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As the lines between traditional retail channels and foodservice continue to blur, operators battling it out for share of stomach are searching for ways to achieve differentiation and growth. Developing a product mix and merchandising strategy focused on freshness, healthfulness and value is critical, but delivering to consumers the product and flavor varieties their palates crave is equally important.
The International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association’s (IDDBA) “What’s in Store” 2016 report noted that 41 percent of shoppers said they would eat more supermarket prepared foods if the stores offered better variety, while 14 percent said they would eat more supermarket prepared foods if that variety extended to kid options.
The study also pointed to Millennials, in particular, as shoppers seeking a broader product mix in the deli and prepared food departments. “Millennials thrive on discovery, global flavors and new experiences. So it’s no surprise that Millennials are looking for more unique items from the deli,” IDDBA’s study concluded.
Global Flavor Focus
Laurie Demeritt, chief executive officer of the Hartman Group, a Bellevue, Wash.-based food and beverage consultancy, also pointed to consumers’ increased appetite for global dishes in the deli and prepared food departments.
“Consumers are looking well beyond their regional cuisines to those of the broader cosmopolitan world,” she said. “In order to keep up with changing consumer tastes, food retailers should be mindful of ingredient and menu changes occurring in popular and emerging ethnic and fresh-format restaurants.”
Giant Eagle, a Pittsburgh, Pa.-based operator of nearly 400 retail locations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland, offers prepared foods appealing to a wide audience with such concepts as hand-tossed pizza, made-fresh-to-order subs and soup bars, in addition to daily menus, weekly promotions, and limited-time-only and seasonal options.
Among other efforts, noted Dan Donovan, company spokesperson for Giant Eagle, the operator focuses on bringing its customers a menu of products made with fresh ingredients and inspired by Mediterranean, Latin American and Asian flavors.
“Bold and global taste profiles are becoming more popular among customers,” he said. “The Olive & Antipasti Bars in our Market District locations feature seasonal and unique items that provide customers the opportunity to try new and exciting items from around the globe.”
Donovan also said that as snacking becomes a more popular eating occasion, Giant Eagle has observed increased customer interest in dips and spreads in its delis.
From Single-Serve to Family Meals
In addition to increased deli flavor profiles, deli and prepared food departments are catering to changing and varied consumer eating styles, said Demeritt. For example, operators should add single-serving packaging for takeaway, she said, since eating alone and snacking have become more prevalent.
Among its many deli and prepared food selections, Illinois-based Sunset Foods offers single-serve boxed lunches and dinners. The family-owned operator of five Illinois outlets also provides a “What’s For Dinner” menu that features a rotating selection of healthy, pre-cooked meals that can be picked up, taken home, reheated and served on weekdays.
“You can literally swing by the store on your way home from work, and have a fresh, healthy and affordable dinner on the table in minutes,” according to the retailer’s website. Sunset Foods’ November 2015 weeknight meal calendar, for example, includes a generous range of options such as coconut crusted mahi mahi, chicken a la Rockefeller, Mexican lasagna, Grecian grilled chicken breast and beef bourguignon, in addition to side dishes such as balsamic snap peas and carrots, spinach and leek pie, and yam and pineapple mash. To promote variety, no two days in a month provide the same meal choices.
“We offer a huge selection, from soups and salads, to grilled meats and vegetables,” according to the company. “A quick stop at Sunset’s bakery can round out your meal with something sweet…Our cooks and bakers constantly revamp our menus, so you’ll never run out of options.”