The future of food delivery in America.

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VP, Client Experience

An anthro-lens shows us what food delivery will mean to people in the near future.

Second only to China, the United States is projected to spend over 26 billion dollars in food delivery in 2021. In fact, experts anticipate that the global spend for food delivery will top 200 billion by the year 2025.

That’s a lot of pizza and spicy chicken sandwiches.

Combine this demand with the growing number of bullish investors pouring money into start-ups or a global pandemic reducing in-restaurant visits and it’s no surprise that the food delivery industry is becoming increasingly crowded.

So who will rise to the top of this food pyramid?

What solution will survive these metaphorical hunger games?

For that, let’s turn to our MotivBase Trends technology.

The Local Connection

First and foremost, our system identified a clear connection between food delivery and local business. In essence, consumers want to have exclusive access to special eating and drinking experiences in their homes, while also feeling like they are supporting local businesses.

Secondly, it is a very large market that is exhibiting substantial growth.

By mapping and quantifying the meanings consumers are associating and using to engage with this culture, we can see that food delivery in the context of local restaurant dining is relevant to 134.1M Americans between the ages of 18-64.

And it is anticipated to grow by another 29.1% in the next 12-24 months.

Growth in this culture is driven by consumers’ interest in delivery options for food and beverage that go beyond regular meals. Consumers are eager to order signature cocktails, craft beers or specialty coffee blends to enjoy in their homes, while also having the feeling that they are supporting local businesses in the process.

But people are feeding more than their bellies.

This link to local can also be seen in the emotional DNA of the food delivery consumer. Leveraging our AI Anthropology engine, our platform identified the most dominant motivation as:

Food delivery consumers want to prove that they are active members of the community.

In essence, these consumers want to feel like they are an active and engaged member in their neighborhood. They believe their role as a consumer equates with civic engagement and they derive great pleasure from socializing with shopkeepers and other customers.

Local community is important.

With this understanding, it is no surprise that consumers have voiced concerns about food delivery apps overcharging restaurants, and gone as far as creating anti-food app apps like

But there is also a selfish and more intrinsic motivation at play. Namely, that food delivery can also play a key role in helping consumers feel socially superior.

These are people who pride themselves on being one step ahead of everyone else. Food delivery services don’t just help them feed their bellies. The ability to quickly, easily and regularly try new foods and then share their experience (either verbally or through social media) allows them to reinforce how interesting they are.

The key ingredients to Food Delivery

In addition to understanding the macroculture, and the key emotional drivers of the consumer, we can leverage the MotivBase Platform to identify the microcultures that are shaping the future of food delivery.

Three key microcultures presented themselves.

Businesses that solve for these microcultures will have a competitive advantage over their competitors.

1. Hybrid Meal Options:

Meal delivery is a popular option for consumers who struggle with dinner preparation during the weekday work grind. They look for workarounds that will help them to get a hot and tasty meal on the table. They express enthusiasm for specialty delivery options from favorite restaurants that include meal kits, bulk meal boxes or chef-prepared family style dishes containing several meals for the week, par-baked ingredients(e.g., pizza dough) or restaurant-made frozen foods that can be finalized and heated up at home to guarantee freshness and optimal temperature.

Consumers are also starting to think of some restaurants (typically higher end ones) as a hybrid type of grocery store where they can also get specialty ingredients and provisions (sauces, condiments, homemade pasta, etc) delivered to them.

This microculture is currently relevant to135.5M consumers and is anticipated to grow by 29.4% in the next 12-24 months.

2. Specialty Drinks & Treats

Consumers look for ways to bring the bartender and the barista into their homes to create the feeling of a night out at the bar, a relaxing moment at the cafe, or a normal day at the office.

As a result, they are turning to food delivery for items that go beyond a regular meal. They want to enjoy alcoholic beverages or specialty coffees, indulge in snacks, or satisfy particular cravings from the comfort of their homes. When it comes to alcohol, consumers are not just looking for the delivery of regular bottles of wine, beer or liquor, but they express interest in bringing the bar experience into their homes. This means delivery of prepared signature cocktails, craft beers and other alcoholic drinks they can otherwise not simply buy from the corner store.

This microculture is currently relevant to122.3M consumers and is anticipated to grow by 48.9% in the next 12-24 months.

3. Socially Conscious Delivery

Consumers try to be socially conscious when ordering food, and like the idea of ordering from Black-owned restaurants for example.

The pandemic has generally made people more socially conscious of their consumer choices. When it comes to food delivery, for example, they want to try to make their eating and drinking experiences more purposeful. For example, they discuss wanting to support Black-owned or other minority-owned eateries. They read about food delivery apps that include sections highlighting Black-owned restaurants or filter options that make it easier to search for these businesses.

They also talk about food delivery drivers and worry about unethical employment practices that leave them vulnerable to dangerous working conditions and underpay. They want assurance that tips meant for drivers go directly to them and not the companies they work for (an example of the types of questions they are starting to ask).

This microculture is currently relevant to129.6M consumers and is anticipated to grow by 32.4% in the next 12-24 months.


Food delivery can’t rely on just delivering something that tastes good. They have to consider how using their service makes consumers feel good. As competition mounts, the companies that understand their consumers’ emotional needs and satisfy these critical microcultures, will be one’s to get the biggest piece of the 200 billion dollar pie.

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