ORLANDO, Fla. — A newly released report and retailer panel here spotlighted strategies for further capitalizing on the at-home eating trend, which has gained momentum in the economic downturn.
Executives from Hy-Vee, Sobeys and Dorothy Lane Market outlined sizable opportunities and achievable goals during a session of the Food Marketing Institute's Midwinter Executive Conference.
“The stars are aligned, and all signs indicate opportunities to increase and improve meals eaten at home,” said Kenneth Waller, executive vice president and chief administrative officer, Hy-Vee, West Des Moines, Iowa. He said the trend is fueled by factors including TV cooking shows and publicity about the benefits of families eating together at home.
“If we can look at meals rather than just ingredients, we'll be part of the solution earlier on,” said Marc Poulin, president of operations, Sobeys Quebec region.
The report, called “Eating In,” focuses on growing sales by helping consumers shop for and plan home meals. The research was conducted by The NPD Group and the report was sponsored by the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council. The panel's moderator, Bill Bishop, chairman of Willard Bishop, Barrington, Ill., outlined the report's top-line results, including the need for helping consumers plan out meals.
Breakfast is already solidly in the supermarket arena because some 76% of consumers already eat that meal at home, according to the report.
Poulin said Sobeys hopes to maintain its hold on breakfast by focusing on convenience, with an emphasis on the coffee category.
“We're partnering with a manufacturer to sell K-cup machines at cost to consumers to help grow that business,” he said, noting an initiative timed for the Christmas period.
Lunch is the meal most commonly eaten away from home, and supermarkets need to draw more consumers to their lunch fare by focusing on attributes including speed, taste, convenience and health, the report said.
At Dorothy Lane Market, Dayton, Ohio, Calvin Mayne, chief operating officer, said sandwiches are still the focal point of lunch business, and he emphasized the need to grow that business.
“The king of lunch is sandwiches,” he said. “Research shows the No. 1 sandwich is still ham, but within that category you can make things more interesting.”
Dinner is the “must-win” meal because “if consumers choose you for dinner, they will choose you for other meals too,” Waller said. Making meal preparation easier for consumers is the route to winning that business, he added.
“They want to find all ingredients for a meal displayed in one place,” he said. “Forty-three percent said they would do more meals at home if all the ingredients were prepackaged. Others want meal centers staffed by trained employees.”
He said marketing plays a big role as well, including use of some of the newer digital tools. “We have the opportunity to merchandise with a 4 p.m. Twitter about carryout meals or ingredients for a certain meal,” he said.
The report outlined the prizes available to the industry for succeeding in building at-home eating.
“The successful capture of the incremental business projected to be available across breakfast, lunch and dinner can boost a retailer's food sales by up to 3.2%, which translates to an increase of approximately 2.2% in total store sales,” according to the report.
The research pinpointed “the seven faces of dinner,” which represent seven key dinner occasions: last-minute no-brainers, thrifty repeats, tasty creations, nourishing fare, kids' delights, family entertaining and hearty fuel. Two of those in particular carry big prizes, said another panelist, Joseph Derochowski, executive director, The NPD Group.
“Focus on the two biggest ones first: last-minute no-brainers and thrifty repeats,” he said [the report says they represent nearly 40% of all dinner occasions]. “They also have the lowest levels of satisfaction.”