Chloe Riley is the Executive Editor of Supermarket News, which delivers the ultimate in competitive business intelligence, news and information for executives in the food retail and grocery industry. A graduate of the School of Journalism at Columbia College Chicago, Chloe previously served as a Digital Strategist at SEO firm Profound Strategy, Associate Editor at B2B hospitality mag HOTELS Magazine, as well as CEO of her own digital strategy company, Chlowe. She lives in Woodstock, Illinois.
This is the inaugural issue of our “SN Foodservice at Retail Innovators” — a featured spread highlighting the individuals and brands who are just knocking it out of the park when it comes to grocery foodservice and prepared foods. (Keep an eye out over the coming weeks here for the full slate of innovators)
The time has, perhaps, never been more critical for grocers to both care about and invest in their prepared foods and foodservice departments. Since the start of the pandemic, consumers have increasingly turned to grocery foodservice as part of meal planning and an ongoing trend toward food-at-home.
In 2022, deli prepared foods sales were up 9% year over year and up a whopping 19% from the pre-pandemic 2019 period. Meal kits have also been in demand, with recent data indicating that the U.S. market for meal kits will exceed more than $10 billion by 2024, compared to just $6.9 billion in 2021. Yeah. Whoa.
Shoppers have meal-prep fatigue (I know for sure this shopper does), and they want solutions. And whether they get those from a fast casual restaurant or a grocery store probably doesn’t make a whole lot of difference, as long as the quality is high and the service is fast.
If you make it, they will come.
This issue also stands out to me for its focus on people. Redner’s Market Chef Tim Twiford graces our cover, plating asparagus in a prepared foods meal. In 2021, the Pennsylvania-based company launched a prepared foods centralized kitchen, which third-generation owner Gary M. Redner said has made a huge difference in terms of the company’s consistency and sales.
Then there’s Shoprite’s Chef David Cingari, who rigorously tests items for a premium line within the Cingari family’s 12 Connecticut ShopRite stores — “Grade Above.” And there’s Sprouts Culinary Director Matthew Pratta and his culinary team, who have been developing flexitarian dishes that cater to paleo, keto, and gluten-free diets. (Their focus going into 2023? Vegetable-centric dishes.)
Another thing that stands out to me? There is no right way to do prepared foods and foodservice at retail. In fact, I’m amazed by the variety of styles and strategies across brands and companies. There’s just so much room in this pool to play. So, dive in grocers — the foodservice water’s just fine.