ZEELAND, Mich. -- Supermarket delis are some of the best home meal replacers around -- though perhaps they don't realize it yet.
lves in that role, and understand how they can be better at feeding consumers than their competitors in the food-service arena, said Charlie Goodstein, IDDA's president.
In an interview with SN, Goodstein said that retailers have the power to attract and retain customers, if they more skillfully meet those customers' needs.
And what are those needs?
"To me, home meal replacement is the desire to have a 'home-cooked' meal without any of the work, or guilt," Goodstein told SN. "Basically, it's 'feed me, delight me, don't make me work or think.' "
Goodstein ought to have some ideas about how that can translate to the deli and prepared foods programs at supermarkets. He has just been named director of business development for Bil Mar Foods here, a division of Sara Lee, and is charged with exploring new opportunities for sales of prepared, chilled foods. Before that, he was marketing prepared foods for Keebler, Elmhurst, Ill.
"If we can successfully re-establish the supermarket as the place for consumers to get food, the biggest issue will be where to put all the profits," Goodstein said. "For now, we need to do our research, execute flawlessly and refuse to become complacent."
As for whether the industry should scramble to respond competitively to home-style meal providers such as Boston Market, Goodstein asked, "Did we ever stop?"
SN: What do you see as one of the most important issues facing supermarket delis today?
GOODSTEIN: The issue today, as it has been for many years, is the ability of the industry to attract and retain customers.
The ever-changing demands of the consumer must elevate the focus and attention given the category, by not only supermarkets, but by manufacturers, brokers, distributors, even associations. The challenge is too multidimensional to be adequately addressed by one group effectively. There is an interdependence that exists and it must be continually fine-tuned to adapt to the consumer.
Our industry's future success will depend largely upon how well we execute. Consumers needs change. We need to recognize it, understand it and successfully address it.
SN: What trends will affect manufacturers and retailers the most?
GOODSTEIN: The grocery store was always the place people went to when they wanted to eat. At some point, the grocery store and the people who support the grocery store with goods and services lost focus on what people wanted.
This gave rise to a place called the "restaurant" [as a more frequently chosen option for food.] It addressed a variety of consumer needs and eroded a portion of the supermarket business.
Restaurants have gotten more focused on what the consumer wants, elevating the bar, and in effect challenging the supermarket industry for the consumer's food dollar. We need to address the erosion and return the consumer to the supermarket.
SN: What will be the key issue five years down the road?
GOODSTEIN: If we can successfully re-establish the supermarket as the place for consumers to get food, the biggest issue will be where to put all the profits. For now, we need to do our research, execute flawlessly and refuse to become complacent. I would rather put ourselves in a position to create the future than try to predict it.
SN: What's your definition of home meal replacement? What has the show's theme got to do with HMR?
GOODSTEIN: To me, HMR is the desire to have a "home-cooked" meal without any of the work, or guilt. Basically it's "feed me, delight me, don't make me work or think."
This year's show theme speaks to the way consumers view their lives. It's fast-paced, lot of options, futuristic and complex. I think the two tie together perfectly, don't you? And, by the way, the IDDA has instituted our own Web Page on the Internet. We are very excited about this new added dimension.
SN: How can supermarkets make the most of the HMR opportunity?
GOODSTEIN: By truly understanding the marketplace, finding the right partners and delivering on the consumer's expectations.
SN: Has IDDA's research addressed this subject?
GOODSTEIN: IDDA has been addressing and talking about HMR for years, but have called it different things.
HMR is not a revolution, but rather an evolution over many years. Some retailers, and a good many food-service companies, recognized the need and addressed it. We will continue to help our membership understand the opportunities and offer whatever assistance is within our capabilities.
SN: Do you think supermarket delis should compete with the likes of Boston Market?
GOODSTEIN: Did we ever stop? They simply grabbed some of our thunder. We need to work together to find ways to improve and beat them at their own game.