Friday, December 31, 2021

Convenience Store Fresh Prepared Grocerant Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat Food Set to Take-Off


Success does leave clues and Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® is one of the best at picking them up, sharing them, while helping service deli’s, restaurants, and c-stores drive top-line sales and bottom-line profits.

So, according to Joyce Baird, strategic account manager at research and consulting firm Foodservice IP. During a presentation at the recent 2021 CSNews Convenience Foodservice Exchange event, she discussed various factors affecting the current convenience foodservice market and steps retailers can take to boost their programs. Let’s look what she had to say:

1. Been There, Done That

"We've been there, we've done this, we've been through crises," Baird said, pointing to major historical events such as the 1918 Spanish Flu, the stock market crash, and The Great Recession.

While all of these events had major effects on society, they weren't the end of the world or of any retail channels. Similarly, retailers that persevere and deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the labor crisis and disruptions to the supply chain, will eventually find themselves on the other side as things improve.

2. Prepared & Delivered Food Is Thriving

A wide range of away-from-home food options are taking off. Ghost kitchens, turnkey solutions and wholesaler/distributor-provided commissaries are just a few examples of services that existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and are thriving now.

3. Ecommerce Has Accelerated During COVID-19

Consumers across all demographics have increased the number of foodservice purchases they make via ecommerce vs. more traditional means. And it isn't just a temporary measure until the pandemic is over. Baird pointed to a retirement community that brought on a tech person specifically to teach residents how to use smartphones, including for delivery services.

To make the most of this, c-store retailers need to keep in mind the reasons customers purchase more through ecommerce (quality, cost savings, and convenience), and what will push them to purchase less (a poor experience or substituting other channels.)

4. Foodservice Is Necessary

In America, people plan going out to eat more than they plan anything else. Not everyone has time to prepare food, making the foodservice category necessary. 

Consumer sentiment is changing with age. "Bubba" is no longer the primary c-store customer, and younger consumers tend to view c-stores as places they can get anything, rather than falling back on the stereotype of bad gas station food.

5. C-store Foodservice Is Positioned to Fight for Share of Stomach

The foodservice category at c-stores is estimated to reach $12.2 billion in 2023, according to the Foodservice IP 2021 Convenience Store Foodservice Report, with hot snacks, chicken and pizza leading the way.

With category growth comes competition growth. C-store operators should treat all food outlets including fast-food restaurants, regional quick-service restaurants (QSRs) and coffee/doughnut stores as competition. Doing so will keep them better positioned to fight for share of stomach.

"Make sure you're looking at what all is around you," Baird said.

6. Seek Strategic Advisors, Not Vendors

Vendor partners shouldn't just be companies that supply product, they should be advisors that know foodservice. Strong knowledge of how the category works is key, and they need to be aware of what keeps retailers up at night.

Retailers should expect supplier companies to do their homework and come to the table with solutions; know hard and soft costs, including detailed product information down to the last ingredient used; deliver product and service innovation, including good communication, trust and a willingness to bring new ideas such as marketing initiatives; mutual investment, with the ability to commit and reinvest in their business; and the willingness to prioritize the retailer.

Vendors should also be able to show they are already familiar with competitive offerings, provide fact-based evidence to support their ideas, and come up with two or three ideas that fit a c-store's concept.

7. Rigorously Execute on the Restaurant Basics

A winning value proposition consists of consistently solid basics (including service, food and unit appearance) combined with resonating points of differentiation (such as customer lifestyle integration, hospitality, menu desirability, atmosphere, concept essence, and manager presence.) C-stores that position themselves to follow through on these basics will be in a solid competitive position.

8. Prepare for Post-COVID Changes  

Safety and cleanliness are part of the new foodservice reality. Customers may not even know they're looking for these things, but still feel relieved when they see cleaning products inside a store.

Contagion concerns, poor ventilation and lack of masks are among the reasons customers give for not feeling safe in a store. Retailers need to have a plan for addressing these concerns to make their customers feel welcome.

9. Flexible Organizations Thrive in Uncertainty 

It's impossible to know what is coming, but c-store operators are capable of planning for multiple outcomes, whereas a lot of companies just have one strategy.

