Fresh Food

3 Ways to Help Prepared Foods Pop

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Supermarket shoppers might want to know that they can find their favorite cereal variety or dish detergent brand on the shelves whenever they need it. But when it comes to prepared foods, many expect culinary innovation and variety—and not the same dishes every time they visit.

According to Chicago-based research firm IRI, deli prepared foods drive both revenue (15% of all perimeter sales) and store trips (12 purchase occasions annually for the average shopper). Additionally, 80% of household shoppers in an IRI survey said they purchased deli prepared foods. But those shoppers notice a lack of energy in the selections offered, IRI found. Many retailers are missing an opportunity to connect with consumers in this key department because they fail to regularly update the assortment of products or stay in touch with customers’ preferences.

Creating excitement around prepared food options, either for onsite dining or for take-home consumption, is a matter of providing choices and meeting consumers where they are. Among potential strategies for accomplishing this:

Commit to variety. Restaurants that offer an unchanging menu of limited scope tend to restrict their potential audience. A prepared foods department is no different.

Mixing it up on a weekly—or, if a store can handle it, daily—basis will motivate shoppers to wheel their carts by to check out the latest choices. Theme days are a popular strategy that provides change and possibly reason enough to shop for customers who are fans of a specific cuisine. A revolving soup special or two is easy for most stores to pull off. By expanding prepared-food bars with pairings such as cheesy polenta and baby back ribs or hatch mac & cheese with grilled or fried chicken, retailers can offer the innovation and variety consumers (especially millennials) are looking for and expect.

Whole Foods understands the need for variety: every day, the grocery chain’s hot bar serves up an array of different prepared foods, including up to 11 different options of soup and stew.

Lean on labor-saving strategies. Few grocers have the staff, scope of equipment or pantry to produce meals that rival restaurants. Fortunately, convenience foods, recipe-ready ingredients and speed-scratch techniques can enable even stores that have a lean staff with little culinary training to prepare high-quality dishes that come close.

Bundling is another way to streamline production. Straub’s, a St. Louis area grocer, promotes no-substitutions dinners for two with a $22 daily-changing menu that includes an entree, side and baguette.

Consider the market and the season. If a store’s demographic skews toward an older crowd, childhood comfort favorites such as Salisbury steak, beef stew and chicken alfredo will grab their attention; if it’s in an area with lots of young families, kid-friendly meal kits or complete dinners for four with items the whole family will enjoy make more sense. College town or lots of young singles? Paleo, plant-forward, vegetarian and gluten-free choices will draw takers. Barbecue, seafood, and lighter fare will be welcome in the summer; heartier choices will appeal in cooler months. In some locations, Friday fish fries hit the spot, especially during Lent.  

Blount Fine Foods provides a full line of premium soup, sides, meals and more that food retailers can leverage on hot bars and as to-go meals. Created with wholesome ingredients and layered flavors, these labor-saving products give retailers a way to easily create signature offerings that consumers will crave.

This post is sponsored by Blount Fine Foods