October 23, 2019


Shoppers say when dinner is at its best, good memories are made around the table. It is a time they can unwind, connect with others and enjoy eating a delicious meal together. This may also be the one opportunity during the day for parents to find out what’s going on in their kid’s lives.1,2

Consumers idealize dinner more than any other meal of the day. They see it as a time to stop everything and relax; a moment when everyone gets to be themselves. Therefore, meal planners strive to create a positive environment or recreate happy memories from childhood family dinners. But all too often, real life checks in, robbing them of the time they don’t have to plan and shop or the expertise they wish they had to cook meals from scratch.3

When we asked parents about the practicality of gathering everyone together for a family meal, they admitted dinner has lost its importance, especially when up against busy schedules and picky palates. But when we asked their kids, they gave a different and wholly unexpected response. They liked the expectation of dinner together and had a good feeling knowing there would be this one time of the day when they are all sitting down as a family.2


The Role of Prepared Foods at the Dinner Table

Shouldn’t dinner be more than food? Shoppers have said they’d prefer mealtimes to deliver an experience that fulfills the expectation of something more than sustenance. But they routinely settle for less. While the ideal of a satisfying meal is still there, the reality often falls short.3

This pursuit of a convenient and, to some extent, a home-prepared meal is one reason why shoppers turn to prepared foods. But without a meal plan, they have reported numerous pain points in serving a random assortment of deli products.4

But what might happen if shoppers could turn to the deli department for help with meal planning? After all, it seems the department might be in a position to bridge the gap between the ideal of a satisfying dinner and the real experience consumers crave for their family dinner tables.

In fact, there is no grocery department better positioned to inspire and educate consumers to create easy meals they can be proud to serve.

That’s why we’ve been saying the deli should have three missions, beginning with inspiration. Starting during the late afternoon dinner-decision hour, the department should reach out with digital messages to consumers, focusing on easy meal ideas featuring prepared foods. Then, when they enter the store, shoppers should discover signage and recipe cards to help educate them, directing and facilitating their journey throughout the department.  They should also find well-executed products at peak quality and at peak mealtimes; along with department staff ready to help make their dinner memorable.

Another thing that sets the deli apart, especially from quick-serve alternatives, is that it is literally positioned steps from thousands of SKUs, where shoppers are able to fill their carts with items to round out those easy meals they’re going to be proud to serve to their family and friends.4

Without inspiration, food is only fuel, meals are no more than sustenance and deli is only about convenience.

So, dinnertime really does mean something to consumers. They’ve made it clear they still want the meal experience. But they’re not confident in deli’s ability to deliver the meals they can be proud to serve. In this month’s Exclusive :60, we’ll explore three visual cues that can help shoppers better navigate through the department itself.

When we reviewed deli’s challenges with executives from industry giants like Disney, Nike, and United Airlines, they agreed that the category falls short with shoppers. They further observed that deli has the opportunity to offer solutions based on consumers’ need states such as occasion, lifestyle and the number of people they’re feeding. But first, they cautioned, we must recognize and correct the failures shoppers encounter at the deli.5

Our departments are perfectly positioned to offer shoppers the solutions they seek to create easy meals they will be proud to serve. But we may be missing out on opportunities to help customers plan, shop for and prepare those meals. We’ll share three of the most important visual cues consumers need from the deli in this month’s Exclusive :60.

Tyson Foods Deli Division is committed to developing and sharing creative approaches to deli’s challenges. Learn more about Changing the Conversation and connect with the Tyson Deli team to find out more about the remarkable ways Tyson Foods is helping grow the prepared foods business for our customers at the speed they need, in a direction that makes an impact.



1. Tyson Foods, On the Go Foodservice Study, 2015

2. Tyson Foods, Emotional Trigger Study, 2017

3. Tyson Foods, Unconventional Shopper Connections, 2017-2018

4. Tyson Foods, Prepared Foods Challenge, 2016

5. Tyson Foods, Vision Project, 2018