Salad bars won’t return to retail operations any time soon, and when and if they do, they won’t look like they used to.
A group of retailers shared their visions of the future of salad bars during a July 30 webinar hosted by the Produce Marketing Association BB #:153708 and the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association.
The consensus was that there’s a clear shift in consumer demand toward packaged foods, even though food has not shown to be a cause of COVID-19 infection.
Retail Editor Pamela Riemenschneider discusses the latest retail sales figures with Anne Marie Roerink of 210 Analytics, and the future of salad bars.
The good news is that retail business in other areas, including fresh produce, is more than making up for the decline in salad bar business, said Vince Mastromauro, director of produce operations for Sunset Food Mart.
He said Sunset now offers more complete salad kits from salad companies to make up for lost salad bar sales.
Paul Kneeland, vice president of fresh operations for Gelson’s Markets, BB #:113119 Los Angeles, said he’s merchandising packaged salads and other fresh produce in salad bars while they’re not in normal operation. He’s like to see salad bar business return, but he said an option is to replace them with grab-and-go cases.
Sarah Long, deli/foodservice director of merchandising operations for Albertsons, BB #:193326 Boise, ID, said her company is packaging items from its salad bars on its own and is investing more in automation and robotics.
Gina Johnson, assistant category manager for sandwich, salad and cold meal solutions for Kroger Co., BB #:100073, Cincinnati, OH, said her company is hearing from consumers that they want more packaged food, and Kroger is responding by packaging more of its salad bar items in house.
Giant Eagle BB #:104280, Pittsburgh, PA, is looking at which salad bar items provide the best return on investment, so even if they return, they will have a different look, said Voni Woods, vice president of deli, bakery, prepared foods, Starbucks, sushi and corporate café for the retailer.