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    Ready-to-Eat Foods from Retailers Are 6% of Foodservice Meals: NPD

    Breakfast, p.m. snacks key times for retail foodservice, said the market researcher.

    Six percent of the roughly 62 billion commercial foodservice meals and snacks consumed in a year are purchased at retail stores -- food, drug, discount, department, and price clubs -- while stores represent an additional 7 percent, according to a new Retail Meal Solutions report from market research firm The NPD Group.

    Retail foodservice represents a spending level of close to $13 billion, so says the latest NPD report, which analyzes how retailers are currently satisfying consumers' needs for ready-to-eat foods, retail ready-to-eat meal and snack purchases increased two percent for the year ending August 2008. The quick service restaurant (QSR) segment, with which retail stores directly compete in providing convenient meal solutions, served only one percent more meals and snacks amid a downturn within the full service restaurant segment.

    "Consumers' increasing use of foodservice for ready-made meals has long been recognized by grocery retailers as an opportunity," said Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst and author of the Retail Meal and Snack Solutions report. "For some time, retail stores have offered prepared foods in the deli department, but have now expanded foodservice offerings to include a variety of cold and hot ready-to-consume meals and snacks."

    The report dispels the popularly held belief that supper is the prime day part for retail meal and snack solutions. NPD finds supper accounts for only 17 percent of retail meal solutions consumed but is steadily growing, whereas it's a weakening day part for QSR. PM snacks represents the largest share -- 35 percent -- ready-to-eat food consumed, followed by lunch with 27 percent share, and then morning meal, which represents a 21 percent share.   

    "Retail outlets are more dependent on morning meals and PM Snack purchases than QSR," says Riggs. "These are the on-the-go needs that are being met by retailers - consumers making those purchases on the way to work, to eat at work, or in their car. Purchases that otherwise would have been made at a QSR."
     
    Consumer motivation in purchasing prepared meals and snacks from retail stores include convenience, availability of healthier options, variety, and affordability, said Riggs, adding that they are the same attributes consumers report lacking at QSRs.
     
    "As always, it's a matter of learning and understanding consumers' needs when it comes to meal and snack solutions," she said. "With this learning and understanding, there is opportunity here for retailers, foodservice manufacturers, and restaurant operators."

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