Add kids’ appeal to prepared foods

March 18, 2011

Think like a kid when hatching new prepared meal ideas to make further gains against restaurant takeout.

Peanut butter and jelly and mac and cheese are kids’ classics. But supermarkets that aim to appeal to entire families with prepared foods for dinner need more imaginative menus that involve the youngest and often loudest household members.

Supermarkets have paid scant attention to developing a meal mix for kids that is fun, healthful and appetizing. The Lempert Report sees them as late to an opportunity to win over more moms and dads to the high-margin prepared-meals section. Done right, this destination could become a true one-stop for everyone at the dinner table. It could help relieve adult anxiety about what to feed the kids, especially when after-school events and studies wreak havoc on schedules and mealtimes aren’t consistent.

For starters, think veggie burgers (Make vegetables the hero, don’t hide them!), sweet potatoes, macaroni with turkey meatballs marinara, and foods in shapes that bring smiles. Supermarkets that cater to kids’ appetites stand to gain extra Quick Trips with baskets that also include beverages, desserts, breads and more.

A recently released Technomics study of 1,500 consumers in 2010, the Retailer Meal Solutions Consumer Trend Report, underscores retailer encroachment on the restaurant takeout business.  Among key findings:

  • 77% of consumers buy prepared foods from retailers at least once a month.
  • 42% buy prepared foods from traditional supermarkets at least once a week, up from 36% in 2008.
  • 40% buy prepared foods at mass merchants and convenience stores at least once a week; mass was 32% and c-stores were 34% in 2008.
  • 33% buy prepared foods from upscale/fresh format supermarkets, up from 31% in 2008.
  • 30% buy prepared foods from specialty food stores, up from 29% in 2008.
  • 24% buy prepared foods from warehouse clubs, up from 18% in 2008.
  • Kids’ appeal is lacking in retailer meal solutions.
  • Nutrition influences about 40% of consumers who buy prepared foods at retail vs. about 25% when ordering food at restaurants.