is likely to follow in the next few years.

For OCE, they are limited by their population and geographical location (as well as their geography). Asian countries are limited by cultural differences, governments, taxation etc. South America is limited by the socio-economic state, geographical location…

Special Cases: Canada, Norway and Switzerland

Other three regions with very low satisfaction were Canada, Norway and Switzerland. In their case, they are limited for political reasons.

Canadians were among the largest group of participants; yet, they were very unsatisfied with the offering of Complete Food in their region. In fact, they were an anomaly when looking at brand satisfaction (low). On top of that, shipping prices and number of available products were the biggest points of concern. However, the landscape might change next year with the introduction of Soylent, and it would be an interesting point for comparison.

For Norway and Switzerland, due to their political status within Europe, the custom taxes and extremely high shipping fees will be unavoidable in the foreseeable future.

Future – Where Does the Complete Food Survey Go?

As an organizer, I think that the Complete Food Survey has been a success, at least when it comes down to participants. Nevertheless, it should be an aim to keep growing and to keep integrating more brands in this initiative.

The quality of the data gathered and the responses have also been very good. However, there is a lot of room for improvement regarding the survey design and how the questions are asked. Similarly, and consequently, the analysis of the data could be/should be improved upon. Particularly, when it comes to delivery timing and digestibility for the end user (the respondents).

Regarding these, I would also like to see more rewards for participating and also a chance for better feedback for specific brands if they were to choose to do so. It has to be the aim of the Complete Food Survey to bridge the gap between consumers and brands and increase awareness; thus, avenues to do this should be explored.

Limitations and Biases

The Complete Food Survey is an initiative by Complete Food brands to collect the thoughts of worldwide consumers and better understand the market. In order to do so, the survey is generated using a template used in previous years and adding topics that might be off interest for the brands that take part. Hence, limitations, biases and issues are carried over.

The organizer, Latestfuels, is in charge to ultimately design and conduct the survey. As organizer, Latestfuels has very little experience in designing surveys optimized for data collection, and analysing it. It showed in the delays of the delivery of the final analysis, lack of proper statistical set up and perhaps the quality of the conclusions.

Besides, participation is promoted by the companies (social media and email), Complete Food related sites, and other relevant sites (r/soylent, forums etc.). Customer participation is incentivized by a giveaway and discounts from the respective brands. Therefore, the conclusions that can be drawn from the survey are partially biased by the brands that promoted it (for instance, high keto affinity for US customers). While this is useful for those who are involved, we need to take it into account when making market-wide statements and conclusions.

Ultimately, the Complete Food Survey is a “Western” market representation (Europe and US), due to who promotes it, the language it is on, and as a representation of the market itself (poorly developed in OCE, SEA and SA).

Conclusion

The Complete Food Survey is ultimately a flawed but very useful tool. Despite the many flaws it has, the survey is great at communicating the biggest concerns Complete Food users have. The 2019 edition has been no different, and in fact, it has been the most successful one yet.

On top of that, it is an opportunity for the users to better understand the market. With that in mind, this write-up is an effort to communicate what the data showed. Every conclusion, however, needs to be taken with caution since there are clear biases in the data.

Besides that, I only have to say thank you in the name of the brands promoting the Complete Food Survey, and me.


CFS 19 thank you all brands

First and foremost, I think it is fair to address the real heroes of the story. That is you, who participated in the survey and thoroughly answered all the questions on it.

While the survey was longer than initially intended, I am very appreciative that most of the participants filled out almost every response. Because of that, the quality of the survey is higher and the responses matter more.

To everybody that took part, thank you!

The Winners of the Giveaway Have Been Announced

If you did not get an email from me, I am sorry to inform you that you were not one of the winners of the giveaway.

CFS giveaway
Stash for the European winners.

There have been 5 lucky winners, 3 in Europe and 2 in the US this year. Each will receive a prize worth around €85 of Complete Food and vouchers from the participating brands.

Nevertheless, if you are looking for vouchers, check the Deals section where there are all the discounts, some exclusive to Latestfuels.

Initial Reactions: Positive Results

I will not try to analyze the results, yet; since there is a lot of data to cover. However, my initial reaction as an organiser is positive. We got 1,108 responses!

This is almost 300 more responses than previous year!

While this was not the most positive outcome projected, it meant that we met the goal: surpass the previous year. I do believe that growing is quintessential right now.

Few Fun Facts

I do not know when the full analysis will be released, probably by the end of October or the start of November. I am aware that this might seem to be far, but I want to make sure to give a comprehensive overview and provide a good delivery. Thus, I will take my time to chew the results.

