Mac and cheese epitomizes comfort food. It’s also a great example of a versatile dish that can be a side, an appetizer or even a standalone entree. Because mac and cheese is a dish that can be experimented with, and has broad appeal with children and adults, it presents big opportunities to grocery retailers.
Over the last year, mentions of mac and cheese on menus grew in multiple areas—as an entrée, it’s up 9% and as a side, it’s up 4%, according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor. But it’s not just a great option for restaurants—it’s a great option to include in hot to-go bars at grocery stores.
Consumers have a desire for the familiar—Technomic’s 2017 Starters, Small Plates and Sides Consumer Trend Report finds that while 44% of consumers want unique sides, 51% want classic options, making prepared mac and cheese an ideal offering in grocery stores.
Perfect for busy parents
Parents who are picking up a family to-go meal from the hot bar will want to know they can pick up something that the kids will like, and mac and cheese is a safe, tasty option. It’s can be purchased as a side with chicken, ribs and other main course offerings, but it can also be picked up as a main dish, paired with sides like coleslaw or steamed veggies, for instance. No matter how the meal is put together, mac and cheese represents a quick meal solution for shoppers on the go.
Another selling point for mac and cheese is the number of ways it can be sold, packaged and marketed to consumers. It can be sold in the deli behind glass, or in pre-packaged containers—and when offered as a prepared meal, macaroni and cheese can be offered in a number of varieties. For example, Blount offers a Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese, featuring a shell pasta in a decadent mixture of creamy cheeses. Gouda, a Dutch cheese with butterscotch and nutty undertones, is a refreshing take on classic cheddar blends.
Other grown-up versions of the classic dish include White Cheddar Mac & Cheese or an even more interesting option, Hatch Chile Mac and Cheese, which includes elbow macaroni in a creamy mix of cheddar and parmesan cheeses with roasted poblano peppers and a hatch chile pepper seasoning blend.
Some other trending ingredients for mac and cheese in recent years have included pulled pork (up 62% on menus), jalapenos (+32%), tomatoes and roasted tomatoes (+18%) and other options, like whole grain pasta, premium seafoods like lobster and crab and indulgent proteins like bacon. Mac and cheese is a dish that can be tailored to the adult foodie’s palate as well as the hungry 8-year-old’s. It provides meal solutions in a variety of ways for the broadest of potential consumers. What’s more, it can be prepackaged and sold as a ready-to-heat option or offered hot and freshly made.
Mac and cheese means comfort food. And comfort food never gets old. For busy shoppers, hungry adults and picky kids alike, mac and cheese offers a winning solution for any meal.
This post is sponsored by Blount Fine Foods