Consumers are hungry for healthy, convenient foods – and the foodservice industry is proving it can deliver.

According to recent figures, the U.S. consumer foodservice market reached $587 billion in 2018 and experts predict sales will exceed $633 billion by 2020, representing an impressive 8% increase.1 Market value of consumer foodservice in the United States from 2015 to 2020 (in million U.S. dollars). Statista. 2019.

Foodservice offerings located within grocery stores can fuel sales, as shoppers demand more fresh foods and better-for-you groceries found around the store’s perimeter. Supermarket prepared foods and in-store dining have grown nearly 30% since 2008, accounting for 2.4 billion foodservice visits and $10 billion in consumer spending in 2015.2 Skrovan, Sandy. Supermarket foodservice goes upscale: Will shoppers bite? Grocery Dive. March 6, 2017. In addition, the commercial foodservice industry serves hotels, airlines, hospitals, university campuses and casinos.

Foodservice experts unite

To discover what consumers want on their plates, RangeMe parent ECRM recently hosted a Foodservice at Retail efficient program planning session (EPPS), and a Commercial Foodservice EPPS in Braselton, Georgia, to address the needs of various foodservice stakeholders.

The retail-focused event connected buyers from retailers like Amazon, Kroger and UNFI/Supervalu with food and beverage suppliers of ingredients, prepared foods, equipment and supplies, and grab-and-go meal options. The commercial event attracted buyers from companies like AMI Inflight, Inc., Desert Diamond Casinos and Joey Restaurant Group.

Both events connected foodservice buyers and suppliers and discussed exactly what’s in demand for effective product discovery and strategic sourcing while proactively adapting to emerging trends to stay competitive.

In addition to roundtable discussions about the latest industry trends, the events’ highlights included news about:

  • Grocerants: Kelley Fechner, Director – Customer Solutions at Datassential shared her predictions on how grocerants (restaurants inside grocery stores) will evolve over the next decade to drive traffic amid increasing competition and complexity. Beyond the convenience of a one-stop-shop, grocerants evoke all the senses as a simple way for grocery retailers to entice hungry consumers with experiential retail.  
  • Better-for-you megatrend: Michael Hahn, General Manager at Diversified Marketing shared practical tips for retailers to adapt their foodservice offerings to capitalize on unrelenting consumer demand for  healthy food and beverage items. For instance, in recent years, consumers have demanded more organic and natural, plant-based meat and free-from products, as well as grocery items that contain less sugar. To stay competitive, grocery retailers and foodservice operators must mindfully reflect these consumer trends in their menu-planning and recipes.
  • Market forces: Stephanie Nicklos, Director of Foodservice at ECRM, shared a strategic overview of external factors that challenge retail foodservice growth and how to adapt, including embracing online sales, home delivery and restaurants. As consumers have grown to expect speed, ease and convenience, the foodservice industry must also adapt to these heightened expectations to stay relevant. E-commerce ordering, direct-to-consumer delivery and retail restaurants are helping foodservice companies stay competitive, flexible and innovative.
  • Competitive differentiation: David Arens, Divisional Merchandise Manager – Consumables at Exchange spoke about the power of competing with creative and unique on-premise foodservice offerings that drive traffic to retail stores. Knowing what makes your foodservice offering distinct and desirable helps you break through the clutter and compete effectively. To stand out in an increasingly fierce market, express what you do better than your rivals and the reasons your customers keep coming back to you.
  • Talent management: At the Commercial Foodservice EPPS, Donald Burns, Founder and CEO of Off the Range Ventures, LLC shared his proven experience and tips to help foodservice companies attract, train, and retain top talent. Your people deliver your customer experience, so make sure your associates are happy. By inspiring them to inject excellence and passion into their work, you can help your team feel like they belong and they are doing purposeful work, which can improve engagement, morale, productivity and retention.

Unlike trade shows, these EPPS sessions allowed foodservice stakeholders to share information ahead of time to match buyer needs to supplier offerings. Attendees received a curated list of appointments that allow productive, focused one-one-on discussions designed to ensure a good fit that could drive business.

In addition, major themes at these foodservice events included growing demand for local and culinary foodservice offerings.

Consumers increasingly request local foods because they want the freshest ingredients and they want to feel good by supporting people and jobs in their community. As a result, more foodservice providers now intentionally source local products to adapt to consumer demand, build goodwill by investing in the local economy, and streamline logistics and reduce transportation costs.

Culinary foodservice offerings also matter as more consumers celebrate the joy of fine dining. To share their sumptuous masterpieces with friends, 40% of Millennials have posted photos of their food on social media, especially with visually-appealing photos on Instagram.3 Hardwick, Natalie. 10 food trends for 2017. 2017. Foodservice companies can keep up with this trend by prioritizing food presentation and excellent quality, and by maintaining a current digital and social marketing presence.

How EPPS sessions are unique

Unlike trade shows, these EPPS sessions allowed foodservice stakeholders to share information ahead of time to match buyer needs to supplier offerings. Attendees received a curated list of appointments that allow productive, focused one-one-on discussions designed to ensure a good fit that could drive business. 

Attending EPPS session helps suppliers, retailers and foodservice companies set themselves up for success. As consumers seek convenient, local, culinary and healthy food offerings, companies in the foodservice industry can collaborate to deliver a unique consumer experience to drive revenue and long-term loyalty. 

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