TikTok Moms' Meal-Prepping Chipotle Hack
How social media reveals an unusual use case for catering
Henry Chapman, Research and Insights Analyst
Social listening to uncover an unusual use case
We love social listening to find exciting and unique ways people use products. By analyzing TikTok content with the help of Infegy Atlas, we found that Chipotle has become a go-to choice for meal preppers. Moms, particularly, are leveraging Chipotle's catering service to prepare meals for the entire week. One TikTok user, @sidehustleagent, managed to create an impressive ten meals for just $109, with plenty of leftovers. In this brief, we'll delve into the widespread reach of this Chipotle hack and explore how moms embrace this convenient and nutritious option to feed their kids.
Small post volume but enormous reach
To kick off our investigation, we began by narrowing down our search on TikTok using filters for the channel and keywords "TikTok" and "meal prep," respectively, from 2020 to 2023. Surprisingly, we encountered only 13,100 posts, which initially seemed relatively minor. However, what caught our attention was the massive reach these posts generated, estimated at a staggering 8.56 billion potential viewers. Additionally, we noticed a significant surge in post volume during early 2020, coinciding with the early pandemic quarantine periods. This finding indicates a heightened interest in meal preparation when people couldn't go out to restaurants.
When we looked at the entities mentioned in the posts, we found that Instant Pot ranked second in 6.5% of all posts. Instant Pot's position makes sense because parents love using Instant Pots to make quick and healthy meals. We also noticed mentions of Cracker Barrel and Panera, two takeout-friendly restaurants, among the entities. We won't dive into these two restaurants here, but what is significant is that the meal-preppers appreciate them for similar reasons: easy family takeout and catering options.
What are people ordering?
Our analysis of the Chipotle meal-prep conversation showed that meal preppers significantly emphasize proteins, mainly chicken and black beans. Additionally, we noticed a strong correlation with the vegan community, as there were numerous positive mentions of peppers, veggies, and cilantro. We colored this topic cloud by sentiment - you'll note that it's universally positive and shows people who post about meal prepping speak glowingly about glowing about the brand.
We decided to have some fun and look at the emoji used when discussing Chipotle meal prep. We found that the emoji used aligned with the topics we explored earlier. The muscle emoji emphasizes protein, while the greens and veggie emojis reflect the interest in vegan and vegetarian food. We were puzzled by how much the avocado emoji was used (size indicates the frequency of use) since ordering guacamole for a whole week of meal prep seems questionable. Still, you'll find no judgment from this research team.
Moms are the typical audience for Chipotle meal prepping
To find out who these meal preppers were, we turned our attention to an analysis of Source Bios or aggregations of topics that people use to describe themselves online. We weren't surprised to find that busy moms interested in maintaining a healthy lifestyle for themselves and their families created many of these posts. This observation aligns with our earlier findings regarding the emphasis on protein and the presence of topics related to vegetarianism.
We corroborated this finding by looking at a distribution of gendered content around Chipotle meal preppers. We found that women were five times more likely to post about this than men. We also found that women were 23% more positive in the online discussion of the topic than men were. Women were also likelier to talk about burrito bowls and sofritas, while men were likelier to talk about steak.
Social listening takeaways for your brand
Overall, this social listening dive sheds light on the evolving ways in which people integrate takeout and catering options into their meal-preparation routines. More importantly, it showcases the power of utilizing social listening to uncover unknown consumer behaviors and opportunities for brand engagement.