Retailers should evaluate implementation steps, not just the end result, and remain a "stubbornly" agile and flexible culture. Basing their decisions on what's happening in practice, not in theory, will lead to better outcomes.

10. The Forecast Is Bright  

C-stores experienced a negative impact in 2020 due to the pandemic, but they have had a leg up on competitors in 2021, and will continue to, as essential businesses. They also benefit from consumers viewing them as similar to QSRs.

Looking ahead, foodservice will remain an integral part of c-store profitability and patron desires. Not all stores will be a fit for prepared food and dispensed beverages but, as a whole, the industry can expect good things from the category, according to Baird. 

Success does leave clues. One clue that time and time again continues to resurface is “the consumer is dynamic not static”.  Regular readers of this blog know that is the common refrain of Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.  Our Grocerant Guru® can help your company edify your brand with relevance.  Call 253-759-7869 for more information. 

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Bread is a Handheld Food and a Grocerant Success


While many consumers are just starting to think about going a diet at the start of the year.  I want to take a look back at 2021, within the grocerant niche and let you know that bread is back.  Yes, according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® the number one product for handheld food for immediate consumption is bread around world.  On top of that in a new pool conducted by The Harris Poll confirmed it.  Let’s look at some recent numbers:

So, according to a nationwide survey commissioned by General Mills Foodservice and conducted by The Harris Poll, Bread isn't just a key part of at-home meals. Americans' consumption of bread when dining out or getting takeout is on the rise.

Get this, during the past year, two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) report eating bread more than they normally would when dining out or ordering takeout and three in five Americans (60 percent) say they would rather indulge in a good bread item than dessert when dining out.

Chef Curt Wagner, part of the Chefs of the Mills team, stated "Bread and the associated carbs used to get a bad rap, but we are really seeing consumers come back to bread," … "From home bakers attempting to make sourdough and banana bread to diners seeking out the bread items they love but don't have the time or skills to make on their own, it appears we are all craving and eating more bread. I expect to see a resurgence of indulgent and creative bread menu items in the year ahead."

Consumers who are eating more bread when dining out or ordering takeout during the past year are doing so because it is offered as a complimentary "starter" (52 percent); because it is comforting (45 percent); to fulfill a craving (36 percent); to indulge (29 percent); or to reward themselves (25 percent).

Favorite bread items include garlic bread (61 percent), rolls (47 percent), French bread (35 percent), biscuits (34 percent) and croissants (31 percent).

Other key survey findings include:

·         Nearly three-quarters of Americans say that when dining out, their meal includes some type of bread item as a starter or part of the main course and that bread is something they look forward to when they are dining out or ordering takeout (both 73 percent).

·         87 percent of Americans say they enjoy being offered a free starter of fresh bread items, such as a bread basket or garlic bread when dining out.

·         63 percent of Americans are more likely to order a sandwich if it is made with a unique bread/sandwich carrier, such as biscuits, waffles or croissants, than if it is made from regular bread.

Wagner continued, "Bread is more than an everyday staple, it's one of the greatest comfort foods that diners really look forward to and enjoy when eating out or ordering takeout, which gives restaurants and foodservice operations an opportunity to shine," ... "There are so many ways operators can move beyond basic bread to elevate their menus and use bread in new and interesting ways."

Want to make your customer happy?  Here is how to do so using bread according to the team  General Mills Foodservice:

·         Surprise and delight diners by using bread items in unexpected ways, such as making a croissant the base for a decadent dessert;

·         Reduce waste by repurposing day-old bread items, such as making croutons out of unused bread;

·         Maximize the breads made across the menu from morning till night; and

·         Take the burden off staff and minimize waste with easy-prep, freezer-to-oven bread items that can be baked as needed.

Invite Foodservice Solutions® to complete a Grocerant ScoreCard, or for product positioning or placement assistance, or call our Grocerant Guru®.  Since 1991 Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma, WA has been the leader within the Grocerant Niche for both Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food menu ideations.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Eating-In or Eating-Out or Eating-Out while Eating-In


That’s right consumers want it both ways.  Regular readers of this blog know that Steven Johnson, the Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® has documented the battle between the desire to eat out and the need to eat in without cooking for over 6 years.

Grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food is a tool that helps time starved consumers garner dinner for the family that is fresh, fast, and fun according to Johnson. While we have documented the progress of the rise of the grocerant niche here from our own research. We have found some new research that digs deeper, while edifying our results it also point out some new insight we think are valuable. 

The new insights are part of an Oracle Food and Beverage survey conducted by Untold Insights in September 2021. The surveyed polled more than 5,700 global consumers across 11 geographies, including 512 in the Unites States.  Let’s take a look at what they found:

This new survey shows that “Americans love new tech-driven options for ordering and retrieving food, but the flipside is that it is making them more impatient. Of those surveyed, 64% don’t want to wait more than five minutes to order at the counter or drive-thru window, while 71% of in-house diners were upset if they had to wait more than 10 minutes. More than half (55%) said they were fed up after five minutes of waiting for food in a drive-thru, and 54% were annoyed waiting more than 10 minutes for food while dining at a restaurant.

While consumers mostly dig new digital dining options, they also lament the impact it is having on in-person dining. Nearly half (47%) said they feel like all the delivery and take-out orders result in longer waits when they order in-person and 29% said the atmosphere of dining-in is hurt by delivery drivers picking up food. But despite these concerns, 46% of people noted they will eat out daily to several times a week in coming months and showed a growing loyalty to their favorite brands.

“Online and mobile ordering was a lifeline to restaurants shut-down in the pandemic and continues to provide steady revenue,” said Simon de Montfort Walker, senior vice president and general manager at Oracle Food and Beverage. “As already short-staffed restaurants reopen, they are grappling with how to manage both in-person diners and deliveries, while meeting growing expectations on speed and service. Technology that helps kitchens manage and time orders from multiple channels will be key to keeping pace and ensuring diners stay happy and loyal.”

Fast is not fast enough

The survey found that consumers have a short window before they get exacerbated with the time it takes to get their order:

·         More than half (54%) of in-house diners don’t like to wait more than 10 minutes to be served and 76% are impatient after 15 minutes

·         For those ordering at the counter, 45% said they get annoyed if they must wait more than five minutes and 76% didn’t want to wait more than 10 minutes to be served

·         At the drive-thru, nearly 1 in 5 consumers (19%) don’t want to wait more than two minutes to get their food, while more than half (55%) said they were fed up after five minutes of waiting

 Kicking orders to the curb

Curbside pick-up (or Click-and-collect) continues to be a popular option that both determines where people chose to eat and their loyalty towards a brand:

·         58% love this method and or are more apt to choose establishments offering it

·         43% say it makes them more loyal to the eatery

·         54% say they would spend more because of this service option, with that number jumping to 80% for Millennials

Personalized communications aren’t creepy, they’re expected

The survey found that consumers have grown to appreciate, and even expect, proactive recommendations their favorite restaurants, but want to control access to their own data:

·         55% love the idea of receiving notifications about personalized offers from restaurants based on their current location

·         45% want to be prompted with personalized order suggestions based on their purchase history

·         46% would love to manage their dietary preferences with their favorite establishments

·         56% would love visibility and control over who has access to the personal data they share with restaurants and delivery drivers

Sustainability and healthy options rising in importance

In addition to offering click and collect, and personalizing offers based on data, consumers are increasingly influenced by a brand’s sustainability, environmental and corporate governance (ESG) initiatives, and healthy meal options:

·         61% of Millennials rate efforts to lower food waste (such as donations to food banks) as vital and influential to who they spend money with

·         45% rate clear labelling about source of food and ingredients as vital, with a slightly higher percentage of men versus women (48% and 42%, respectively)

·         58% of consumers rate healthy options on menu as important, with families rating this the highest at 74%, followed by Millennials at 71%

Ordering preference is situational

While mobile ordering continues to gain steam, in certain settings, consumers still prefer human interactions:

·         65% prefer to order directly from a server when dining in, while 18% would like to order from their mobile device

·         When ordering take out, 33% would like to order directly from the restaurant on their mobile device, 18% from a third-party like UberEats from their mobile device, and 25% directly from a server

·         38% prefer to order directly from a server when ordering drive-thru, 38% prefer to order from their mobile device

