Retail Foodservice

Improving the Deli Shopper’s Journey

Photograph: Tyson Foods; Deli Division

Tyson Foods, Deli, asked experts from recognized brands such as Nike, Disney, United Airlines and Farmer’s Fridge how they would reinvent deli, and they provided feedback on prepared food’s challenges, opportunities and approaches. They also validated what Tyson has been saying all along – that deli is a mixed bag of experiences that does little to meet shoppers’ needs.

Tyson Foods has a unique opportunity to see the deli department through the eyes of leading brand titans whose observations of the department’s common pain points should inspire the rethinking of deli’s core purpose. Recently 13 experts from a variety of industries, from theme parks to technology stores and apparel, were invited to consider the foodservice retail experience through the lens of their profession. These thought leaders visited several grocery delis in their respective home cities to review new trends and traditional offerings. They then gathered in Chicago, armed with observations on what they had discovered.

The mission for this group of visionaries was to develop a set of innovative, sustainable, differentiated concepts for the supermarket deli that drive customer traffic, conversion, enjoyment and long-term purchase frequency, in order to maintain enduring relevance. In Chicago, the experts toured two local grocery stores; an Asian fast casual restaurant; a Latin fusion restaurant; and a restaurant/grocery store combo offering locally sourced ready-to-eat meals in-house and a monthly meal subscription service.

They also looked at industry research about prepared foods and discussed specific deli challenges. They brainstormed creative ways to overcome those challenges based on approaches other industry titans would take.

When Tyson Foods asked for feedback on deli’s challenges, opportunities and approaches from their unique perspectives, the visionaries, who are well known for their creative innovation skills, reinforced what Tyson has known for some time – that deli doesn’t meet shoppers’ needs.

Tyson graphic

The experts voiced key areas of concerns and offered their recommendations for change.

Specifically, they thought the experience seemed overwhelming even for regular grocery shoppers, and that prepared foods departments were unfocused on food quality or took little advantage of technology and branding opportunities. They also noticed numerous barriers along the path to purchase, ranging from large, cumbersome product displays and hand-made signage, to the deli counter itself, where staff was limited and often unavailable to assist.

This exercise provided a unique opportunity to see the deli department through the eyes of senior executives and innovative experts with a track record of having visionary ideas, forging unique engagements and delivering creative solutions for their respective customers.

While many of their common observations aligned with previous Tyson Foods studies that found the value of shopping for prepared foods in a grocery store isn’t very clear, we wanted to know what the brand experts would do to change the conversation with shoppers, and to generate a more positive impact on behaviors, return visits and overall store sales.

Find out more about what Tyson Deli is doing at

Sources: Tyson Foods, Unconventional Shopper Connections, 2017-18; Tyson Foods, On the Go Study, 2015; Tyson Foods Attitudes and Usage Study, 2015; Tyson Foods, Consequences of Failure, 2015, 2016; Tyson Foods, Prepared Foods Challenge, 2016; Tyson Foods, Vision Project, 2018.

This post is sponsored by Tyson Foods, Deli Division