Prepared foods accounted for 58% of the $24 billion in deli sales in mid-2016, and are considered an emerging driver of growth, according to “The Power of Fresh Prepared/Deli,” a study commissioned by the Fresh Foods Leadership Council of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), Arlington, Va.

Highlights from the report include:

  • A product’s image and reputation are important to grow deli/fresh prepared, particularly as store/deli visits are declining. Fresh/deli prepared had 96% penetration, yet only 12% of shoppers visit the deli with regularity across channels and banners. Making deli/fresh prepared a true point of differentiation can pay huge dividends for the department and total store.
  • Tying into mega trends and touting health and wellness claims may accelerate sales growth in deli/fresh prepared. Shoppers are interested in seeing deli/fresh prepared featuring organic, locally-sourced, non-GMO, gluten-free and other mega trend-inspired foods that are aggressively growing sales in other parts of the store.
  • The industry should focus on convenience as the overarching advantage of deli/fresh prepared vs home-cooked meals. Extensive variety helps suit different preferences among household members. Other advantages include saving money on potentially discarded food and offering more convenient options for those who do not or cannot cook on a given occasion.
  • Elevate the profile of the food itself—driving food theater, ambiance, customization, professional chefs and meal inspiration. When compared with restaurants, shoppers see the ability to combine errands and time savings as the Top 2 advantages of deli/fresh prepared.
  • Offer variety across all types of meals, including number of options, cuisines and regular rotation of lines. Constant innovation is required to stay on top of flavors, ingredients and customizable options, primarily around mainstream, premium and value.

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