Meal solutions that satisfy a variety of cravings, from comfort food to restaurant-quality cuisine, are increasingly in demand. And as many consumers remain burned out from daily meal prep during the pandemic, holidays and special occasions provide an opportunity to take a break from cooking and let the local supermarket prepare the feast.
“We’ve seen a lot of growth in meal solutions. Family meals were one of the largest gains for us in 2020, and we see that continuing,” says Josh Croson, director of deli for Coborn’s Inc. in St. Cloud, Minn.
“In holiday meals, we did 2.5 times the volume in 2020 than the previous year,” adds Croson, who attributes the gains to widespread consumer kitchen fatigue. “Restaurants have been closed for how many months now? Consumers want a meal where all they have to do is pop it in the oven and heat it up. And I think a certain percentage of people won’t return to the way things were before the pandemic,” says Croson, who sees meal solutions as a continuing trend.
As to shoppers’ top culinary cravings in 2021, regionality certainly plays a role, but beyond that consumers will be looking to deli prepared foods to fill a variety of needs from immune-boosting health-conscious fare to classic comfort food to restaurant-inspired date night dishes.
“Our deli trends are kind of all over the place—comfort foods because we’re in the Midwest, so pot pie resonates strongly in this market, but also restaurant-quality food and upscale dishes,” Croson explains. “The unfortunate fact of COVID is that we’ve lost a lot of restaurants,” a fact which he says is also driving demand for international cuisine.