ANAHEIM, Calif. – The pace of change in the food world has never been greater, a reality that poses steep challenges but also incredible opportunities for instore bakery and deli.

That was among the takeaways of the June 4 kickoff session of the International Dairy, Deli, Bakery Association’s annual show, a first-ever What’s in Store keynote address by IDDBA’s vice president of marketing, Whitney Atkins, and the group’s vice president of education, Heather Prach.

“Consumer buying habits are evolving quicker than ever before,” Prach said. “And the one word that best sums up what is needed is ‘flexibility.’”

Before you know it, Prach added, households led by people under the age of 40 will be in the majority in the US.

In the shorter term, even with the pandemic in the rearview, Americans are still cooking far more at home than they did before COVID. That, Prach said, creates enormous opportunities for premium purchases in the instore deli and bakery to bring home-cooked meals closer to restaurant quality.

Today’s consumers want to eat foods that are good for them, but that definition of “good” has changed, Atkins and Prach said.

Advertising something as “made with real butter” would have been unthinkable not that long ago, Prach said. But today, many consumers are likely to choose real butter because, while higher in fat, it’s cleaner than some substitutes.

Balance is key, Atkins said. She cited an example of a retailer who promoted an oven-fried chicken in deli prepared as having 30% less fat and 20% less salt. Next door in the instore bakery, however, an indulgence callout was used to sell cake.

Balance also applies to physical and mental health, Prach said. According to IDDBA What’s in Store 2023 data, 78% of consumers say that physical health and emotional wellbeing are closely linked.

In their discussion of the huge opportunities for deli prepared, given Americans’ continued preference for eating at home, Atkins and Prach cited top reasons consumers who eat deli prepared meal options more often.

Among the reasons:

  • Better variety (81%)
  • More frequent promotions (80%)
  • Daily specials, like Taco Tuesday (76%)
  • More healthy options (75%)
  • Ability to order in advance (69%)
  • Home delivery (62%)
  • More specialty options (organic, vegan, etc.) (55%)