December 15, 2018


Recently, we asked some high profile thought leaders from well-recognized brands outside deli, such as Disney, Nike, Shinola, United Airlines, Second City, and Farmer’s Fridge; about how deli departments might evolve to better serve shoppers.1 Imagine walking through a grocery store from about 50 years in the past. As you navigate the departments, compare what you see in your mind’s eye to the stores of today. Do you think shoppers from yesteryear would find today’s shopping landscape exciting and innovative or would it be all-too-familiar?

We have also embarked on a Food Fest Quest to find innovative research and strategies that take deli out of the store and to the consumers. Join Brad Bennett, channel marketing manager for Tyson Foods, as he explores unique opportunities to create lasting connections with shoppers.

Frankly, although humankind has advanced technologically, our departments really haven’t adapted all that well in meeting shoppers’ changing lifestyles and needs; at least not as much as we’d like to think they have. The industry experts’ observations aligned with Tyson Foods’ proprietary research that has revealed considerable consumer disappointments with the shopping experience. For example, nearly half of thousands of prepared foods shoppers participating in our Consequences of Failures studies had general complaints about their grocers’ prepared foods departments or specific issues with products or staff. Even shoppers who were loyal to a particular store gave failing marks for that store’s deli.2

We’ve been talking about many of these issues for a while and discussing changes that need to be made, but our group of experts believes they are essentially core retailing problems. They unanimously agreed we can no longer afford to look within our own ecosystem for perspectives and ideas or use our direct competitors for benchmark comparisons. 

The brand execs advised instead, that now is the time to start building the stores of the future, and in doing so, we must put the customer in the driver’s seat along the entire journey.

 The experts also pointed out that finding innovation requires an innovative approach and they stressed the urgency of making core improvements in the very short term in order to be able to compete with the likes of Amazon, delivery and convenience. In other words, we need to fix the “low hanging fruit” before we can extend into new platforms and strategies, and that means learning to recognize and correct today’s issues before tackling tomorrow’s challenges.

How do we get from here to there?

In this month’s Exclusive :60, we’ll get a glimpse of the future of deli, as envisioned by experts from Disney, Nike, United Airlines, Farmer’s Fridge and other leading brands outside deli. They say the stores of the future could be a reality within a few years, as long as we start taking the steps now to get there.

Finally, the experts agreed with our findings that deli should never be all about “price, price, price.”3 It should, instead, be consumer-driven, and focused on transparency in ingredients, sources, processes and consumer-facing prep. In building the deli of the future, it’s time to provide and encourage sustainability in packaging, and to embrace a shared experience with shoppers, collaborating with them on recipes and health tips, and encouraging their product reviews and feedback.

1.Tyson Foods, Unconventional Shopper Connections, 2017-18
2.Tyson Foods, Consequences of Failure Studies, 2015, 2016
3.Tyson Foods, Emotional Trigger Study, 2017; Tyson Foods, Awareness, Trial, Repurchase, 2016; Tyson Foods, Prepared Foods Challenge, 2016