While consumers were cooking at home more often in 2021, meal planning and cooking time remain a barrier.
Prepared side dishes allow home cooks to spend more time preparing a simple main course recipe while still having the satisfaction of cooking at home.
“We anticipate further growth and a desire for more variety and flavor in side dishes,” said Nathan Roe, senior director of deli strategy and customer marketing for Beaverton, Oregon-based Reser’s Fine Foods. “In addition to our spring offerings, we plan to continue introducing culinary twists on favorite recipes.”
Reser’s three new hot deli dishes are Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potatoes, White Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese, and Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon. All three launched regionally in October and are expected to be released nationwide by this spring — which, based on reception, can’t come soon enough for Reser’s.
“Consumer feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive,” Roe said.
In 2021, Medina, Ohio-based Sandridge Food Corp. launched three new grandmother-brand chilled salads, all of which have been well-received, said Adam Cordea, deputy brand manager.
An Italian Pasta Salad, Rotini Parmesano Pasta Salad and Zesty Garden Pasta Salad join the ranks of Sandridge’s Grandma’s legacy items.
“They’ve been sold to over a dozen customers, and we’re excited to see them grow into what we know they can become,” Cordea said.
Sandridge’s best sellers include Grandma’s longtime favorites like Potato Salad and Coleslaw, and Sandridge Deli Style Chicken Salad and Ham Salad.
“These are items that are not only delicious, but people know, trust and want in their deli aisles or in their homes anytime they want,” Cordea said. “These recipes were born from a blend of innovation and culinary excellence, and they are items that have become household and operator staples across the country.”
Reser’s best hot sides behind the glass on grocery store meat aisles are his Main St Bistro Baked Scalloped Potatoes, Mac and Cheese and Oven Roasted Potatoes.
Under the Reser’s brand in charcuterie, top sellers are macaroni and cheese and creamy mashed potatoes.
When it comes to cold sides, Reser’s Deviled Egg and Original Potato Salads top the list, Roe said, with macaroni salad not far behind.
Consumers want to check many boxes these days when it comes to all of their perimeter fresh foods, and hot and cold deli sides are no exception.
But Reser’s, like so many other vendors and their retail partners, finds that it often comes down to two old reliable products found on this consumer checklist.
“Customer feedback has always been about quality and taste,” Roe said. “They absolutely love the restaurant-quality taste of our Main St Bistro Baked Side Dishes, which can be microwaved or baked for that great cooked taste without all the prep.”
And when it comes to deli salads, Reser’s is continually surprised by the new uses customers are finding for them, he added.
The impact of COVID, short and long term
2022 will be a strong year for side dishes, especially those sold packaged in the deli aisle, Roe said. As consumers returned to a more consistent shopping behavior, they combined family favorites like macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes with simple salads and fresh vegetables.
“While the basic ingredients of these typical side dishes are the same as they have been for years – potatoes, pasta, cauliflower, beans – consumers are buying macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes at stages of more advanced preparation, or with ingredients or flavor adjustments to make them more than ordinary.
With time pressures and kitchen fatigue playing such a big role in consumer decisions these days – and with the desire to keep meals delicious, interesting, affordable and easy to prepare – most households, a said Roe, found supermarket options that were just as tasty, and simultaneously cheaper and even more convenient than restaurant alternatives.
Sales of hot deal side dishes have not recovered from pandemic lows as vigorously as many chains and distributors had hoped, Roe said.
With the breadth, convenience and variety of prepackaged options – including those assembled fresh from the store – Reser’s has seen many hot crates permanently converted to other uses.
“There are still many retailers that can and do successfully run hot case programs, but it takes patience and commitment to accept a long-term view for their survival,” he said.
In the COVID era, Sandridge has heard from customers that demand for packaged sides has increased while hot case sales have sometimes suffered. Ease of preparation, portability and increased food safety, Cordea said, have allowed packaged sides to thrive over hot sides, which are sometimes handled by more than one person.
“Hot cases serve their purpose and have some advantages, but pre-packaged products have multiple advantages that cannot be replicated in a hot case,” he said.
COVID, Cordea said, has also changed consumer shopping habits inside the grocery store. Comfort foods and foods familiar to consumers – including ready-to-eat sides – have thrived and will continue to do so even as consumer confidence recovers to pre-pandemic levels.
“We rely on some of our core Sandridge items, like refrigerated salads, because they are products that taste great while being products that our customers and consumers know they can trust,” he said. . “We intend to continue to offer the best tasting products in all of our categories, including deli salads. Deli salads have been at the heart of our concerns since the inception of our company and they will forever remain dear to our hearts.