LOS ANGELES -- At the Food Marketing Institute's MealSolutions show here, three consultants displayed dramatically different options for retailers who are looking to delve deeper into the meal-solutions business.
Lodged in the FMI "Idea Center," this year's prototype meals concepts focused on chef-intensive in-store preparation, a blend of scratch-prepared and manufactured products and creative Center Store packaging solutions. Developed by consultants Stephan Kouzomis, Entrepreneurial Consulting, Cincinnati; Brian Salus, Salus & Associates, Midlothian, Va.; and Howard Solganik, Solganik & Associates, Dayton, Ohio, the Idea Center was swamped with retailers looking for ideas they could adopt.
Salus' "Fresh Meal Market" showcased creative in-store preparation of signature items and upscale selections. Scratch cooking to order by trained chefs, in this case coming from the Hyde Park, N.Y.-based Culinary Institute of America, made this section suitable only for retailers looking to make a strong gourmet statement.
Solganik's "Easy Cookin" preferred a mix of chef-created dishes made with manufactured products, lowering the skill and labor levels needed at the Fresh Meal Market and focusing more on service and selling. Self-service and prepacked meals got more attention here.
Kouzomis' "Picked and Packed" took a completely different route, featuring a variety of branded products needed to make a meal, gathered together and prebagged. Mixes of Italian or Mexican shelf-stable sauces, starches, side dishes, beverages and accompaniments were ready for consumer pickup.
Salus, Solganik and Marcia Shurer, president of Culinary Connections, Boulder, Colo., also made a splash at a standing room only seminar. Brought together to present plans for new meals programs at three hypothetical supermarket businesses, the three were prodded by Michael Sansolo, vice president of the Washington-based FMI, to critique each other's efforts. The clashes at the much-anticipated session may have been entertaining, but ultimately shed little light on what path an operator should take, and who might help them the best.
At one point, Solganik faulted Schurer for what he estimated would be the excessive costs of her analysis. "Maybe I'm not as expensive as you are, Howard," Schurer retorted to much laughter from the audience.
"You only get what you pay for, Marcia," replied Solganik. He went on to criticize the cost of flying Schurer repeatedly to her hypothetical Boston supermarket for consultations.
"The difference is, with me, Howard, they don't have to fly in a whole team," said Schurer, referring to the size of Solganik and Associates' staff.