Bundled meal deals drive prepared food sales

Convenience is a key factor driving supermarket prepared food sales, as busy shoppers seek quick-and-easy alternatives to cooking meals at home.

Operators can make it even easier by offering bundled meal deals that combine an entree with two sides, for example, or other combinations of ready-to-eat or heat-and-eat items. With the right merchandising and promotion, bundled meals can help drive incremental spending by encouraging customers to “trade up” from a stand-alone entree.

Merchandising grab-and-go side dishes for two-to-four people near the rotisserie chicken as part of a meal deal is one way to make bundling easy for shoppers and spur impulse sales. Offering a variety of sides and starches lets shoppers customize their meal based on the preferences of individual family members. Or, consider bundling the entree with a family-sized prepared salad from the deli to make a quick and easy light meal with broad appeal.

By the same token, allowing customers to mix-and-match prepared entrees—a rotisserie chicken with a variety of sauced boneless wings, chicken tenders or a half-order of meatloaf for example—and combining them with a side or a salad can also help ensure that everyone at the dinner table is satisfied.

While traditional sides such as coleslaw and mashed potatoes are always popular, particularly among older consumers, shoppers increasingly look for ethnic sides to accompany main dishes. More than half of consumers—51%—say ethnic entrees should come with ethnic sides, according to Technomic’s recent Starters, Small Plates and Sides Consumer Trend Report. This increases to 57% for 18- to 34-year-olds.

Greensboro, N.C.-based The Fresh Market, for example, offers a rotating selection of themed “Little Big Meals” that often tap into specific ethnic or regional cuisines. A recent offer included a choice of either teriyaki chicken or barbecue pork skewers, along with a pound of Mediterranean pasta salad, pita bread and a 48-ounce tub of ice cream from the freezer case.

In addition, Technomic’s Starters, Small Plates and Sides report found that 35% of consumers overall said they would like to see a wide variety of sides offered in supermarket prepared foods departments, and that number rose to 41% for consumers in the 18-34 age bracket.

Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix Super Markets is another retailer that offers a variety of prepared family meal combos. Its Smokehouse Meal for Four includes an entree such as slow-smoked, glazed split chicken and a choice of two 16-ounce side dishes, plus a choice of cornbread or dinner rolls and a choice of four sauces. For the side dishes, Publix customers can choose from a wide variety of options including macaroni and cheese, sweet potato wedges, seasoned potato wedges, onion rings, fried okra, corn nuggets, collard greens, green beans and two types of baked beans.

Consumers say freshness and fair pricing are the most important attributes when it comes to selecting sides, according to the Starters, Small Plates and Sides report. Other important factors include that the side satisfies a craving, uses premium or high-quality ingredients, uses natural ingredients and is a “signature” offering.

Bundling an assortment of on-trend side dishes and entrées simply makes dinner prep easier for busy shoppers, which in turn drives increased sales and customer loyalty.

As one of the largest chicken producers in the country, George’s partners with supermarkets to elevate their Retail Foodservice offerings with on trend food that will keep your customers coming back for more.