Be prepared. If it’s the Boy Scouts' motto, it may also be a grocer’s mantra.
According to Technomic’s recently released 2017 Retailer Meal Solutions Consumer Trend Report, prepared foods remain a big opportunity for grocers. Consumers aren’t just buying prepared foods at the supermarket, researchers found, but are going to the supermarket with the aim of purchasing foods that are ready to eat or close to it.
Expanded insights about Technomic’s latest RMS study will be revealed in WGB’s upcoming February issue. In the meantime, highlights of the report found, among other things, that 80% of consumers report purchasing prepared meals at least once a month. More than half—55%—eat prepared foods within an hour after purchase, meaning that the foods are a solution to a rather immediate need.
In what may be a boon to grocers that offer prepared foods at different dayparts, shoppers are also seeking such items beyond the dinner hour. Snacking is a leading occasion for retailer meal solutions, according to the new consumer trend report.
These converging trends and interests are driving retailers to focus on their foodservice areas as key points of differentiation in an ever-competitive climate for the consumer share of stomach. “Retailer meal solutions will continue to steal share from the fast-food segment. However, the addition of seating areas, bars and expanded made-to-order offerings means retailers will also increasingly compete with sit-down restaurants,” explains Kelly Weikel, director of consumer insights for Technomic.
Given that multifront competition, grocers would be well advised to focus on the food as well as the surroundings and atmosphere to reach out to their shopper base. “Price, decor and ambiance will be key battlegrounds moving forward as operators increase efforts to become hangout destinations and increasingly offer higher-quality fare such as scratch-made pizzas and smoothie bars,” Weikel says.
Other Technomic research affirms the growth and potential of prepared foods. According to the firm’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%.