Meanwhile here are some few facts:

Results to "Have you ever consumed a Complete Food product?"
We had a few No responses, unlike in previous years.

It was interesting to get the insight from people who have never consume any Complete Food product before. It was mostly people who had not heard of them before, but were intrigued by them.

How many times a week do you consume a Complete Food meal?

Personally, I was surprised to see so many veterans. Although, 41% admitted to have taken a break (a period longer than a month) at some point.

Complete Food Help with Dietary Goals
Scale of: 1- Not helpful to 5-Very Successful.

Despite people taking a break, a big majority (70%) were satisfied with Complete Food products, when it came to helping with their diet goals. However, 41% of the people use more than one brand to satisfy their needs.

Scale: 1- Not satisfied and 5-Very Satisfied.

In spite of the satisfaction of the efficiency of the products, it is interesting to see that almost 20% did not think that the offering was good enough in their region. Why this negative response? You will have to wait for the full analysis!

Wrapping Up

I apologize if you were looking for a more in-depth analysis or a comparison with previous years’ results. More of that will come soon. However, drop a comment if there is a particular topic or result that you were curious about. The full analysis, as mentioned above, will come by the end of October or start of November at Latestfuels and the official Complete Food Survey site.

Thank you, mercy, gracias, mila esker, danke, arigato, bolzïn, bïyan, obrigado, grazie, dalu, tack, seé, natick, hvala, suksema, tänan, ederim…

See you next year!

Thank you Latestfuels CFS19
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking part.

Complete Food Survey 2019

The meal replacement industry is in its infancy. It is now that key events will shape the future. Every brand is trying to optimize their product, cater for their target market and grow to reach further and be better. As such, it is the time where us, the customers have the most power. We can have a say on which products we like, which nutritional values we follow, how we want to consume our complete foods, and what price are we willing to pay for them (among many other things).

Therefore, in order to raise our voice, we have the Complete Food Survey; a platform to connect with the brands and share our thoughts.

2019 Complete Food Survey
Click to go to the survey.

Complete Food Survey 2019, Why Should You Care?

  1. Now is the best time to have a say and shape the future. Meal replacement brands are looking for the perfect product, the best delivery method, the best way to serve you. Their survival currently depends on your satisfaction, because their market reach is limited and there is a lot of competition (mostly Europe). Now is when they are willing to listen, use it to your advantage.
  2. Do you have any idea of how it could improve? Anything you dislike about the current market; shipping costs, overall cost, use of certain ingredients? Raise your voice and make it clear.
  3. More information should also mean better products. Products evolved and optimized for the consumer needs.
  4. Co-operation between brands should be encouraged to “normalize” complete foods and have them more easily available.
  5. More interest also means more scrutiny and better regulations. We should care about scammy brands, badly researched products and potentially harmful shakes to ever making it to the market.
  6. It would be a good document to show those who you are trying to convince to join the revolution.
  7. You can earn €85/$100 worth of products for your hassle.
Earn a chance to win a box with different meal replacement products when completing the survey.

Latestfuels Is Organizing the Survey 19

Ideally, it should ideally be done by a external audit backed up by more companies. It was previously organised by Queal and Saturo. However, this year, it was handed down to Latestfuels to aim for a more unbiased organising body.

While it is still far from perfect, I hope that this change promotes cooperation between brands and increased transparency of the process. Ultimately, the whole Complete Food Survey could be an independent entity that has a positive impact on the whole market.

Hopefully, if the participation is high, it will hint the other companies about the willingness for neutral and unbiased audits of the market. As well as, a platform for the customers to listened to.

Share Complete Food Survey

Who is Participating on the Complete Food Survey 2019?

Besides the organizing body, many brands and media outlets have been kind enough to support the efforts of the Complete Food Survey.

  • Blendrunner. A very useful online tool to compare all the Complete Foods available in the market.
  • Genesis Foods. A UK based meal replacement brand, with both normal and keto shakes.
  • Holfood. Canadian meal replacement brand.
  • Jake. Dutch meal replacement brand.
  • Jimmyjoy. Dutch meal replacement brand.
  • Ketochow. US based meal replacement brand based around ketogenic Complete Food.
  • Küik. Spanish meal replacement brand.
  • Powdermatter. Czech meal replacement brand.
  • Runtime. German meal replacement brand focused on gamers.
  • Satislent. Spanish meal replacement brand.
  • Saturo. Austrian meal replacement brand.
  • Super Body Fuel. US based meal replacement brand.
  • Trinkkost. German meal replacement brand focused on organic shakes.
  • Vitaline. French brand focused on organic shakes.
  • r/soylent. The subreddit that acts as a gathering point for meal replacement users.

