CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Nearly a quarter of American consumers are now buying more prepared food from supermarket delis they were than a year ago, but they still prefer fast food restaurants over supermarkets for takeout, by more than a two-to-one margin.
od Marketing Institute's convention in Chicago this week.
Results of the 1996 survey nearly mirrored last year's findings when shoppers were asked whether they were now buying more or less prepared food at supermarkets than a year ago.
This year 24.7% said they were buying more from supermarket delis, while in 1995, 25.2% reported buying more.
The more sobering news is that last year, 41.6% said they were shopping delis less than before, and this year's survey showed only slight improvement, as 41.3% said they were making fewer deli purchases in 1996.
The number of consumers who expected to be buying more prepared food in the future showed a slight increase over last year.
In 1995, 19.6% of those interviewed predicted they would be buying more prepared foods. This year, the number climbed to 22%. Consequently, the percentage of those who planned to buy less prepared food declined somewhat, with 35.0% of those interviewed this year saying they would probably buy less prepared food in the coming months. In 1995, 37.2% had expected to be buying less prepared food in the future.
Americans remain hooked on fast food as their first choice for takeout, the study found.
When consumers were asked whether they would choose a fast food restaurant or supermarket deli for takeout in the coming six months, 67.7% chose restaurants, while 31.4% opted for supermarket delis.
Indeed, restaurants gained some ground over last year's survey, when 65.7% picked fast food outlets and 32.5% chose supermarket delis.
Despite the dominance of restaurants as a takeout source, more than half of those interviewed reported they do shop the market for prepared food for the evening meal, at least occasionally.
Indeed, one in five answered that they take home deli-prepared food for dinner once every week, and 7.2% that they take out dinner more than one time a week, while 26.4% said that they buy prepared dinners less often than weekly.
Dinner is America's favorite deli-prepared meal, trailed closely by lunch.
When asked which prepared meal they would most likely pick up in the supermarket deli, 43.7% chose dinner and 40.1% picked lunch. Breakfast meals were the first choice of only 8.6% of those interviewed.
According to the survey, precut lettuce is faring somewhat better as an alternative selection to a raw head of lettuce this year, which seems to reflect retailers' own reports of continuing strong sales of fresh prepared produce. The nationwide survey showed precut gaining a slight increase over last year's findings.
In the 1996 survey, 22.6% said they would choose precut lettuce, while 76.9% would choose a head of lettuce. By comparison, last year's survey found 21.7% preferring the precut variety, with 78.3% remaining with the traditional lettuce.
The survey was conducted March 20 to 25, 1996, and included telephone interviews with 1,000 consumers nationwide. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.3%.