Retail sales of prepared foods - from rotisserie chicken to sushi, deli sandwiches and soups - are set to reach $32.45bn in 2012 - a 7.5% increase on 2011, according to Packaged Facts.
But why are store-made meals, salads and prepared foods outperforming frozen and ambient groceries in the neighboring aisles?
Lots of reasons, says Packaged Facts, the first being price, as buying prepared food from the grocery store is cheaper than going out to eat but a step up from heating up a frozen pizza from the same store.
Brand building for retailers
The products - which are all private label - are also seen by retailers such as Kroger and Safeway as a key means of differentiating themselves from the competition and creating more theatre inside the store to attract shoppers, says publisher David Sprinkle.
“Serving consumers is not just about providing quality, cost-effective, convenient, and healthful foods. It’s also about providing an atmosphere that draws people in.
“This is why more and more supermarket operators are integrating neighborhood messaging into their strategies, and a reason big box players such as Walmart are experimenting with smaller box formats.”
Healthy options still lacking in convenience store sector
But what kind of food is on offer?
“Although classic comfort dishes often hold sway in prepared food programs, supermarkets are increasingly providing and marketing fresh food items consistent with ongoing health trends, and supermarkets receive generally positive marks from consumers regarding prepared food healthfulness”, it adds.
However, many convenience stores “still operate under the assumption that the people buying [prepared foods] do not want to put health concerns first”, it observes.
But this “ignores the fact that millions of consumers do want to eat healthier fare and many might appreciate a tasty but healthy option just at the point when impulse and efficiency directs them to a convenience store”, it argues.
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