There are other brands like Huel that have agreed on sharing the survey on their forums.

Why is (Insert Brand Name) Not Here?

The Complete Food Survey requires brands to collaborate and help spreading the word about it. That is often done via emails and/or social media; meaning that they share part of their clientele with the “competition”. Thus, some brands might decide not to take part on the survey.

This is the major flaw in the concept of the the survey. It requires a degree of collaboration and transparency between competing brands. In my opinion, this is short-sighted; since most of the market is yet untapped. However, it is a very understandable position, and I respect their decision.

There are many of other reasons why brands might not on the list, including, personal error from me when contacting them (not sending an email asking to participate). Alternatively, they might think that the results are not valid or valuable for them.

Nevertheless, the Complete Food Survey is ALWAYS open to brands that want to help out. Contact at [email protected]


The Complete Food Survey 2018- Results

I initially wrote this article to promote the participation in the survey and increase awareness. The survey was conducted between 19/09 and 30/09 as an initiative by Queal and Saturo. Multiple other brands and websites around the meal replacement industry also did their best to get as many people involved as possible.

Queal, Blendrunner, Eatcomplete, GenesisFoods, Holfood, KetoChow, Lently, MealSquares, Next Level Meal, Repas en poudre, Satislent, Saturo, Shake2day, Trinkkost, Vitaline and VitaminFood were among the participants this year.

Queal was the brand in charge of analysing and displaying the results, and they are currently available at Complete Food Survey ’18.

Summary

Analysis

  • 800 users answered, of which 79% were male and 21% female. This is more than double last year’s.
  • Breakfast+another meal is the most common combo. Only, 9.5% of the users consume more than 90% of their food via meal replacements.
  • Time constrain and healthy nutrition are the primary reason to start with complete foods; while, nutritional value and price are the most important factors to choose a brand.
  • Most people consume their meals alone (either at home, at work or on the go) and they preferred to have their shake chilled than at room temperature.
  • Buying powder in bulk is still the most popular way (65%) vs RTDs (32%) and vs single serving pouches (30%) or one day bags (26%). This numbers have changed comparing to last years, and RTDs are gaining popularity.
  • Maltodextrin, high carb shakes, palm oil and high prices are not liked by the consumers.
  • Environmentally friendly and sustainable practices are positively looked upon.

Thoughts

  • Very strong biases towards European thoughts and models; created by the lack of participation of brands like Soylent, Jimmyjoy and Huel.
  • Complete food customers are an “elite” that care about nutrition and environment (again reflection of European bias).
  • Whey protein is preferred, even if more brands are opting to go for fully vegan product range. This is also partially, because the respondents are more likely to be Queal buyers.
  • There is a lot of question still unanswered: are the customers happy with their brands? Do they expect more, what are they looking forward to? What do customers think about the flavour options?…
  • The presentation of the data has been subpar compared to last year.
  • The biases and the scale of the survey are still not significant enough to draw strong conclusions.

An analysis of the results

Who answered?

Most of the participants were male (79%) as opposed to female (21%). While the ratio is incredibly unbalanced, there have been more female participants than in 2017 (14% female).

A total of 800 people answered this year, which is noticeably more than last year (about 300). This is positive and shows that the complete food user is willing to give feedback if he is listened to.

When do we consume our meal replacements?

For most people, complete foods are the ideal solution for breakfast and another meal during the day. Particularly, the combo breakfast and lunch seems to be the most popular one. The mean for how many meals each consumer replaced a weak was 9 meals, but 9.5% of the users reported to use complete foods in more than 90% of their meals.

How many calories there is in the average complete food meal?

According to the survey, the average size of the meals was 536kcal. 35% of the users reported to have 700kcal or more per meal, whereas 16% of the users said they consumed 400kcal and 23% stated they had 500kcal/meal. This is a clear bias caused by the fact that most of the respondents were Queal users.

Why do people start consuming complete foods?

No surprises here, and as per last year, time costrain and nutritional output are the two main reasons to start consuming meal replacements. Similarly, nutritional content seems to be a very important factor for the users when deciding which brand to buy from, together with the price.

How do people consume meal replacements?

Most respondents said that they have their meals alone, either at home (75%), at work (68%) or on the go (52%). Perhaps more surprisingly, 4/10 people consume their drink with other people. This is probably in a work environment rather than at home, though.

Powder vs RTD, what do the users thing?

