Retail Foodservice

Turn Up the Heat on Sales of Hot Prepared Sides, Soups

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More and more consumers expect the hot, prepared foods from their supermarket to taste just as good as their favorite restaurant fare. They’re looking for products that exemplify wholesomeness and simplicity with the added advantage of being readily available at the same place where they do their regular grocery shopping.

Research suggests that shoppers are finding what they seek—especially millennials. Fifty-seven percent of consumers say they get prepared foods from grocery stores at least once a month, and that number jumps to 69% among those ages 18 to 34, according to Technomic’s 2018 Takeout & Off-Premise report. In addition, more than 60% of prepared purchases are “ready to eat” rather than “ready to heat,” indicating consumer preference for food that’s hot and already cooked for them.

Soups and sides are integral elements of a top-notch hot, prepared foods program. With a multitude of flavors from traditional to cutting edge, soups and sides can complement other prepared foods offerings—hot or cold—in addition to serving as convenient grab-and-go lunches, snacks and light dinners.

Bowling them over

The savory scents of hot soups and sides can play a key role in driving sales of hot, prepared foods with 32% of consumers reporting that the aroma of items being prepared is a purchase-driver for prepared foods at the grocery store, according to Technomic’s Takeout & Off-Premise report.

Soups and sides are also ideal for sampling and in-store demos as they encourage shoppers to add new flavors and variety to at-home meals while also boosting the basket ring for hot, prepared dinner purchases. Innovative on-trend dishes that consumers can pick up, such as Organic Coconut Lentil Soup, Scallop & Bacon Chowder, Cheesy Polenta or Hatch Chile Mac & Cheese, offer shoppers a convenient taste of the adventurous cuisine they crave but might not feel confident cooking for themselves and their families.

Beans are one of the fastest-growing sides offered at grocery hot bars with sales jumping 100% year over year, according to Technomic’s recent Retailer Meal Solutions report. Creative combos like Broccoli Rabe & White Beans or Fajita Beans cater to growing consumer demand for expanded plant-based protein options to serve alongside—or in place of—meat dishes.

Marketing hot sides and soups

Marketing hot, prepared foods effectively within stores is key to keeping shoppers coming back for more. In addition to sampling and in-store demos, promote meal deals and bundles featuring hot, prepared foods several times a week. Reach across the aisle to cross-promote hot soups and sides through in-store communications and combos with center store and fresh items.

Staff training can also make a big difference in customer satisfaction with hot, prepared foods. Make sure associates are knowledgeable about the different products offered and can tell shoppers the best methods to use at home to reheat their purchases. Of course, staff members should also monitor the hot, prepared foods area continually to keep it clean and well-stocked for maximum shopper appeal.

Because hot, prepared foods are such a sought-after option for many shoppers, grocery stores stand to gain a great deal from offering them. With variety and regular menu changes, retailers can enjoy an uptick in prepared foods purchases.

This post is sponsored by Blount Fine Foods