etail foodservice—one of the food industry’s
fastest-growing segments—is booming, as
evidenced by its whopping $34 billion sales
estimate by Winsight Grocery Business’ sister
research company, Technomic Inc., which finds proteins
increasingly playing a larger role in rising sales.
“Consumers want more protein in their diets,” says
Megan Speas, foodservice marketing lead for Cargill Protein in Wichita, Kan., a processor and distributor of beef,
poultry, value-added meats and egg products to foodservice companies and retailers. According to Cargill’s Power
of Protein research study, 7 out of 10 consumers are making high-protein food and beverages a part of their diet,
and 40% of the protein they choose is animal. The independent research was conducted by Reach Brand Strategy
to provide insight on protein market trends.
“We see themes emerging around how and when
consumers are eating proteins, and which ones they pre-
fer,” Speas says. Everything from snacks as meals to real
food with transparency and authenticity and a growing
demand for unique eating experiences/global cuisine is
shaping the types of protein menu items that consumers
seek from the supermarket deli. “While most consum-
ers are not particularly focused on the specific quanti-
ties of protein, providing protein volume information on
menus is welcomed by most.”
It’s as true today as it was more than two decades ago: When
it comes to supermarket foodservice, there’s nothing that
drives shoppers to the deli like a juicy, ready-to-eat bird.
“The rotisserie chicken is still king,” says Robert Byrne,
senior manager of consumer insights for Chicago-based
Technomic. According to Nielsen, Americans bought 625
million rotisserie chickens at supermarkets in 2017. And
among supermarket foodservice consumers who purchase
chicken, 56% are buying a rotisserie chicken, according to
Technomic’s Consumer Brand Metrics (based on survey
feedback from approximately 9,200 consumers).
Costco Wholesale Corp.’s wildly popular $4.99 rotisserie
chickens consistently have shoppers flocking to its warehouse stores. The birds are such a draw, a Costco executive
recently said, that the Issaquah, Wash.-based club retailer
was willing to lose as much as $40 million a year to keep its
rotisserie chickens at the unbeatable price point.
Costco is building a $300 million plant in Nebraska to
produce its own poultry. Once in production, the plant is
expected to produce about 100 million chickens a year.
Opportunity to Beef Up Sales
While beef is the top protein in foodservice and accounts
for about a third of fresh meat and poultry volume in
retail, it represents just more than 5% of volume for
retail foodservice, according to Technomic, which says
beef is an untapped market. Its data finds 69% of the
most frequent prepared food shoppers hanker for more
Powered by Protein
Where’s the beef, chicken and seafood? For a growing
number of consumers, it’s at their local supermarket deli.
By Jennifer Strailey
Amount of most
frequent prepared-foods shoppers who
want more beef on