Reinventing Convenience with Healthy Grab-and-Go

American diners obsession with fast, convenient food is nothing new. However, recent years saw a declining interest in “fast food”, as diners have sought out healthier options. Operators looking to win back the grab-and-go customer had only one choice: offer healthier options in convenient packages.

Laurie Demeritt, CEO of The Hartman Group, comments on the trend in Foodservice, “We are seeing an explosion of consumer interest in and usage of refrigerated, prepared meals at grocery retail, and [quick serves] are now picking up on this too. Additionally, we are seeing an increase in immediate consumption occasions, and [quick serves] are already seen as a ‘go-to’ for these sorts of occasions.”

At InHarvest, we’ve been working with foodservice operators in K-12, college and university, military and healthcare to provide menu options that combine health and convenience. Whole grains, ancient grains and rice are healthy and satisfying additions to the refrigerator case, cold bar, hot bar and even point-of-sale. Here are a few top-selling ways to incorporate them into your menu.

Salad

A 2014 survey of foodservice operators showed that salads tie with sandwiches for the largest sales in the grab-and-go category (at 11% each), while a recent release from the Whole Grains Council states refrigerated grain salad sales are up 978.2%. Offering a whole grain salad in your refrigerated case is a no-brainer.

The addition of the whole grains to a salad elevates it through the inclusion of a premium product, additional protein and nutrition, as well as an additional textural element. We’ve developed a space-saving, tantalizing way to feature salads that really shakes up your sales: The Shaker Salad. Fresh ingredients are layered in a clear to-go cup, topped with a ramekin of dressing enclosed in a dome lid. All our customers are eating up the concept, which brings a touch of DIY to the salad experience as diners shake their salads with the dressing before eating.

We’ve developed several variations on the shaker salad – Mediterranean, Cobb, Southwest, Chef’s Salad and Buffalo Chicken – but the idea is still ripe for innovation. How would you interpret your best-selling salad as a whole grain shaker salad?

Yogurt Parfait

Yogurt also made the list of the top five sellers in the grab-and-go category amongst food operators.

We recommend adding a whole grain fruit and yogurt parfait to your cooler case. Fresh fruit and whole grains add sustenance without adding high-carb, high-starch, over-processed product. Low GI whole grains are a staple of athletes who crave nutrition and clean calories. The recipe we developed with our exclusive Sunrise Morning Blend capitalizes on a perfectly balanced blend of heirloom Kamut® Khorasan bulgur wheat, buckwheat groats, heirloom Colusari™ Red Rice, quinoa flakes and brown flax seed. The parfait features protein-packed quinoa flakes with a flax seed Omega-3 fatty acid boost – delivering sustained energy for busy diners.

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Ancient Grain Bars

No refrigeration case? No problem! We’re excited to offer ancient grains in new savory and sweet snack bars, with flavors that take inspiration from global cuisine. Our Ancient Grain Bars feature real, whole puffed grains – not extruded puffed rice product that many other bars use – giving them a unique texture and flavor profile. Toasted quinoa, chia and flax seed round out our exclusive mix – on-trend healthy ingredients that will draw customers in. Finally, the flavors which range from curry and chili spice, to familiar but nuanced interpretations of caramel apple and lemon, will intrigue diners and keep them coming back for more.

Pre-packaged in colorful 12-pack point-of-sale boxes, InHarvest’s Ancient Grain Bars are exclusively offered to our foodservice customers. Offer your diners a healthy snack they can’t get anywhere else, and keep them grabbing, and going, over and over again.

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Creating Success with Healthy Grab-and-Go Items

A 2013 article from Food Management contains some great tips for phasing in and increasing sales with healthier fast options, based on the success of healthcare operator’s efforts.

“On the part of the food service director there was a common thread: a multi-part plan that phased in pre-planned elements over time.” A phased plan introduced healthier options options over a period of 18-24 months. The author critically added, “In the most successful cases, healthy foods were added but comfort foods were not immediately withdrawn.” Successful sales tactics included:

  • Placement: Place healthy options in the first position on the entrée line, or prominently in the refrigerator case, alongside tried and true popular items.
  • Price: Make whole grains a key component of healthy combo meals that were priced attractively.
  • Incentives: Implement a loyalty program. Buy ten Shaker Salads and get your 11th free!
  • Disincentives: Give high fat or high-calorie foods a slight price hike.
  • Educate: Imprint cash register tape receipts with caloric and fat values.