A flyover of food innovation at convenience store and supermarket grocerants reveals healthier, tastier, bolder and customized offers, compiled by Technomic and presented by principal Wade Hanson at the recent NRA Show Foodservice@Retail Summit:

  1. 1. Chefs are reinventing chicken with health and flavor innovations to spark interest in a legacy category. For instance, Fairway Market offers antibiotic-free, vegetarian-fed rotisserie chicken, and New Seasons Market promotes organic whole roasted chicken. “Consumers say they’ve seen these claims for years in the meat department. Shouldn’t they see them in prepared chicken too,” noted Mr. Hanson.
  2. 2. Flavor synergy - uncommon flavor combinations that make a surprisingly good mix – reflects mainstream trends finding their way into retail foodservice. Mashups of bold flavors and ethnic ingredients build new appeals. Two examples: HEB offers bacon-wrapped jalapenos filled with barbecue-marinated chicken. QuickChek offers sausage, egg and cheese on a honey butter biscuit with grape jelly.
  3. 3. Spicy chicken sandwiches “put c-stores on parity with quick-serve restaurants,” he added. For instance, QuickChek offers three kinds of spicy chicken sandwiches – Ghost Pepper Chicken, Sriracha Chicken, and Salsa Verde Chicken. The Ghost Pepper variety includes chicken, two cheeses, romaine, tomato and Caesar dressing on an artisan roll.
  4. 4. Multiple flavor callouts, such as Wawa’s Wacky Wildwood Hoagie with Old Bay seasoning, ranch and chipotle toppings, signal “you want something different, we’ll give it to you,” said Mr. Hanson.
  5. 5. Outside-the-box pizza at grocerants attracts consumers who are used to diverse ingredients and made-to-order pies at fast-casual pizza places. Some fun examples include: Dorothy Lane Market’s premium limited-time offer with clams and Calabrese peppers, and QuikTrip’s breakfast pizza with egg, sausage, bacon, cheese and sausage gravy. For a seasonal pizza idea, see Kwik Trip’s Oktoberfest-style Bratwurst Pizza with cheese, onions and mustard cream sauce.