oday’s consumers are looking for myriad
meal solutions, and that includes scores of
side dishes from traditional to healthful and
globally inspired creations.
They also want them flavorful and fast, with multiple purchase options from which to choose—including
grab-and-go, ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat—as well as
full-service deli offerings.
“Side dishes play an important role in connecting with
today’s shoppers who are looking for prepared foods,”
says Eric Richard, education coordinator for the Interna-
tional Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA), Madison,
Wis. “It’s really important for supermarkets to know what
their consumers want in terms of different flavors and
tastes from their prepared foods.”
At Boulder, Colo.-based Alfalfa’s Market—which bills
itself as a “marketplace where products that are good for
people, for producers and the planet are celebrated”—a
wide variety of seasonal side dishes play a key role in sat-
isfying customer demand for meal solutions.
Since 2014, Alfalfa’s two Colorado locations have
offered 7 Days, 7 Meals for $7. Every day of the week,
shoppers can pick up a $7 meal deal and take it to go or
dine in the in-store cafe. Monday’s $7 Market Plate is a
6-ounce protein with two sides (hot or cold), while on
Thursdays the stores regularly sell out of rotisserie chickens for $7.
“The response has been tremendous,” says Chris Epp,
director of marketing for Alfalfa’s. “It’s all about creat-
ing dinner solutions, and grab-and-go certainly makes it
Alfalfa’s has about 200 seasonally influenced recipes in
its playbook. “We try to elevate our sides beyond coleslaw
and potato salad,” Epp says. “Our customers always expect
healthy and quick side dishes, vegetarian and gluten-free
options, but they also want dishes that are more inspired.”
Richard concurs: “More and more consumers want to
try new foods, and that gives supermarkets a lot of new
opportunity to move beyond mac and cheese and other
standard sides and be more creative in what they do.”
Two of Alfalfa’s best-selling sides are its quinoa, beet
and arugula salad, which Epp says “is always flying off
the shelf,” and its Boulder Power Slaw, “an elevated cole-
slaw” made with kale and apples.
Alfalfa’s foodservice offerings include a soup bar with
10 different soups at any given time, a salad bar, cold deli
case, hot food bar, pizza station, sandwich menu, breakfast menu, grab-and-go selection and a full catering menu.
Offering options for shoppers with alternative diets is
also critical to Alfalfa’s successful side dish business. “We
cater to vegetarians and vegans, as well as people on keto
and paleo diets. We try to have offerings for all,” Epp says.
Shoppers who miss the Monday Market Plate shopping
experience can build their own meals every day of the
week by ordering a protein and two sides for the regular
price of $8.99 per pound.
“Supermarket spending is at an all-time high, but so is
consumption of food outside the home,” says Richard,
who points out that in this competitive climate, it’s crit-
ical for supermarkets to stay ahead of foodservice trends
and give shoppers what they crave most. Two trends that
are resonating with shoppers across all demographics are
local and plant-based proteins. “It’s typical consumers
who are pushing the plant-based protein trend rather than
vegetarians,” Richard says. “This is a perfect opportunity
for supermarket delis to create different dishes to connect
to those consumers.”
Trending alongside plant-based proteins are plant-
based alternatives to carbs, such as cauliflower rice, and
veggie noodles in a variety of formats including carrots,
beets, kohlrabi, zucchini and other squash.
Elevated and alternative salads, soups, veggies and more are
holding court in today’s hot and cold cases. By Jennifer Strailey