Fresh Food

Why Educating Shoppers Matters

Photograph courtesy of Tyson Deli

What is deli’s purpose?

Tyson Foods, Inc., deli division, has posed the question, “What is deli’s purpose?” to a lot of consumers, retailers and industry partners across numerous studies over the past several years.1, 2, 3, 4 What’s been learned through their feedback is that the deli doesn’t always meet shoppers’ needs. While consumers appreciate attention to product execution, they often wish the deli would do more than focus on selling them some “thing in a box.”

Deli shoppers do admit they visit the department because they appreciate the convenience of prepared foods. But they also say they’re looking for something more to help them create satisfying meals their families will enjoy. The problem is, they don’t have the time or the means to do it on their own. 

Therefore, a “gap” exists between what consumers want when they visit the deli and what they can get. Research suggests that what helps close this gap is to provide the inspirational and educational resources shoppers need to create more memorable and successful family dinners.2, 3 Specific educational resources include recipe cards, staff assistance and meal ideas that give them inspiration before they even walk into a store (think social media and other existing digital platforms). 

Why education really matters

Helping shoppers with recipes and meal planning is good customer service, but consider another reason why education matters. If the deli category consistently connects consumers with the resources that make their shopping trips easier and meals more enjoyable, it serves a greater purpose than simply meeting their needs. It positions the deli as a valuable asset. 

tyson deli infographic

Education matters because it creates happy shoppers, but it can also transform occasional shoppers into repeat customers. When they learn how to incorporate prepared foods into their meal plans, consumers may visit the department more often, and that increases their overall store visits. Educating shoppers starts with removing functional barriers to purchase and then communicating the deeper emotional connections as part of the meal. 

Participants in Tyson Foods’ Unconventional Shopper Connections3 experiment admitted that the deli offers convenience, but most felt it was “not for them” because its “one-size-fits-all” format does little to provide the meal experience they want to have. While the ultimate goal would be to offer solutions that fit each shopper’s needs, it might be more feasible to start by recognizing the two basic types of prepared-foods shoppers. Tyson Foods research has identified those two basic types as either “balancer parents” or “impromptu diners.”4 Balancer parents visit the store once or twice a week looking for quick, nutritious meals for their families. Impromptu diners make more frequent and impulsive store visits looking for meal ideas, but not necessarily the same meal experiences each time. Understanding these dynamics should help provide a foundation to develop meal solutions that appeal to most deli shoppers.  

Education should begin before the consumer begins shopping and continue through in-store communications. It should always steer away from talking about price and product and instead offer easy and appealing ideas about access and execution that also convey the deep emotional realities of a satisfying meal. By choosing to communicate with shoppers in this way, retailers seize the opportunity to educate them. 

Building loyalty

In Tyson Foods’ Prepared Foods Challenge2, what retailers did in the store laid the groundwork for what happened at home. When families were shown how to shop for, prepare and serve fresh, good meals featuring prepared foods, it actually made the dinner table a happier place. These were not compromise meals. They were special and satisfying, and they inspired consumers to return to the department again and again. 

Find out more about the unique ways Tyson Deli is approaching prepared foods at  


1. Tyson Foods, Vision Project, 2018
2. Tyson Foods, Prepared Foods Challenge, 2016
3. Tyson Foods, Unconventional Shopper Connections, 2017-2018
4. Tyson Foods, Awareness, Trial, Repurchase, 2016
5. Tyson Foods, On the Go Study, 2015

This post is sponsored by Tyson Foods, Deli Division