Retailers Need to Clearly Stand Out From Restaurants

CHICAGO — At the height of the economic downturn, many consumers flocked to convenience stores, supermarkets, mass merchandisers, warehouse clubs and other retailers looking for a deal on prepared food. Now that the economy is recovering from the recession, though, consumers are purchasing retailer meal solutions (RMS) less often than they did just two years ago.

New research from Chicago-based consulting firm Technomic Inc. found that 38 percent of today’s consumers say they purchase RMS from traditional supermarkets each week, down from 42 percent who said the same in 2010.

“These consumers may be reversing the patterns they set a couple of years ago by heading back to restaurants,” said Darren Tristano, vice president of Technomic. “For retailers to gain or maintain their share of foodservice dollars, they’ll need to clearly stand out from restaurants — especially since our data shows that consumers’ expectations are rising for the taste, quality, freshness and appearance of retailer prepared foods.”

To help foodservice executives understand the latest consumer behavior, preferences and attitudes regarding retailer foodservice, Technomic has developed the Retailer Meal Solutions Consumer Trend Report.

This report explores retailer foodservice trends at traditional, upscale or fresh-format supermarkets; warehouse clubs; convenience stores; mass merchandisers and specialty food stores.

Among the report’s findings are:

  • Some of the top RMS menu trends include signature fried snacks; more variety for vegetable sides; higher-quality pizzas; a distinct specialty focus for sandwiches and burgers; and a move toward ethnic flavors.
  • More than two-fifths of consumers who purchase RMS at least once a month (43 percent) say they do so four or more times per month, meaning they purchase RMS at least once a week.
  • More consumers today than those polled two years ago place a high importance on attributes such as value, price, convenience, taste, freshness and quality of prepared foods.
  • Opportunities exist for retailers to leverage their customization options to compete with restaurants; only 38 percent of consumers agree that retail prepared foods allow for more customization than food purchased from a restaurant.
  • At least four out of five consumers who visit each retail chain measured for prepared foods purchase RMS items at these locations at least once a month, reiterating the strong role routine and convenience plays in the RMS purchasing decision.
  • Although half of consumers think the quality of prepared foods has greatly improved since 2010, nearly two-fifths call for more name-brand foods that typically denote a higher quality perception.

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