In today’s fast-paced world, consumers are seeking convenient meal solutions more than ever before. The deli section in retail stores has emerged as a go-to destination for food innovation, offering a wide range of hot entrees, grab-and-go meals, and delectable samplings. While chicken, pizza, and ribs continue to draw shoppers, many stores are offering options inspired by regional and international cuisine and convenient pairings for quick meals and snacks. The deli section has become more than a deli—in many cases it’s an extended restaurant offering, giving the retail and merchandising space an opportunity to provide meal replacements with the use of technology and culinary resource skills. However, outsourcing or vertically integrating the meal preparation still remains a huge question for many retailers.

The Benefits of Outsourcing Prepared Offerings

Managing Volume and Sales Loss

By outsourcing meal preparation, retailers can keep up with high demand and avoid losing sales to competitors or the frozen meal section. Standard deli options alone may no longer suffice, so outsourcing a variety of meal options or food ready to cook or heat and eat with private label  co-packer partners, can ensure a broader range of offerings.

Consistency and Cost Efficiency

Skilled labor possessing the technical skills varies across store locations, resulting in inconsistency in taste, quality, and potentially food safety. Outsourcing allows for standardized food handling practices that leads to extended shelf life of consistently prepared food items with the use of set recipes, ensuring a consistent customer experience and cost efficiency. By leveraging the expertise of technical culinary professionals, retailers can maintain portion control and streamline recipes that will fit within their business models.

Extended Shelf Life to Minimize Product Shrink

When prepared items are made by a manufacturer in a USDA-regulated environment, they achieve finished products with longer shelf lives. This not only reduces the need for continuous production but also provides retailers with the advantage of offering items with extended freshness. Furthermore, outsourcing to manufacturers ensures compliance with USDA manufacturing standards and can be designed to target ingredient and allergen claims while enhancing overall food safety.

Attracting and Engaging Customers

An enticing deli section can serve as a powerful magnet for customers, enticing them to visit brick-and-mortar stores instead of ordering online. By creating an engaging environment and expanding culinary offerings, retailers can keep customers in-store for longer periods and encourage impulse purchases.

Things to Consider When Outsourcing R&D

When choosing a partner for outsourcing, there are a few key things to consider, including:

Market Relevance and Capital Expenditure

Retailers must assess the market they operate in and determine the relevance of investing in the renovation of their deli/bakery areas. By creating a visually appealing and captivating interior design, stores can generate a “wow” factor and drive impulsive purchasing of ready to cook meals and or ready to heat and eat selections.

Establishing a Partnership

For successful outsourcing, collaboration between the retailer and the manufacturer is essential. Understanding the manufacturer’s capabilities, innovation potential, and ability to meet private-label needs is crucial. Retailers should ensure that the manufacturer aligns with their brand’s value propositions and can deliver unique and innovative products.

How Chef Services Group Can Help

Chef Services Group specializes in the development of innovative manufacturable food offerings in the meal replacement category. We collaborate with marketing teams to enhance the retail/restaurant area within grocery stores. Our expertise in restaurant development and co-packer relationship will create an exceptional shopping experience for customers by elevating deli/ meal offerings. Moreover, through partnerships with co-packers, we can develop customized product offerings that meet private-label objectives, ensuring a unique and tailored experience for each retailer. Whether it be mylar, MAP packaging or tray meal manufactured items we have the capability to bring a grocerant experience to your customers.