Prepared Meals Gaining Traction

Consumers also say they would purchase more retailer meal solutions in c-stores

Published in CSP Daily News

CHICAGO -- Three out of five consumers (62%) who report purchasing more supermarket prepared meals than a year ago are doing so at the expense of fast-food restaurants, according to a new report from foodservice consultants Technomic. The survey of more than 1,500 consumers found that family-style and casual-dining restaurants also were impacted to a somewhat lesser extent. Convenience was cited by 86% as the reason for buying more retailer meal solutions.

"Retail food chains, eager to recapture share-of-stomach, have been actively developing retailer meal solutions with strong consumer [image-nocss] appeal, allowing retailers to reposition themselves as competitors to restaurants," said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic. "Consumers are facing increasingly difficult economic choices, like balancing the higher cost of gasoline with the decision to dine out. The economic downturn may alter consumers' food sourcing habits. To stay in the game, retailers and restaurant operators will have to continue to adapt their value equations to meet the market's changing needs."

The findings come from Technomic's Retailer Meal Solutions Consumer Trend Report, which provides an in-depth analysis of consumers' purchases of retailer meal solutions (RMS), their motivations and unmet needs, as well as why they chose RMS over restaurant meals.

Select findings include:

More than half (55%) of consumers surveyed think that retailer prepared foods have greatly improved over the past three years. More than 80% reported buying at least one prepared meal from a retailer in a typical month. Over four in ten (41%) consumers purchase four or more retailer meals per month. Taste and freshness of food are the most important factors in choosing to purchase a retailer-prepared meal, cited by 89% and 87%, respectively; however, offering fresher menu items was an area noted as needing improvement for many retail establishments. One-fifth of consumers reported they would purchase more RMS if there were a greater variety of menu items offered, particularly in convenience stores.

The report explores the expansion of the retail foodservice marketplace and the factors driving it to become increasingly competitive with restaurants. It includes "real-world" examples of how specific retailers are enhancing their RMS offerings and covers channels including traditional supermarkets, mass merchandisers, warehouse clubs, c-stores, specialty food stores and upscale/fresh-format supermarkets.

Based on extensive quantitative consumer research, it follows up on two major RMS studies recently conducted by Chicago-based Technomic for chain operators, retailers and suppliers.