Promoting Pandemic Meal Solutions
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
During the first several months of the pandemic we saw many consumers reconnecting with cooking, or discovering a new love for meal planning and preparation. This was evident when we saw grocery shelves in short supply of baking staples, spices, and fresh foods. However, research is indicating that some shoppers are becoming a bit weary of searching for new recipe ideas and cooking. And let’s face it, some customers never liked being a chef to begin with. As many shoppers face recipe fatigue, it’s a perfect time to offer mealtime inspiration. Here are some ideas for providing needed solutions:
Repurpose the salad bar – Due to safety concerns many stores had to close down traditional salad bars and/or shoppers simply didn’t want to purchase food at them. Consider repurposing this area to provide prepared and packaged items. It could be stocked as a lunch bar, for example, with salads, sandwiches, cut fruit cups and more. It may even be possible to staff the area at key meal times with employees dishing up homemade soups and providing some educational selling.
Easy meals to go – With so many people ordering groceries online for pickup, why not offer a menu of meals to go? Last spring Hy-Vee launched Mealtime to Go, where hot prepared foods and take-and-bake meals were available for curbside pickup or delivered to customers through DoorDash. Think about the meal solutions that could be combined and offered through your deli and prepared foods area.
Quick assembly solutions – In many instances, customers want to cook at home but need new ideas or guidance. In addition, they prefer the benefits of both convenience and health. There are so many easy-to-assemble meals ideas around the store. Help shoppers save time and eat nutritiously by showing them exactly how to create simple combinations. A rotisserie chicken + prepared salad + bakery wheat rolls; a frozen family entrée + frozen vegetables + garlic bread; chili with lean ground beef + 2 cans of diced tomatoes + 2 cans of chili beans; deli veggie pizza + fresh fruit salad; pre-prepped chicken kabobs + instant brown rice – the ideas are endless! Promote in store, on social, and in ads.
Rethink the meal kit – Typical meal kits can be labor intensive for retail but there are other ways to offer solutions. Place fresh and shelf-stable recipe ingredients in one location, such as a meat case with side shelves, and add a sign with the recipe. Shoppers can take a photo of the recipe and conveniently grab all the needed items. Offer meal starter kits in a bag for a special price – one bag may contain key ingredients for 3 recipes. Last year Albertsons refreshed their Plated meal kit to include pre-prepped ingredients with their customers just needing to add a key ingredient like the protein item.
Use your expertise and creativity to help recipe weary customers make mealtime easy. You’ll be rewarded with sales and customer loyalty.