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CHICAGO -- In a bid to win back consumers' dining-out dollars, as well as differentiate themselves from other retail competitors, supermarkets, convenience stores, warehouse/club stores, supercenters, and other specialty retailers are turning up the heat on meal solutions programs, at the expense of restaurants, said foodservice consultancy Technomic, Inc. here.
Retailers' new and expanded meal offerings are placing a much stronger emphasis on quality and variety, and are integrating many of the trends shaping restaurant menus, such as ethnic foods, premium ingredients, customization, and updated preparation techniques, Technomic said. The competitive activity is prompting the firm to launch a new study that will probe deeper into the trend.
"Whole Foods probably deserves most of the credit for spawning this new interest among retailers," said Ron Paul, president of Technomic. "They were the first to prove that consumers are drawn to ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat meal solutions, and will use them to replace home cooking or dining out, assuming that quality and variety aren't compromised."
Paul also noted that as more retailers are striving to wow their customers, forward-thinking manufacturers need to step up their efforts to assist them by providing culinary expertise, new products, and assistance with training and merchandising. Further, restaurant operators, both chains and independents, need to recognize these developments for what they are -- a direct competitive threat targeting their customers.
Technomic said it's launching the research study, which it will call "Retail Meal Solutions: A New and Growing Opportunity for Foodservice Manufacturers," to educate the supplier community.