While other areas of the grocery store are decreasing in business, fresh prepared food is gaining traction. According to Technomic’s 2016-17 U.S./Food Industry Universe Analysis, supermarket prepared foods are among the top five fastest growing food industry channels, up 8.9%. Consumers are increasingly visiting grocers’ ready-meal options for a restaurant-like food experience with some added perks: There’s no need to tip, they can mix and match mains and sides and they can choose the quantity that best meets their needs.
And it’s a sizeable consumer base—Technomic’s 2017Retailer Meal Solutions report finds that 80% of consumers purchase prepared meals from a grocery store or other retail store at least once a month, with 30% of consumers purchasing them five times a month or more.
Here’s how grocers can maximize their prepared food business by balancing the familiarity of comfort food with a little innovation.
Chicken is the popular go-to option in prepared foods. According to Technomic’s 2017 Retailer Meal Solutions report, 58% of consumers select chicken for lunch and 67% choose it for dinner.
While rotisserie chicken holds the top spot in chicken preparations, fried chicken is a close second with 67% of consumers saying they would consider purchasing it occasionally.
Technomic’s Retailer Meal Solutions report also found that potatoes rank high as popular prepared side dishes. In fact, 77% of consumers said they would order fries or wedges, 76% said they would choose mashed potatoes and 71% would order baked potatoes.
A 2017 Technomic study found that 41% of consumers reported increasing their orders involving vegetables either as an entree or as an entree ingredient. Just as restaurants have added fried vegetables to their menus, groceries can also tap into the trend by putting green beans, cauliflower, pickles, okra and Brussel sprouts in their fryers for innovative sides and mains.
Beyond vegetables, another emerging trend in all food and foodservice sectors is ethnic flavor. According to Technomic's 2017 Flavor report, 62% of consumers say they purchase ethnic or ethnic-inspired foods from restaurants and other foodservice locations at least once a month. In the prepared food section, that means taking advantage of adventurous palettes with Middle Eastern falafels, which can fill a sandwich or be served with dips; Indian pakoras (fritters) and crispy samosas; and Filipino-style lumpia (spring rolls) as well as deep-fried bananas.
A common thread in staying ahead of prepared food trends is frying, a craveable preparation that most consumers don’t want to tackle in their home kitchen. Technomic’s Retailer Meal Solutions report finds that about a quarter of consumers would purchase more prepared foods if speed and cleanliness were improved. To help on both fronts, grocers can install specialized equipment such as the automated oil management system from Restaurant Technologies, which offers an all-in-one solution for fresh cooking oil delivery and grease removal as well as recycling. By taking away the messy, labor-intensive tasks associated with fryer oil, your grocery’s prepared food staff can focus on cooking great food and staying on top of consumer trends.
This post is sponsored by Restaurant Technologies