Carol Wong-Li
Carol Wong-Li is Associate Director, Lifestyles and Leisure for Mintel. Carol researches and writes reports on the Canadian lifestyle and leisure industries.

We’ve all been there: it’s nearing the end of the work day, in the middle of the week, and you’re faced with the dreaded question, “what’s for dinner?” While nine in 10 Canadians say they plan ahead for weeknight meals, the reality is that only about half of Canadians are cooking pre-planned meals on a weekly basis, resulting in a demand for mealtime shortcuts, according to Mintel research on meal planning and preparation in Canada.

Quick means quick in Quebec

The demand for quick and easy shortcuts is consistent across the country, though the type of shortcuts that will resonate best with Quebecers is distinctive. To consumers in this market, quick means quick, and they’re less inclined to be turning to partially prepared options and even less keen on leftovers. Unlike the rest of the country where meal kits and semi-prepared foods hold great potential, these options are likely to fall flat with Quebecers. Instead, frozen prepared meals will be more enticing.

Eating satiates the heart as well as the belly

Quebecers take great interest in taking the time to eat full and proper meals. From a foodservice perspective, this translates into a greater patronage of full-service restaurants (FSR) than the rest of the country. From a meal-preparation standpoint, this translates into a lesser interest in using semi-prepared foods or other options that are a mashup of cooked or raw ingredients. Quebecers either put in the proper amount of time and effort into creating meals, or someone else does it completely, as such shortcuts may be seen as taking away from the full meal experience. Notably, this includes their lesser inclination to use time-savings kitchen appliances. As such, retailers may have greater success getting Quebecers to the table by featuring options like flash-frozen prepared foods that are touted to be made with the same level of care as one would at home.

Messaging opportunity

The willingness to dedicate time towards eating likely stems in part from the fact that eating may be satisfying more than just the belly for consumers that live in Quebec. According to Mintel research on dining out, the notion of social bonding while eating plays a big role for Quebecers; they’re much more likely to feel that the social aspect of eating out is important to them and that the experience of eating with others adds value to their life.

Eating is less about the individual and more about the group, and cooking may be seen as more of an act for others. Because cooking may be more similar to an act of giving, it is important that meals are done completely by themselves or by the company selling the shortcut products. As such, messaging around shortcuts should centre around one key ingredient: quick meal solutions are made from the heart for the heart.

What we think

Companies that demonstrate an understanding that eating – and by extension meal prep – is less an individualistic act and more about others will be the ones that win over the hearts (and stomachs) of Quebecers.