Gourmet goes convenient at Winter Fancy Food Show 2017

At the Winter Fancy Food Show 2017 in San Francisco this week, brands tapped convenience-minded consumers with grab-and-go, ready-to-eat food and beverages.

For years we’ve known that natural retail stores are rapidly transitioning to function less like traditional grocery stores and more like cafeterias and restaurants.

From simple salad bars to extravagant sushi stations, many natural locations are widening their grab-and-go sections to better serve convenience-minded consumers popping in for a snack or a quick meal rather than those stocking up on a week’s worth of groceries. Savvy retailers are even adding separate seating sections with ambiance (think: fireplaces, mood lighting) to their stores—all the better to encourage shoppers to stay longer, and perhaps buy a dessert or a snack for later in the day. 

Widening the periphery of a store, of course, is not possible for all natural retailers. Square footage may be limited. And square footage is money. Exhibitors at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco were dishing out samples of newly reformulated products designed to be merchandised in the deli, grab ‘n' go or ready-to-consume sections of grocery stores.

Nona Lim, makers of delicious soups, broths and ramen noodles, for example, launched a microwave-safe, personal serving of broth packaged in a coffee cup-shaped BPA-free container. Likewise, Sweetaly tapped into the grab-and-go refrigerated section with adorable single-servings of Italian desserts, such as tiramisu, packaged in a glass container.

True, rapid-assemble speed scratch products are certainly still relevant and lucrative—but perhaps just for dinners, where the stigma of eating out of a package is still perceived as unhealthy. But for breakfast, lunch and snacks, the lion’s share of when our eating occurs, the trifecta of healthy, delicious and especially quick reigns supreme.

Ready-to-eat convenience foods are making lives easier and healthier. This is good—and I commend the companies who are innovating by observing how modern Americans actually live.

But there’s a catch. Grab-and-go inherently means that items are individually packaged, meaning more packaging waste. It is of the utmost importance for brands, such as the ones featured in the following slideshow, to become a part of the solution for plastic—and glass and paper and metal and Styrofoam—package mitigation (someday, elimination), not the problem.

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