How Prepared Foods Can Help Gain Health-Conscious Shoppers' Trust in 2019

How Prepared Foods Can Help Gain Health-Conscious Shoppers' Trust in 2019

Who doesn’t want their food to be not only tasty, healthy and cost-effective, but also easy? Prepared foods may unlock the answers. The prepared food market has recently experienced many enhanced grab-and-go offerings, and your customers are taking notice.

Ready-to-eat foods from your stores can be the perfect solutions to shoppers’ busy lifestyles and discourage them from spending their food dollar at other competitive foodservice outlets. In fact,  a report from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), “U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2018,” notes that among all shoppers, 15 percent will “often” or “always” select prepared foods from the grocery store rather than fast-food places or restaurants if they haven’t cooked, with Millennials most likely to do so. 

Another FMI report, “The Food Retailing Industry Speaks 2018,” explains that retailers are benefiting from investments made in deli/prepared food offerings. It’s reported that deli/prepared foodservice and foods are among the most used (88 percent of the time) and successful (52 percent highly favorable) product differentiation strategies for retailers.

Important considerations, including cost, affect the success of your prepared food program. Prepared meals and sides can be advantageous, however, as they seldom have unused ingredients and don’t require partial amounts from original product packaging, thus saving money and lessening the risk of food waste. Your task as a retailer is to strike the right consumer price point of prepared food offerings that falls between the cost of dining out and that of home scratch cooking.

Be Prepared for the New Year

The month of January is a terrific opportunity to broadcast the benefits of controlled servings of prepared foods. Often health-focused resolutions are made for the New Year, which include attention to weight management.  Ready-made meals and sides can be bought at the counter in amounts at the discretion of the customer; however, many options, such as one-cup containers of soup, two-person meal kits, single pizza slices or individual sandwiches, can make it inherently easy to determine how many people an item serves. Some bistro and delicatessen departments even offer meals with several sides that are sold only by a set weight, thereby placing tighter controls on how much customers would expectedly consume.

Common concerns among consumers of prepared foods are high sodium and calories.  Be sure as a retailer that you’re addressing these issues, beginning in the procurement chain and enlisting the help of your dietitian to evaluate nutrition attributes. Frequently, customers assume that ready-made grocery store foods are healthier than restaurant choices, so it’s wise to build upon this consumer trust. Stock your prepared food case with snacks or sides at less than 300 milligrams of sodium and fewer than 300 calories per serving, and meals at less than 600 milligrams of sodium and fewer than 600 calories per serving.

A simple solution to upping nutrition with little excess sodium or calories is to add fresh or cooked fruits and vegetables. Perhaps the lasagna on your hot food bar could use some cooked spinach, the tuna salad could benefit from added celery, or the sushi rolls at the café could be spruced up with more cucumber and carrots.

Putting nutrition at the core of your prepared food department translates to more transparency for your customers in the form of displayed nutrition facts, available ingredient lists, wholesome produce-centric recipes, meal-pairing suggestions and portion control efforts.

About the Author

Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD

Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD

Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian coordinator for The Little Clinic and Kroger. Read More