Beaverton, Ore.-based Reser’s Fine Foods has a long history of innovation when it comes to hot and cold sides sold in grocery instore delis, refreshing its line each season to keep on top of the latest trends, said Anne Nelson, the company’s senior manager for deli brand and strategy.

In 2023, one carryover trend from 2022, Nelson said, is consumers keeping a close eye on their pocketbooks.

The biggest opportunity for retailers is to offer a comprehensive portfolio of prepared foods or complete meal solutions for busy consumers — and that increasingly means high-quality but affordable sides.

“This includes ready to heat, ready to eat and ready to cook pre-pack options and kits as well as single-serve items,” Nelson said. “Product innovation is king, and that translates into packaging, displays, merchandising and regional varieties.”

One side dish that has benefited from a Reser’s innovation is macaroni and cheese.

The company created macaroni and cheese kits, where deli staff assemble the final product, and the consumer heats and eats it at home. Various components include toppings like flavored breadcrumbs, bacon or barbecue sauce.

“The consumer and retailer have options that can change by the week, month or season,” Nelson said. “Why not have a Mac & Cheese of the Month?”

Whether families are looking for time savings or to economize, there’s a real opportunity to train consumers on how to shop for sides and other items in the deli that can easily substitute for a restaurant visit.

Other trends in ethnic foods and cooking methods are influencing how Reser’s is developing new side dishes, Nelson said.

“It’s no secret that consumers like new twists on old favorites. Asian spices, Latin American chiles, and preparation styles — rotisserie and roasted, for example — are all part of what’s new in the deli, and we are often surprised by the fun and creative ways deli chefs are bringing new products to their department.”

Reser’s offers a comprehensive portfolio that retailers can quickly put together to provide a great value and convenience for their customers, which keeps keep consumers coming back to the deli to bring fresh new flavors and variety to their dinner tables, Nelson added.

“By providing continued innovation, convenience and value, retailers can help consumers learn to shop for complete meal solutions in the deli that can easily substitute for restaurant to-go items.” For many consumers, the pandemic changed their dinner prep behaviors permanently.

"We know that consumers are feeling inflation’s economic crunch. They will increasingly look for meal solutions in the deli that can replace — and often surpass — restaurant options. This will be a key shopping strategy as consumers try to stretch their food budgets without sacrificing the foods they love.”

Anne Nelson, Reser’s Fine Foods