Canadian retailers have been stepping up their game to gain occasions from on-the-go families looking for a healthy meal. We’re seeing retailers improve the consumer experience by making their dine-in areas a destination for fresh prepared foods at a time when competition is growing more intense.
Overall, retailer meal solutions (RMS) purchases are more frequent at traditional supermarkets, with 94% of Canadian consumers saying they’ve purchased prepared foods from these locations once a month or more, according to Technomic’s Canadian Retailer Meal Solutions Consumer Trend Report. But while prepared food purchases at retailers have remained flat since 2012, monthly RMS purchases have increased over that period from convenience stores, likely due to efforts to improve foodservice programs. Whereas c-stores are grabbing consumers on the go, retailers are becoming more focused on drawing consumers from restaurants, creating a one-stop solution for families who are looking to do a little shopping and grab a meal.
Here are some examples of retailers that have made strides in ramping up their prepared foods options.
- Al Premium Food Mart—a market located in Scarborough, Ontario, that focuses on ethnic food offerings—sells sushi prepared onsite daily that guests can enjoy in its large dine-in area. Its European café serves bubble tea and espresso, and its weekly ad promotes prepared-foods deals and promotions.
- IGA supermarkets serve a chef-created RMS menu, largely free of preservatives and additives. Offerings include fresh-baked bread, gluten-free muffins, grab-and-go sandwiches and wraps, and store-made condiments and fruit-and-yogurt parfaits.
- Pusateri’s Fine Foods is a clear leader in creating an atmosphere that feels like a restaurant through its range of globally-inspired prepared foods, brunch offerings and catering program. The retailer offered a Valentine’s Day Tasting Menu of six or nine courses with shareable appetizers such as beef carpaccio with arugula pesto and shaved truffled baby peaches; entrées including butter-poached lobster with squash purée and grilled broccolini; and a selection of desserts. A recommended wine pairing was available upon request.
- Whole Foods, like IGA, has prepared foods created by a trained team lead by experienced chefs. The variety available is staggering—pizza, burgers, ethnic dishes, barbecue, a salad bar and more. Many items are natural or organic and the grocer locally sources as many ingredients as possible.
Look for others to take cues from these retailers to improve the décor and atmosphere of their prepared foods areas, adding technological amenities and comfortable seating. These retailers will convey quality with restaurant-quality menus, often prepared with the help of on-staff chefs, and through the use of real plates and silverware to ramp up their sustainable reputation and provide more of a restaurant feel. Increasing the health perception of their menu items could also increase cheque averages, as consumers say they are more likely to cut items like appetizers and desserts when fewer healthful choices are available, according to the Canadian Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report.
Retailers would be wise to take note now of what they can do to improve the guest experience in prepared foods sections. Competition in this space is likely to increase—an Eataly is set to debut in Toronto in 2017; Saks Fifth Avenue will open two stores in spring 2016 with Pusateri’s as an operating partner; and Whole Foods has announced plans to quadruple its current Canadian store count of 10.