As is the case with other industries, COVID-19 has had a significant impact on retail grocery. While in most cases stores are reporting record sales, deli department sales were down 10% in March and April of 2020 compared to 2019.1 Deli meat and cheese were not the culprits for this decline, but the deli-prepared foods section was. In a typical year, deli-prepared foods would account for the most sales in the deli department. As a result, focusing on deli-prepared is critical to retailers who are looking to revive the overall deli department.
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), on behalf of the Beef Checkoff, sought to understand more about consumers preferences when it comes to deli-prepared foods to aid retail partners. By conducting an online quantitative survey of 1,193 consumers, NCBA, on behalf of the Beef Checkoff, was able to identify opportunities and challenges to getting consumers to shop the deli-prepared section of their grocery store. Further, since many food items in this section pertain to beef and other proteins, the research also looked at specific protein items that consumers were interested in buying from the deli-prepared section.
Currently, 35% of consumers report that they have increased or just started purchasing from the deli-prepared section compared to 6 months ago—or right after the initial outbreak of COVID-19.2 This shows that though consumers had declined their purchasing in the spring, there are some returning to this department, and likely more who will. Among those who are currently shopping this department, 42% are doing so on a weekly basis.2 Further, it shouldn’t be a surprise that most are buying items for lunch or dinner, though some, such as women and middle-aged consumers, are also inclined to purchase items for sides and appetizers in addition to typical meals. This combined with the expectations that more consumers will go back to shopping this department provide ample opportunity in this space.
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