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What’s Next for Retail Foodservice

The pandemic sparked abundant innovation in retail foodservice as retailers rose to meet heightened demand for both traditional groceries and high-quality prepared foods. While retail foodservice shifted to a grab-and-go model early in the pandemic, many in-store delis and prepared-foods concepts are now fully reopened, and the industry is aiming to drive sales through elevated, expanded and improved concepts.

“Prepared foods are back because people are tired of cooking,” says Jonna Parker, principal with IRI’s Fresh Center of Excellence. After 18 months of preparing the majority of their meals at home, consumers are ready for someone else to pitch in with meal prep. “Certain categories where sales are up, such as sandwiches, entrées, and breakfast, speak to this fatigue,” she adds.

And even as consumers improved their cooking skills with practice during the pandemic, they continue to look to foodservice to satisfy cravings for international flavors, such as those from the Mediterranean, East and Southeast Asia and India, Parker observes. On the flip side, consumers have learned to make simple dishes like roast chicken in the last year-and-a-half, and IRI reports a softening of rotisserie chicken sales.

Given changing tastes and trends, how can grocers maximize profitability and get ahead of what’s next in retail foodservice?