Today’s retail foodservice offerings present a feast of fresh and global flavors, with sushi programs increasingly stealing the show.
Supermarket sushi stations have seen “rapid success”—going toe-to-toe with meal kits and fueling sales growth, reports Nielsen in its recent report, Perishables are Keeping Pace With Evolving Consumer Needs Across the Grocery Store.
“Sushi programs are very important to our foodservice programming,” says Geoffrey Wexler, VP of foodservice for Keasbey, N.J.-based Wakefern Food Corp. “The programs tick all the boxes required for the consumer of today: theater, freshness, unique flavor combinations, customization, portability, snackability and health.”
Wakefern’s ShopRite stores have offered sushi for more than 20 years and currently offers it—mostly made in-store—in nearly 200 locations.
ShopRite sushi chefs create made-to-order items and offer a variety of flavors and platter sizes, as well as premade sushi for quick convenience purchases. “The programs are designed for portability and are well-marked so customers can easily navigate the offering,” Wexler says.
While ShopRite’s sushi programs provide mainstays such as California rolls, nigiri and more, individual stores are empowered to know their customer base and preferences and tailor offerings accordingly. “Our operators are true entrepreneurs that learn the preferences of their consumers and advise their sushi partners to modify their offerings to best meet the needs of their consumers,” he says.
As such, sushi is just one element of ShopRite’s programming, which also includes sashimi, poke, sushi burritos and sushi doughnuts. Many of Wakefern’s ShopRite members also offer complementary items to sushi, including ramen and Pan Asian grab-and-go meals, as well as hot bars and action stations, such as the Sizzling Wok.
“Our evolution will continue as we expand into nontraditional sushi products, limited-time-offer flavors and products, bundling and possibly continuity programming,” says Wexler.
While new flavor creations and twists on the traditional are part of the culinary experience offered by ShopRite’s sushi program, it is clear that sushi is here to stay. “Sushi has become a destination category within our stores,” Wexler says.
“Great sushi is all about freshness, with beauty found in the simplicity from artisan sushi chefs. It epitomizes our true north.”