Most people eat at least three times a day. And when a day consists of running from one place to another in an attempt to support a thriving career and healthy homefront, oftentimes, one or two of those meals must be taken on the fly. So where do busy consumers go to dull those sudden stabs of hunger or to grab some portable rations to chow later that day? They’ll go wherever’s convenient, at whatever time the stomach starts growling or whenever they’ve got a few minutes to think ahead to upcoming meals.
Retailers, here’s where you can play hero. Don’t let customers exit your store carrying bags of groceries, then pick up a veggie wrap at Starbucks or a banana and granola bar at 7-Eleven—make sure you’re stocked up on quick, convenient, healthy fare that meets their nutritional and convenience needs. The good news is finding such prepackaged products is getting easier by the day, as more manufacturers are launching quality natural offerings. Toss in a high-caliber in-store deli that can pre-wrap sandwiches and dish out pasta and bean salads in a snap, and you’re on your way to becoming a lunchtime destination—a place people think of for healthy grab-’n’-go.
Earlier this week I attended, “Selling Convenience: Healthy Lunches,” part of the Natural Products Expo East Retailer Workshop. Copresenters Bill Crawford, director of retail publishing programs for New Hope Natural Media, and Julia Stamberger, founder of the Chicago-based GoPicnic line of ready-to-eat, shelf-stable, nutritious packaged meals, stressed the importance of capitalizing on this opportunity. According Stamberger, when you’ve already captured customers coming in for groceries, why not meet another of their needs—feeding them right then and there—especially since your offerings are likely more delicious, nutritious and in line with their values than convenience food they’d scoop up elsewhere.
Again, the category of natural prepackaged meals is expanding, due in large part to mounting demand, Stamberger said. Even in the past few years, more manufacturers are being pushed to figure out how to ixnay preservatives and chemical colors and flavors in food—and finding that going natural isn’t necessarily spendier than their old ways. Packaging innovation has also taken flight, and as a result, more eco-friendly, oxygen-blocking food containers now exist.
Now more than ever, it could pay off big time for business to stock fast, natural eats. Don’t ever lose a hungry shopper to Subway again.