August 15, 2019


What is deli’s purpose?

We’ve posed that question to a lot of consumers, retailers and industry partners across numerous studies over the past several years.1,2,3,4 What we’ve learned through their feedback is that the deli doesn’t always meet shoppers’ needs. While they appreciate attention to product execution, shoppers often wish the deli would do more than focus on selling them some “thing-in-a-box.”

Deli shoppers do admit they visit the department because they appreciate the convenience of prepared foods. But, they also say they’re looking for something more to help them create satisfying meals their families will enjoy. The problem is, they don’t have the time or the means to do it on their own. 

Therefore, there’s a “gap” that exists between what consumers want when they visit the deli, and what they get. Research suggests that what helps close this gap is to provide the inspirational and educational resources shoppers need to create more memorable and successful family dinners.2,3

Specific educational resources include recipe cards, staff assistance and meal ideas that give them inspiration before they even walk into your store (think social media and your other existing digital platforms!).

Why Education Really Matters

Helping shoppers with recipes and meal planning is good customer service, but let’s consider another reason why education matters. If we consistently connect consumers with the resources that make their shopping trips easier and meals more enjoyable, it serves a greater purpose than simply meeting their needs. It positions the deli as a valuable asset.

Education matters because it creates happy shoppers, but it can also transform occasional shoppers into repeat purchasers. When they learn how to incorporate prepared foods into their meal plans, consumers may visit the department more often, and that increases their overall store visits. 

In this month’s Exclusive :60, we hear from real shoppers and their family members about how learning to create more enjoyable meals using prepared foods made positive impact on their family mealtime experiences.

Educating shoppers starts with removing functional barriers to purchase and then communicating the deeper emotional connections as part of the meal.

Participants in Tyson Foods’ Unconventional Shopper Connections3 experiment admitted that the deli offers convenience, but most felt it was “not for them” because its “one-size-fits-all” format does little to provide the meal experiences they want to have.

While the ultimate goal would be to offer solutions that fit each shopper’s needs, it might be more feasible to start by recognizing the two basic types of prepared foods shoppers. Tyson Foods research has identified them as “balancer parents” and “impromptu diners.”Balancer parents visit the store once or twice a week looking for quick, nutritious meals for their families. Impromptu diners make more frequent and impulsive store visits looking for meal ideas, but not necessarily the same meal experiences. Understanding these dynamics should help provide a foundation to develop meal solutions that might appeal to most deli shoppers.

What we do has a higher purpose, if we choose to embrace that higher purpose. That choice is ours.

Education should begin in pre-shop and continue through in-store communications. It should always steer away from talking about price and product, and instead, offer easy and appealing ideas about access and execution that also convey the deep emotional realities of a satisfying meal. By choosing to communicate with shoppers in this way, we seize the opportunity to educate them. In other words, talking about the meal occasion empowers an influence over the occasion itself.

Building Loyalty

In our Prepared Foods Challenge2, we found that what we do in the store lays the groundwork for what happens at home. When we showed families how to shop for, prepare and serve fresh, good meals featuring prepared foods, it actually made the dinner table a happier place. These were not compromise meals. They were special and satisfying and inspired consumers to return to the department again and again.

Prepared foods shoppers said “proud to serve” is the key driver of purchases. They also said innovations, product selection and price cuts are not their main concern.4

When given the choice between a self-serve or an immersive shopping trip, consumers said they still prefer to make shopping for food an interactive “experience.”3 

Shoppers who learned how to use prepared foods to make a satisfying meal said, “I know it’s not from scratch, but when I put it together it feels like it is.”2

When teenagers remark about prepared foods influencing family togetherness at the table, that’s news that their parents and the industry should heed. Hear what they have to say, 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: Vision Project, 2018
2. Tyson Foods, Prepared Foods Challenge, June 2016
3. Tyson Foods, Unconventional Shopper Connections, 2017-2018
4. Tyson Foods, Awareness, Trial, Repurchase, 2016
5. Tyson Foods, On The Go Foodservice Study, 2015