The Food Marketing Institute (FMI), Arlington, Va., released its annual assessment of the state of the foodservice at retail, demonstrating the opportunities for retailers to leverage a $13 billion category. Growing annually at 8.2%, foodservice is presented as a primary strategy for food retailers to differentiate and appeal to convenience-seeking consumers. 

The study,FMI’s 2019 Power of Foodservice at Retail,” finds that 63% of consumers continue to incorporate time-saving solutions in the form of semi- and fully-prepared items for dinner, but opportunities exist for grocers to garner greater visibility as the primary dinner solution. Survey participants offered feedback for their stores to focus on faster service, more cuisine variety, healthier dishes as well as healthier alternatives to current options, competitive prices, more information, freshness, knowledgeable and available staff and various operational improvements such as cleanliness and in-stock performance. 

Likewise, consumers continue to look for convenient ways to get all – or part – of their meals away from home, and supermarkets play a pivotal role in this decision making.

“The study notes that grocers with a positive reputation in retail foodservice can serve as strong motivation for 64% of shoppers who say they will actually go out of their way to find these stores,” says Rick Stein, vice president, fresh foods. “Competitive differentiation strategies abound for our grocery members who place an emphasis on variety and reduce obstacles through fast and convenient shopping experiences. These experiences may also be enabled by technology, as we’re witness to similar motivations in the restaurant industry.” 

Need for variety 

  • 88% of shoppers want to see more new items and flavors in retail foodservice. In fact, the most frequently mentioned word in the open-ended suggestions of the survey was “more” in combination with words such as variety, food, options and items. 
  • The highest share (31%) want to see flavor and item rotation on a monthly basis, but 28% want even greater levels of innovation and recommend a weekly or even daily rotation.

Need for speed

  • The importance of speed is once more underscored by the grab-and-go, ready-to-eat format being the most popular method, which is of interest to 68% of shoppers.
  • Grab-and-go, heat-and-eat is the second most popular style at 63%. 

Need for technology 

  • While 57% of shoppers downloaded grocery store apps, 42% actively use one or more.
  • App usage is highly related to checking weekly specials (78%), online ordering of groceries (53%), getting recipes and meal ideas and researching the deli-prepared foods menu, but foodservice orders lag (38%).