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“Can I Get That on The Side?”


Classic side dishes like potato salad and coleslaw remain popular in diners and delis, even in 2023. However, there is a growing demand for healthier and more globally-inspired options. Companies like Don’s Prepared Foods and Cedar’s Foods offer a variety of gourmet side dishes and clean grain salads with clean, edgy flavors. Healthy and plant-based options are prioritized, with a focus on food safety and certifications. Side dishes are also incorporated into trends like charcuterie boards, offering convenience and driving sales. Prepared and packaged side dishes have been in high demand during the pandemic, providing ready-to-eat options for at-home meals. Retailers have introduced “Meal Deals” to offer value and convenience to consumers, with different product formats available to cater to various needs.

Side Dishes: More Than a Side-Hustle

Diners and delis are practically known for their sides: potato salad, coleslaw, french fries, etc. Even in 2023, when healthy eating is a priority, these classic sides remain in high demand.

Carl H. Cappelli is a Senior Vice President of Sales and Business Development at Don’s Prepared Foods. Cappelli says consumers are no longer satisfied with the traditional sides like potato salads and coleslaw from the 1970s. Don’s Prepared Foods has a much wider variety: 10 gourmet side dishes with clean, edgy, and globally-inspired flavors, as well as 10 clean grain salads for retail deli departments. This strategy seems to be successful.

With inflation impacting people’s budgets, they are increasingly seeking meal solutions that can replace or even surpass restaurant options. Given that reality, deli and diner food, especially cheap side dishes, are slated for incredible growth this year. Reser’s also offers a comprehensive menu of consumer favorites such as potato salad, pasta salad, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, dips, and meal kits. They provide a variety of formats to meet evolving retailer needs and offer convenience and fresh flavors to consumers.

Side Dishes: Trends and Innovation

Side dishes are growing healthier and more nutritious, with a focus on food safety and certifications to accommodate specific diets. Cappelli notes that they have transformed from “belly stuffers” to healthy, plant-based options with global flavors. Cedar’s Foods, a family-owned Mediterranean food brand, offers dips and spreads using organic ingredients, including hummus with various flavors. People now prioritize what goes into their bodies, emphasizing gut health and the impact of diet on mental health.

Tsakirellis suggests that side dishes have a place on dishes like charcuterie boards, inspiring meal ideas and convenience for shoppers while driving incremental sales. To capitalize on this trend, merchandise items for a charcuterie board in the same section offer a one-stop destination for shoppers.

Innovation plays a vital role in maintaining consumer interest and driving sales in the side dish category. Cedar’s Foods incorporates authentic Mediterranean recipes into their products while introducing new flavors like Chocolate Hommus and seasonal Pumpkin Hommus.

During the pandemic, prepared and packaged side dishes that required no additional preparation remained highly in demand. Cappelli states that the closure of salad bars and prepared food bars led consumers to choose ready-to-eat options behind the deli glass case, which provided cool options to accompany in-home meals. This shift to at-home meal preparation resulted in increased space dedicated to meal solutions within the deli. Retailers have also implemented “Meal Deals” to offer consumers value and convenience in meal planning, with a range of product formats available to cater to different needs.

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