65% still favoured buying in powder in bulk as opposed to 32%, which preferred RTD. However, this result does not reflect the current tendency of the market, where RTD products are popping up everywhere. I suppose this preference is due to the fact that the majority of the respondents are long time complete food users (thus they are used to the shakes) and that the main brands spreading the word do not sell RTDs (except Saturo).

When deciding at what temperature they drink the shake 42% said room temperature vs 58% from the fridge.

What do the buyers hate about the industry?

Maltodextrin and high carb shakes are not very well seen. This comes to no surprise if you take into account that most of the popular shakes are either high fat low carb, or high in protein.

Sustainability is a big factor for most consumers, and as such, palm oil has become a big no-no for the consumers. Besides, buyers positively favour any effort to become more environmentally friendly or reduce waste.

Some Thoughts about the Survey

First and foremost let me say that I am really disappointed that some of the biggest brands like Soylent, Huel and Jimmyjoy do not participate actively in the survey. Unfortunately, this is very clear in the answers, where there is a heavy bias towards European thoughts and models of consumption. What do I mean by this? I believe that if they were more American participants for instance, some of the results would be different, such as the RTD preference.

Another conclusion that we can take home is that the complete food consumers (and more so the respondants) are an “elite” who care about topics like nutrition and ecology in a much deeper way than normal people. This is a positive thing, since we can shape the industry on a path that will promote sustainability, food responsibility and knowledge about nutrition. If brands are told that people care about these points, they will make more effort to put that information available or to develop systems to decrease waste, for instance.

An example of this is how buying powder in bulk was preferred to RTDs, single serving bags or daily bags. Responses like this one can help to reduce environmentally unfriendly practices, such as, flavouring boosts, unrecyclable bags or unnecessary waste.

Whey Protein Preference

There is another point that I have not mention, and that is the preference of whey protein over other forms of protein source. This is surprising, since a lot of brands are heading towards becoming fully-vegan (like Jimmyjoy) and the amount of vegan products in the European and US markets grows by the day.

I am a big advocate of whey, and while I understand some of the environmental issues with animal farming, I belief there can be sustainable methods to obtain whey. Soy, for instance, is not a natural plant from Europe and is often sourced from plantations that have destroyed the natural habitat to farm soy.

However, once again, we need to take into account that Queal uses whey protein in most of their products, thus respondents are likely to favour it.

Missing Information

There is some information that is not in the survey, either because it was not asked or because they decided the data was not relevant. I feel as a consumer there are other things that I am interested that are not in the scope of this survey.

  1. I would like to know if people tend to stick to their usual brand or if they keep looking around. I would assume most people stick to the brand that they made the first purchase with. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see if people try to find the best match for them or just try new things as a culinary experience.
  2. In a similar fashion, it would be interesting to know if the first purchase is an impulse buy or something they think carefully about before jumping the gun.
  3. In a more selfish manner, I would like to know if they users feel aware about the status of the market, or they feel there is a lot of misinformation or just lack of information in general.
  4. Expanding that point, I would like to know if the consumers feel like the brands are trustworthy and if they feel like the products are top quality.
  5. What do the consumers think about the flavour options in the meal replacement market?
  6. Do they think meal replacement bars are a good alternative to shakes?
  7. What do people hope to see? Product-, price-, normalization-wise.
  8. How satisfied are the users with the brands that they consume?

This are just few questions that I would find very interesting. In addition to that, an economical analysis of the market would be great, such as, how much money is moving, how many meals are brands selling, but that is beyond the scope of the survey and this analysis.

The Presentation of the Survey Data Has Not Been as Good as Last Year’s

One of my biggest disappointments this year has been the delivery of the data. It feels rushed and not very polished. I love Queal for all the effort they put into their products and this survey. I, actually, hope that more brands will take similar approaches, and that we will see more transparency in the industry.

This bias, however, can not negate that the delivery is lackluster. The document is hard to understand at parts; the colour scheme is not very good, as parts are hard to distinguish; the graphs are hard to understand; and the ideas are not well explained.

I do not blame them (heck, I make tons of mistakes in my articles). I understand that doing this is partially for the community and takes away from time they could spend working. Plus, they probably feel that they are under a time constrain. Honestly, I would rather wait a couple weeks longer and see a more polished article.

What I do hope is that they find some time to work on it, and try to make some of the graphs more clear, and some of the explanations easier to understand.

