When consumers think about grab-and-go deli offerings, many think about potato salads drenched in mayonnaise or processed lunch meats packed with nitrites—hardly a healthy prospect. Leading the reversal of this trend is Whole Foods with its popular self-serve salad bar and grab-and-go prepared meals. As grocery shoppers continue to vote with their wallets and demand healthier food options, grocery chains are under increased pressure to innovate or risk losing out.
The good news is that when it comes to creating healthier deli options, there’s no need to completely reinvent the wheel. You can turn a traditional turkey and cheese sandwich with a side of potato salad into a non-GMO turkey and Swiss on rustic bread with an heirloom bean salad, for example, and you’ve nailed both shoppers' desires for healthier options and the trend towards locally-sourced, artisan food.
4 Hot Food Trends for Rethinking Grab-and-Go Deli Options
In search of a little inspiration for innovating the deli menu? Here are four hot food trends you should consider incorporating into your grab-and-go deli options:
1. Source locally. The trend towards eating locally is showing no signs of losing steam; in fact, food industry watchers are predicting die-hard locavores will push for “micro-local” or “hyper-local” sourcing. Stock your grab-and-go deli with options made from local purveyors of breads, dairy products, fruits and vegetables. For easy identification and recognition by grocery shoppers, be sure to include a “made locally” sticker on all the items.
2. Think small. While tapas took the country by storm more than a decade ago, the snackification of meals means that smaller-sized foods and sharing portions are still popular. Tapas-sized grab-and-go options are great for the deli since you give shoppers the freedom to pair several different items together to form a meal. Smaller-sized options like salmon sliders, a small kale salad and heirloom tomatoes with mozzarella can all be mixed-and-matched to form one meal.
3. Get creative with flavor. Consulting firm Technomics declared “bitter” to be 2015’s “flavor of the year.” From hoppier beers to deeper chocolates and darker coffees, Technomics says consumers are increasingly developing a taste for bitter flavors. This includes cruciferous veggies like collard greens and cauliflower, which are perfect for a healthy grab-and-go deli salad. Americans have also developed a taste for simultaneously sweet and spicy flavors. Think Sriracha, habanero honey and ghost chili honey. Asian flavor trends continue to be popular as shoppers experiment with foods like spicy ramen noodles and kimchi, a traditional Korean side dish made with fermented veggies that’s both spicy and sour.
4. Swap out rice and pasta for quinoa. Quinoa is a gluten-free power grain that has taken the health world by storm over the last five years, riding the wave to near-astronomic levels of “superfood” popularity. As a nutritionally-dense food that’s also a complete protein, a line of quinoa-based salads or breads would not only cater to vegetarians and vegans, but also capture the attention of shoppers who are part of the growing trend towards eating less meat.
Next Steps for Healthy, Innovative Grab-and-Go Deli Options
As grocery shoppers increasingly seek out fresh, natural and minimally processed foods, grocery chains must respond by offering healthier grab-and-go options.
The Nielsen Insights 2015 study on global food habits found that young consumers (Millennials) are willing to pay a premium for healthy foods. It’s no surprise, then, that healthy food categories are not only growing faster than “indulgent” foods, but are also paving the way to more corporate profits. Keep in mind, however, that it’s not enough to just make grab-and-go deli options healthier. By incorporating additional trends like creative flavors, locally sourced artisan options and smaller “tapas” sized portions, your deli foods will really stand out from the competition.