·         52% of Millennials prefer to order from a server in-person, but that number drops sharply to drive-thru’s, with only 17% wanting to deal with a staff member and just 11% when ordering take-out

 Payment options expanding

While cash is still high on consumers preferred ways to pay (47%), restaurants are increasingly adapting to new forms of payments to meet changing expectations: 

·         60% of consumers like to pay with a credit card

·         25% prefer to utilize contactless payment methods such as Apple or Google Pay

·         7% are embracing alternative payments such as cryptocurrency



 Don’t over reach. Are you ready for some fresh ideations? Do your food marketing ideations look more like yesterday than tomorrow? Interested in learning how Foodservice Solutions® can edify your retail food brand while creating a platform for consumer convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization?  Email us at: or visit us on our social media sites by clicking the following links: FacebookLinkedIn, or Twitter

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Albertsons Looking a Grocerant Customer Ahead

 It looks as if the grocery foodservice sector is about to have a great year according to Steven Johnson Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® who stated, “maybe this time grocery stores will capitalize on the consumer trend that has changed the face of food retail the grocerant niche. Albertsons is showing signs that it now understands the undercurrent driving consumers to find the age-old question; What’s for Dinner.

Leveraging customer data, Albertsons is now offering ‘digital’ loyalty members integrated menu-based shopping list creation, auto-replenish. So, in case you forgot, it was this time last year, Albertsons Cos. President and CEO Vivek Sankaran said they were going into “the meals business.” With the recent launch of two new digital offerings—Meal Planning and Schedule & Save—the company takes another step forward on its meals business plan.

Now according to Johnson, when you add that rollout to the news the U.S. House of Representatives recently introduced a bill to allow the SNAP consumers to buy prepared meals (with the backing of the NGA) the stage is set for a Battle for Share of Stomach between restaurants and grocery stores service deli’s like we have never before seen.

At Albertsons / Safeway the new capabilities will offer loyalty members integrated menu planning and shopping list creation and the ability to auto-replenish essential items on their lists. These new features are part of “Albertsons Cos.’ ongoing goal to revolutionize its digital offerings and enhance all aspects of the food experience to save customers time and money,”.

Chris Rupp, Albertsons Cos. EVP and chief customer and digital officer, stated, “Our customers continue to look for new ways to save time and money when planning meals and shopping at their neighborhood Albertsons Cos. banner store,” … “These two new features are important ways we’re helping customers reduce the effort associated with grocery shopping so they can spend the time enjoying meals with family and friends.”

Let’s see how this Meal Planning Program works:

The company’s new Meal Plans feature integrates the Mealime meal planning app to help customers answer the “what’s for dinner?” question. The Meal Plans feature provides an easy, convenient and personalized way to plan meals and cook recipes, the company adds. Members have access to thousands of shoppable recipes developed by professional chefs and dietitians that are curated and refined based on taste and dietary preferences.

The aim is to inspire Albertsons loyalty members to break out of food ruts and complete their weekly shopping in less than 10 minutes with the option for pickup and delivery or in-store shopping.

Battle for Share of Stomach

Schedule & Save

Albertsons Cos.’ Schedule & Save is a new online auto-replenishment offering that allows loyalty members to ensure their grocery and household essentials always remain in-stock. Developed with convenience-seekers in mind, the new offering automates the task of routine shopping. This allows customers to automatically replenish their more frequently purchased items across categories.

The products scheduled for purchase will be offered at “an attractive discounted price,” the company said, “reflecting significant savings off the average shelf price, available for pickup or delivery.”

Currently available to select Safeway customers in Northern California, Schedule & Save was developed in partnership with auto-replenishment and predictive shopping platform Replenium.

In 2022, Albertsons Cos. said it plans to expand the program nationwide and include a continuous expanding list of items for members to add for auto-replenishment. 2022 will be a great year for the sales of grocerant niche fresh prepared meals, meal components, and beverages to-go sales. The Battle for Share of Stomach is on!

Invite Foodservice Solutions® to complete a Grocerant ScoreCard, or for product positioning or placement assistance, or call our Grocerant Guru®.  Since 1991 Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma, WA