Seafood can slide into holiday prepared meal sales niche, grocery expert says

Published on
November 26, 2019

Busy holiday shoppers plan to buy more prepared meals than they have in past years, but U.S. grocers can do a better job of marketing their grab-and-go meals – particularly ones that include seafood, according to the latest national grocery shopping statistics.

Shoppers’ demand for prepared meals is undeniable, as sales of the items have grown annually for the past several years. In fact, the average household spent a record USD 3,459 (EUR 3,139) on all food away from home (including restaurants and retailers) in 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, signaling a 5.7 percent annual increase since 2013.

“With the exception of healthcare expenditures … Food away from home was the fastest-growing item among the major goods and services expenditure categories between 2013 and 2018,” the National Restaurant Association said on its website.

Conversely, consumers’ average spending on food at home rose 2.3 percent on average annually from 2013 through 2018.

Plus, nearly 30 percent of shoppers plan to order prepared meals during the holiday season, Service Channel said in a recent report. Thirty-two percent of those who already shop online say they’d be very likely to order a fully prepared holiday meal from a delivery service.

Notably, 63 percent of consumers surveyed by Service Channel said they are somewhat likely to order a fully prepared holiday meal from an online grocery delivery service if is available. Millennials and Generation X are the most interested in that service.

And 88.1 percent of consumers surveyed by FoodService Solutions said they will buy at least one fresh prepared entree or side dish this Thanksgiving, compared to 83.7 percent in 2018.

“Increasingly, the lack of meal-planning continues to grow; the result is an increase in ‘impulse’ ready-to-eat and heat-and-eat fresh prepared meal purchases while in the store,” Steven Johnson, grocerant guru at consultancy Foodservice Solutions, told SeafoodSource.

While shoppers are looking for traditional entrees and side dishes for Thanksgiving and Christmas, retailers can up prepared meal sales when they offer sides with a twist. Mashed potatoes with truffle butter and green bean casserole in individual crescent cups or stuffing are two examples, Johnson said.

Some retailers offer sides featuring seafood, including oyster stuffing and seafood bisques and soups.

“Retailers should offer, at minimum, two of all the traditional sides, but not more than four,” he noted.

Examples of holiday prepared meals that retailers can add to drive sales include: bruschetta with hot crab dip, Oysters Rockefeller, lobster bisque, and cioppino, Johnson said.

The best way to drive incremental holiday sales is by offering trays of fresh food that “complement the family meal and extend the holiday meal to include game day food, meals [or] snacks,” Johnson said. “In most cases, that means hand-held food for immediate consumption.”

In addition, the Service Channel report found that grocers must prepare for a new type of omni-channel shopper, who enjoy going to grocery stores and “expect a lot from the experience”.

“Compared to non-digital consumers who shop only in brick-and-mortar stores, omni-channel shoppers do much more at the store, such as using banking services, picking up prepared foods, eating at in-store restaurants and grabbing a drink. For example, Gen Z, Millennials, and Gen X will buy a coffee or tea during more shopping trips, while Boomers are looking to fill a prescription,” the report said.

At the same time, retailers need to effectively market groceries and prepared meals on their web sites. During the holiday season, 50 percent of those who regularly shop online for groceries plan to order them online more than usual. Forty-seven percent of Millennials and 53 percent of Gen X'ers plan to order groceries online more often than usual during the holiday season.

Photo courtesy of Viktoriia Hnatiuk/Shutterstock  

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