From better-for-you items to innovating with classic proteins, here’s how retailers can change the landscape of prepared foods departments.

The competition for share of foodservice dollars is fiercer than ever before, as consumers today have countless choices when dining out. In many cases, supermarket foodservice, however, hasn’t responded to consumers’ cravings as rapidly over the past one to two years as perhaps they should have. According to a 2018 consumer survey from Technomic, 43% of consumers would purchase prepared foods from a supermarket two to three times per month if they had on-trend, authentic or global flavors that they could not get elsewhere.

This means that to keep consumers interested, grocers need to reassess their foodservice plans and actively consider how to offer restaurant-quality food with a better value proposition than full-service and fast-casual restaurants, which cater to all dining needs. Here are three ways grocers can innovate and transform their foodservice programs into experiential dining destinations to entice a more discerning customer base.

Fresh & healthy

The availability of fresh and healthy meals is important to consumers. While consumers define health in a holistic way, “fresh” and “natural” are the top terms measured that indicate healthfulness, according to Technomic’s April 2019 Global Consumer Trends report

While a 100% fresh, natural menu is the ideal, any movement toward this goal will be an improvement in consumers’ eyes. For example, managers can:

  • Work with suppliers to identify ingredients with natural substitutes and transition those into the supply chain over time.
  • Require frequent deliveries and accurate demand estimates to enhance freshness while minimizing waste.
  • Offer menu transparency, which is a rising expectation among consumers. Communicating menu ingredients can also help justify necessary price increases.

Modern pizza programs

Pizza remains a staple of the American diet, with 83% of consumers eating pizza at least monthly, and 57% of consumers ages 18 to 34 eat pizza at least weekly, according to Technomic’s 2018 Pizza Consumer Trend Report. Even better news for grocery retailers: Consumers are enjoying pizza throughout the day. Technomic’s Pizza report found that across 24 retail chains tracked (from fourth-quarter 2017 to third-quarter 2018), 12.6% of customers had pizza during a recent foodservice visit, and 16% of pizza purchases took place during a snack occasion (as opposed to lunch or dinner).

When it comes to pizza foodservice at grocery, Technomic’s Pizza report found that 49% of consumers want more authentic pizza offerings, and 44% choose pizza places that use high-quality/fresh toppings and ingredients. This bodes well for grocers looking to get creative with their foodservice pizza programs, going beyond the basics and bringing some excitement to the prepared foods area, deli, grocerant or hot food bar.

For example, grocery chain Publix offers an array of flatbread pizzas in varieties such as spinach, artichoke and chicken; pizza bacon cheeseburger; and Buffalo chicken. Another chain, AJ’s Fine Foods, recently installed wood-fired pizza ovens to combine the theatrics of food preparation with just-made whole pizzas, slices and calzones.

Innovative chicken programs

Most grocers at the very least offer rotisserie and fried chicken as part of retail foodservice. The pervasiveness of chicken as part of a retail foodservice program is as significant to the category as deli ham is to lunchmeat. Today’s consumers, however, crave more from their chicken entrees, beyond the conventional rotisserie or chicken wing. To that end, retailers must implement creative ways to differentiate their offerings.  

LTOs can be a great way to differentiate and keep consumers engaged.  A seasonal rotisserie LTO like Schnucks that features unique on-trend flavors like Beer Can Chicken or Nashville Hot can be a great way to entice shoppers.  Another chain, Weis Markets, is offering Memphis BBQ chicken for consumers to enjoy during the summer. 

According to Technomic’s Center of the Plate: Poultry report, 50% of 18- to 34-year-olds say they’re interested in trying chicken entrees with new or unique flavors to provide one-of-a-kind options. Growing ingredients on chicken dishes, according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor, include pepper Jack cheese, lemon, avocado, poblano and honey. Interesting batters and coatings also can help drive appeal, as 42% of consumers say they are more likely to order fried chicken if it’s hand-breaded or hand-battered. Promoting hand-breaded chicken, with simple batters featuring a few spices or complex coatings, helps convey freshness and uniqueness to consumers. 

To continue attracting consumers to grocery foodservice, it’s essential to update and innovate foodservice offerings. By continually adding more foods consumers want, grocery can remain competitive with local restaurants. George’s insight driven R&D team can help design a program to drive sales and customer satisfaction.  With experience in both retail and foodservice, George’s team can bring restaurant trends and flavors to the deli counter and hot case. To learn more about George’s chicken offerings for deli and retail, visit today.