During the recession, a number of retailers ramped up their prepared-food and convenience offerings as a way of appealing to consumers who have lost their enthusiasm for restaurants, according to the Food Marketing Institute's U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2009. For example:
Supervalu rolled out a private-label line of prepared foods, frozen pizzas and other products to its nearly 2,500 stores nationwide.
Safeway expanded its own prepared-food line to more than 50 stores, up from an initial test market of a dozen.
Kroger installed bistros at 12 of its stores.
Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market introduced a line of six family-pack meals in March of last year.
In Fresh & Easy's case, a strong value message made the meals an instant hit. “Within a matter of weeks, they became our six top-selling grab-and-go or prepared-meal items, and a lot of it has to do with the size and the price,” said Brendan Wonnacott, spokesman for the El Segundo, Calif.-based retailer. “You can feed a family of four and it's only $8.”
Wade Hanson, senior manager of Technomic, a Chicago-based foodservice consultancy, attributed some of the increase in grab-and-go chilled meals to Fresh & Easy's success with the category.
“Given the difficulties being experienced by foodservice operators and the continued economic pressures on consumers, supermarket prepared meals should continue as a strong alternative for many people,” Hanson told SN.
“While growth projections may not be as high as once thought, supermarket prepared foods will still outpace overall foodservice in the near term. Retail foodservice, which includes c-stores and other retailers in addition to supermarkets, is a business in excess of $25 billion that continues to grow.”