Instore deli was a bright spot in 2023. That’s in contrast to fresh as a whole last year, where the “message is flat sales, down in units,” said Rick Stein, vice president of fresh foods for FMI – The Food Industry Association.

Deli was up in both sales and units.

“Deli was a bright spot within fresh,” Stein said. “It goes back to consumers figuring out meal occasions. The idea of cooking and eating is kind of here to stay.”

People are still cooking a lot more post-pandemic, but many need a little help, with an item from the deli prepared foods section that just needs to be heated or cooked off, Stein said.

“Retailers are really investing in deli foodservice. The focus this year is on helping consumers with the solution. They don’t want you to just sell them the rotisserie chicken, they want the whole meal occasion.”

The next big hurdle for retail to get over, Stein said, is getting the digital part of retail foodservice right.

With restaurants, you can get on their app, customize your food, order it, maybe have it delivered.

“Not every retailer has that. It’s mostly done in the store, and there needs to be a shift where it’s done more digitally.”

Stein said these and other issues will be top of mind at FMI’s annual Fresh Forward event, tailored for retail executives, Aug. 5-7 in San Diego.

This article is an excerpt from the May 2024 issue of Supermarket Perimeter. You can read the entire Deli/Bakery Trends feature and more in the digital edition here.