While inflation-weary supermarket shoppers have pulled back on purchases in many areas of the store, last-minute meal solutions remain popular pickups from the deli department, according to a recent survey of 1,010 U.S. adults who are their household’s primary grocery shoppers or share the responsibility, do most of their grocery shopping in traditional supermarkets and who typically shop the deli area.

Nearly 80% of shoppers who typically purchase prepared foods and/or meal kits during their shopping trips have bought the same amount or more of these items in the last three months, a November 4-6, 2022, survey by R² Fresh Solutions, part of R² Solutions, found. Shoppers for larger households are more likely to be buying somewhat or much more prepared foods than they were a few months ago. About one-fourth of respondents, regardless of household size, say they are buying less prepared foods from the deli.

Among the survey’s other findings are:

  • Nearly 90% of those who buy deli prepared foods, sandwiches or meal kits consider them an alternative to restaurant foods for last-minute dinner plans. One-fourth of these shoppers are choosing these options over restaurant meals three or four times a month. Another 17% are making this choice more frequently than once a week.
  • As a seller of “What’s for dinner?” meal solutions, supermarkets aren’t ceding much share to other retailers. Just four in 10 deli shoppers who do not typically buy prepared foods, sandwiches and/or meal kits are buying these foods at other types of stores: 18% do at mass merchandisers like Walmart or Target, 12% at club stores, 10% at specialty stores and 7% at their neighborhood deli.
  • One-third of deli shoppers say “freshness” is one of their Top 2 reasons for buying items from the full-service deli counter. More than 1 in five shoppers who buy prepared foods, meats or cheese deli items from a deli worker say they plan to eat them immediately or that day.
  • Price is a top reason deli shoppers avoid buying deli items at the full-service counter or in the grab-and-go section. But “A long wait time” was a top reason more than one-fourth of deli shoppers avoid the full-service counter.
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