To Grandmother’s house you may go, but perhaps you don’t need to bring a side dish – and she won’t have to spend hours in her own kitchen.
In line with shoppers’ growing interest in meal solutions and their fading inclination or ability to do it all themselves, grocers continue to tout complete holiday meals for the season. Think of it as a merry meal kit.
“Especially in light of meal kits and how popular they are at grocery retail and other private businesses, the holiday meal kit is a cool twist,” observes Jonathan Whalley, education coordinator for the Madison, Wis.-based International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA).
Indeed, many grocers offer complete meals for the holiday season. Whole Foods, for instance, has published a 2017 holiday menu guide for customers that is displayed in store, detailing meal solutions ranging from full meals to entrees, sides, party platters and desserts. The “Festive Feast for 12,” for example, is a full heat-and-serve feast with a 16-pound classic roasted turkey, 4-pound brown sugar spiral-cut ham, traditional herb stuffing, creamy mashed potatoes, organic turkey gravy, organic cranberry-orange sauce, green beans with crispy garlic and parsley, roasted butternut squash, organic creamed spinach and kale, a pumpkin pie and apple pie, for $249.99. Meals are also available for eight and four people, with proteins including classic turkey, ham, wine-braised brisket, prime rib, and vegan/meatless dishes like mustard-glazed cauliflower and cheesy rutabaga and potato mash, among other items.
Hy-Vee is another example of a retailer that has gone whole hog for the holidays, offering meals ranging from a boneless turkey breast dinner for four for $49.99 to a 6-pound prime rib dinner with sides for $130 to a full “Family Gathering Meal” for $299.99 that includes a 14-16-pound turkey, 8-10-pound ham, three sides of mashed potatoes, three double sides, gravy, dinner rolls and two Cheesecake Factory bakery dessert cakes.
In addition to the whole meal, stores can also position themselves as a holiday helper by offering prepared sides for customers who make part or most of the meal, but appreciate ready-to-go dishes to complement their cooking and save them time.
Heinen’s Grocery Stores, a family-owned chain based Cleveland, Ohio, with 22 stores in the Midwest, offers a time-saving a la cart menu for the holidays, with items like smashed redskin potatoes, herb roasted redskin potatoes, kettle roasted vegetables, broccolini with fried garlic, corn and bacon casserole and homemade gravies.
Many – arguably, most – retailers offer at least some meal solution for holiday celebrations. To make their solutions stand out, grocers can deliver versatility and customization to enable customers to build meals based on their unique needs and tastes. Whalley agrees that foodservice at retail can provide such flexibility. “I think a cool opportunity would be if a store provides a protein for a holiday meal, and then they have a whole display section with sides. That allows customers to make a meal to their taste, and it’s all part of the package,” he says.
Serving complete meals can also bolster other departments, benefitting both foodservice and center store. “It offers the store a chance to cross-merchandise with the fresh department and to put their signature touch on things. You could call out your bread from the in-store bakery as a way to elevate the holiday meal or give the shopper the option to make or reheat certain elements,” Whalley suggests.
Retailers can tout their service to customers through holiday meal promotions as well. “If they can accept call-ahead orders or ordering through an app or online, then curbside pickup would be a great option. They can deliver meals to the car, which is perfect for people busy at home with guests,” Whalley notes.