Current Limitations of the Survey

  1. The European Bias. The survey was promoted by Queal, an EU brand. In fact, last year there were only 14 respondents from the US (over 200 from EU). This almost nullifies the value of the US answers. The bias is also shown in the preference of meals, perhaps the ecological worry (EU citizens tend to be more aware), and also in the primary reason for consuming the products.
  2. Who is likely to answer and how the questionnaire was promoted. I am unsure to how the 2017 questionnaire was marketed, however, I am sure that the methods reached a fairly similar group (people who are likely to be in front of the computer and are used to use forums). Thus, the people answering this survey were likely to share interests.
  3. Sample size and brands involved. Different brands cater for different people, some offer organic products, some convenience products (RTD), others offer variety… Queal being the major promoters, their reach is limited to a specific persona (even if both brands offer different products). For instance, there is no Soylent or Huel or Jimmyjoy among the supporters. Jimmyjoy users are more likely to care about budget.
  4. Control group. The people answering the questionnaire are going to be complete food users. True, that we care mostly about what they think, but having a “control group” of non-users or just beginners would help to clarify many points about the stigma, reasons not to use and so on.

The Complete Food Survey 2017

Queal and Saturo did a collaborative effort to identify key issues and characteristics of the market in 2017. The Complete Food Survey of 2017 is actually a very interesting read, while a little biased due to the origin of the respondents.

Some insights to questions like when, why, who, health impact or where it goes from here are presented in a fairly digestible way. I strongly recommend you reading if you have time (should not take you longer than 10minutes). You will learn something new.

Who consumes complete foods
Taken from the completefoodsurvey.com.

A small Summary and Analysis.

When do We Consume Meal Replacements the Most?

Breakfast>Lunch>>Dinner. This might reflect the fact that dinner is more of a social event and family gathering than the other two main meals. This holds particularly true in Europe (where most answers came from), but I believe it would hold in the US, too.

Another thing that is remarkable is that more than 20% of the users have been using them for more than two years. It shows that the satisfaction rate with the products is high, as the retention is high.

Length of MR usage
Why do people start consuming complete foods?

Time constrain> Nutritional fullness>Curiosity>Health>Price>Dislike Cooking. While number one factor is time, it is interesting to see that nutritional output and health benefits are also among the top reasons. People are not doing it because they are lazy, but because they care about what they eat.

In fact, nutritional balance is more important than price in terms of choosing the brand. I belief this to be an extremely positive attribute of meal replacement consumers.

Complete Food convenience
Sometimes, we are just too busy for a meal.

Who Consumes Meal Replacement Shakes?

Funnily enough, the average is a male of 32 who works in IT, exactly the profile of my friend who introduced me to complete foods. However, as seen above, students and engineers, follow closely. Students may opt for this kind of nutrition because they are more open to innovation, they are more likely to be on a budget, they tend to care about health and also time (because most are not good at time management), and are likely not to be very adept at cooking. Nevertheless, I must say that this answer is probably also due to some bias or limitations on the questionnaire.

Share Complete Food Survey18
Share the survey! Credit to Nitrozac&Snaggy for the background ilustration.

Another interesting fact is that the 40% of the consumers identify themselves as flexitarians (limited fish and meat); plus the ratio of vegetarian (or vegan) is twice as much as the standard population’s. It shows that people following certain diets not fully adopted by the society tend to look for easier alternatives, and find so in the meal replacements. This can be reflected on the European meal replacement market where only 5 out of 33 brands do not offer any vegan options and for 21/33 brands vegan is the default option (from the meal replacement list).

Sustainability and food waste are other topics users care about.

What is the Aftermath of Consuming These Products?

The majority of people seems to keep their weight (57%), while 34% claim to have lost weight, and only 8% put on weight. However, this is not a very good metric without knowing the objective. Perhaps, it is more interesting to notice, that 36% of people claim to have notice improvements in their health (subjective), whereas only 1% claims is been for the worse.

Where do People Buy their Favourite Products?

Currently, buying online at the sellers website is the preferred option. However, Amazon and in situ retail are some of the most requested features. Whoever is able to nail their offering and availability will have the advantage over the competition.

The European bias
The European bias.

Brands that took part on the 2017 survey:

Feed. (EU)

Hol Food (CAN)

Lently (EU)

KetoGenesis (EU)

Trinkkost (EU)

Pulve (EU)

Satislent (EU)

Smeal (EU)

Kuasa (EU)


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nobody
nobody
11 months ago

Your links to the surveys don’t work, as they start with “hhttps” instead of “https”.

Akkk
Akkk
9 months ago

It’s almost the middle of December already but is the analysis still not complete? You said the full analysis would be available in November.

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