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    C-stores up the Ante to Compete with Restaurants: Report

    New Technomic study will investigate the trend of food retailers increasing their meal solutions to gain consumer dollars.

    CHICAGO -- Technomic, a foodservice consulting firm based here, is launching a new study on food retailers and the competitive trends in the industry. To collect more of consumers' dining-out dollars and create a point of differentiation from other food retailers, convenience stores, as well as supermarkets, warehouse/club stores and supercenters, are pumping up their meal solutions programs at the expense of restaurants, reported Progressive Grocer, sister publication to Convenience Store News.

    New and expanded food offerings from retailers place an emphasis on quality and variety, and are integrating many of the trends shaping restaurant menus, such as ethnic foods, premium ingredients, customization and updated preparation techniques, Technomic said.

    "Whole Foods probably deserves most of the credit for spawning this new interest among retailers," said Ron Paul, president of Technomic. "They were the first to prove that consumers are drawn to ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat meal solutions, and will use them to replace home cooking or dining out, assuming that quality and variety aren't compromised."

    As more retailers try to 'wow' their customers, forward thinking manufacturers must step up their efforts to assist retailers by providing culinary expertise, new products, and assistance with training and merchandising, he added.

    In addition, chain and independent restaurant operators must recognize development as a direct competitive threat that targets their consumers, Progressive Grocer reported.

    The research study, which will be called "Retail Meal Solutions: A New and Growing Opportunity for Foodservice Manufacturers," will educate the supplier community of the trends in the industry.

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