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Grab 'N Go Presents Processors Opportunity to Capture Slice of Grocery Retail

By: Kathleen Furore

In January 2019, Walmart took a new step in its plan to boost its in-store deli business when it debuted a line of prepared soups. According to spokesperson Molly Blakeman, the soups are part of the company’s plan to expand its private label Marketside brand, which includes Grab N Go items like sub sandwiches and wraps.

In February, Walmart Canada followed it’s US counterparts’ move to improve its appeal to convenience-seeking customers when it announced a collaboration with Freshii to offer a large selection of better-for-you salads, wraps, lunch kits and snacks in select locations across Ontario. The move made Walmart Canada the only supermarket to offer Freshii’s fresh Grab N Go products, a press release about the debut said.

Walmart might be the biggest retailer adapting its model to bring in consumers looking for high- quality, grab and go options. But it isn’t the only one. 


Hy-Vee Fast & Fresh

In December 2018, Hy-Vee debuted Fast & Fresh in Des Moines, Iowa—a store the company described as “a brand new concept intended to serve the busy customer who needs a more convenient grocery and meal experience while on the go.”

And just this August, Giant Food Stores opened Giant Heirloom Market in Philadelphia’s University City. It was the company’s second urban-format store and featured “increased grab-and-go meal selections.”

The message is becoming increasingly clear: The Grab N Go category is up for grabs. And, if done well, it provides a profit-building opportunity for supermarket delis.

As an August 2019 story at notes, “Convenience is at the top of consumers' grocery lists these days, making grab-and-go items a key opportunity and potential differentiator for retailers.”

That means it also can be a differentiator for the meat and cheese processors that make the subs, paninos, pinweels, wraps and meat-and-cheese trays today’s convenience-seeking customers crave.

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Changing Habits Driving Demand

A variety of factors are fueling consumers increased interest in Grab N Go products.

First, Americans’ eating habits are changing.

According to the 2018 Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report from Technomic, 80 percent of consumers say they snack at least once a day. They’re also focused on finding healthier versions of “convenience” food items: 68 percent of those who shop at convenience stores, for example, said they would more frequently visit stores that offered healthy sandwiches and salads, according to data from facilities management leader Vixxo.

Throw in the fact that shoppers are no longer married to those once-a-week shopping trips that ended with a week’s meal supply (according to Nielsen, 10 percent of shoppers buy solely for the meal they’re going to consume that day)—and you have a recipe for substantial profits in the Grab N Go category.

“One behavioral change common to every demographic group, including millennials and boomers, has posed an enormous challenge for the grocery industry: People are less inclined to cook,” the December 2018 report Reviving Grocery Retail from McKinsey & Company explains. “Almost half of US millennials say they rarely prepare meals at home. Across the board, more consumers are buying ready-made meals.”

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Data from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) echoes those findings: “Millennials and Gen Z shoppers are more likely than boomers to place value on easy, grab & go fresh prepared foods.”

Additional indicators? Sales in the deli department—a popular destination for Grab N Go—are soaring. For example, Nielsen data show that sales climbed from $15 billion in 2014 to $20 billion in 2018. Among the biggest drivers? Prepared sandwiches. And 58 percent of consumers say a grab-and-go or prepackaged food area would be appealing in a retail store, such as grocery, Technomic’s 2017 Meal Solutions Consumer Trend Report found.

Dorothy Lane Market, a Dayton, Ohio-based gourmet grocery chain, is finding that appeal to be true.

“Traditionally it's always been prepackaged leaf salad, which is our Cobb salad or Buffalo chicken salad or Caesar salad [and] pizza and soups were always our mainstay,” Carrie Walters, the store’s culinary director, recently told Supermarket News. Now we're searching for more grab-and-go space because our grab-and-go customer wants more to choose from than just those few items.”

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Where Slicing Comes In

Based on industry data and retailers’ movement into the category, it’s clear that Grab N Go is on a promising, profitable trajectory, as everyone from Gen Z-ers to baby boomers embrace the convenience quality, prepared items like subs, paninos and pinwheels provide.

Meat and cheese processors have an important role to play in elevating Grab N Go items at grocery retail. “Ultraconvenience,” after all, is one “value proposition” that has “resonated with today’s consumers,” McKinsey & Company reports.

“Retailers should strive to make every part of the shopping experience more convenient, while maintaining standards of quality far above typical convenience-store fare… A grocery store’s assortment might include grab-and-go items,” the company notes.

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And it’s not only the quality of the ingredients that matter; presentation is one of the most important elements of grab-and-go, according to Bob Goldin, co-founder and partner at Pentallect. As Goldin told Grocery Dive, that means retailers and suppliers alike should capitalize with packaging that accentuates foods' sensory appeal.

...Therein lies the opportunity for deli meat and cheese processors—and it is where slicing and packaging expertise and the latest technology can help create real differentiation.

Wise manufacturers are now using the latest technology and fewer people to attractively present and package Grab-n-Go products while lowering their labor costs in the process. As with most other food products today, imagination and innovation are being combined to enhance both competitive market position and consumer satisfaction. How will you Grab 'n Run with the opportunity?  

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58 percent of consumers say a grab-and-go or prepackaged food area would be appealing in a retail store, such as grocery.

—2017 Meal Solutions Consumer Trend Report, Technomic, Inc.

“…we're searching for more grab-and-go space because our grab-and-go customer wants more to choose from than just those few items.”

— Carrie Walters, Dorothy Lane Market (as reported in Supermarket News)

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