November 09, 2018


What would happen if some of the most high profile thought leaders from well-recognized brands outside deli, such as Disney, Nike, Shinola, United Airlines, Second City, and Farmer’s Fridge, shopped the department and provided their feedback? Would they find it well stocked with freshly prepared foods? Would they move quickly through the shopping queue, filling their carts with products and their shopping lists with inspirational ideas for meals built on prepared foods basics with other products from around the store?

Or would they find a mixed bag of experiences?

We invited brand experts to look at our department through the lens of their profession.1 After having observed grocery delis in their respective home cities, they gathered for an innovative workshop in Chicago where they identified pain points along the customer journey from waiting in line to understanding choices, navigating the department, and maneuvering through the checkout process. The experts agreed with our findings in numerous proprietary studies, that deli does little to meet shoppers’ needs.2 

Then, we asked them to go beyond observation, and develop a set of innovative, sustainable, differentiated concepts for the supermarket deli that drive customer traffic, conversion, enjoyment and long-term purchase frequency, in order to maintain enduring relevance.

Check out the latest prepared foods industry sales data with insights into what’s causing some of the wins and the challenges.

In other words, we handed them the keys and asked how they’d do deli differently. 

You might wonder if companies that develop theme parks or make athletic shoes could contribute anything relevant to the mission of a prepared foods department. But, these multinational corporations have strategic goals to provide satisfying customer experiences; and that sounds a lot like what we’ve been talking about. They are highly accomplished at attaining their goals, and their representatives were able to identify numerous opportunities for deli to become more consumer-focused, too. Take a look at some of those recommendations in this month’s Exclusive :60. 

What sets a world-class company apart from the rest is that they understand their customers’ needs aren’t all satisfied by a one-size-fits all solution. An airline must cater to a diverse variety of travelers from business executives to vacationing families. While many people may wear the same shoe brand, they expect to find an assortment of styles, colors and sizes that appeal to their differing lifestyles, tastes and preferences. 

Customers have different missions when they enter our department, too. Some shoppers arrive at the deli knowing what they want. They are looking for a consistency of experience and expect deli to meet their core needs. Others want to explore and are looking for inspiration and education that helps build their confidence around occasions, meal planning or nutrition. Finally, there are those who want their shopping experience simplified; shoppers whose mission is centered on how much to buy and they are focused on size options and packaging for portion control. They prefer fewer options and appreciate “goes well with” themes. 

Our challenge is to recognize those distinct customer missions and develop solutions for each mission type. Our goal should be to ensure all shoppers have the experience they are seeking and that they will be proud to serve their families a satisfying meal featuring prepared foods from the deli with other ingredients from around the store.

How Would World-Class Brands Tackle Reinvention?

A gathering of best-in-class retail leaders from outside deli agreed, by making simple adjustments, the prepared foods department has a unique opportunity to offer an unparalleled experience to shoppers. In this month’s Exclusive :60, they’ll give us the steps they’d take to provide solutions based on four distinct customer missions.

1. Tyson Foods, Unconventional Shopper Connections, 2017-18
2. Tyson Foods, On the Go Study, 2015; Tyson Foods, Attitudes and Usage Study, 2015; Tyson Foods, Consequences of Failure, 2015, 2016; Tyson Foods, Prepared Foods Challenge, 2016