While global flavors, high-protein fare and comfort-food classics remain attractive menu items for retail foodservice operations today, as consumers look to shed their “quarantine 15” or other pounds gained while sheltering and working at home, healthful options focused on fruits and vegetables as well as plant-based alternatives also are likely to resonate.

According to the latest IRI data, consumers have explored a wider variety of vegetables in the past year, from cruciferous types such as cauliflower and broccoli to often-overlooked eggplant. The same is true with fruit, as consumers broadened their horizons for lunchtime go-tos beyond apples and bananas. Consumers will be looking to their local supermarket deli to offer a greater variety of produce featured in everything from snacks to side dishes to mains.

Along with healthfulness, quality and convenience, consumers expect value from the deli/prepared foods department. “Value has taken on greater importance during the pandemic,” noted Wade Hanson in WGB’s annual State of Retail Foodservice Report, produced in partnership with Technomic. 

The good news is that almost 2 in 5 consumers in March of 2021 saw more value in prepared foods than they did in the period just before the pandemic started. Technomic attributes the improved perception in part to the “significant efforts” that grocers made to provide more value-oriented solutions for individuals and families alike during the COVID-19 pandemic.