Retailers can increase sales in deli and prepared foods by focusing on the trends and innovations consumers are looking for, according to panelists in Supermarket News’ webinar “Fresh Insights: Surveying the Deli Landscape.”

Only one in four shoppers is a deli shopper, and it’s very difficult to convert those who avoid the department, said T Fuqua, brand manager, Tyson Foods. Instead, retailers should concentrate on inducing deli customers to spend more.

There are four attributes in particular that consumers are seeking out in fresh departments, said Sarah Schmansky, director of account services, Nielsen Perishables Group. Products considered healthy, convenient, premium/indulgent or multicultural/global all showed strong sales growth in 2013.


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Though premium and multicultural items still represent relatively small segments of sales, healthy products account for 36% of fresh dollar sales.

“Sixty-nine percent of deli snack sales come from items that have some sort of declared health benefit,” said Schmansky.

At Delhaize America banners, consumers are interested in “wholesome products,” said Marwan Fakhouri, director, deli/bakery category management and procurement. They want items with a short ingredient list that feel homemade, but they don’t necessarily focus on low calories or low fat.

One way Delhaize America is innovating is by taking ideas from other sections of the store. For example, the retailer has recently tried a sriracha rotisserie chicken and sandwiches made on pretzel buns from the bakery.

These types of experimentations are crucial to keeping consumers excited about the deli. “And if it doesn’t work out, you need to get out of it as quickly as you can,” said Fakhouri.

In contrast, Price Chopper Supermarkets has sought to rethink an entire store around the prepared foods department with its Market Bistro concept. The new store includes a Back Bay fish fry, wood smoke roaster for smoked chicken and brisket, and fresh pasta and salads for lunch, among other foodservice offerings.

“You think about any supermarket that’s really pulling that off successfully, you’re going to have repeat business,” said Troy Johnson, VP, deli and prepared food merchandising.

Johnson said Price Chopper looks to quick service restaurants for lessons about speed and efficiency but turns to fast casual restaurants for trends.

When it came to staffing the Market Bistro store, Johnson said the retailer thought about it like a restaurant rather than a supermarket. Price Chopper needs trained staff for many positions, not just minimum wage workers.

An archived version of the webinar is available here.

The webinar was sponsored by Tyson Foods.

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