More Diners Looking for Sushi Fix at Grocery Stores

Consumers are increasingly turning toward grocery store sushi when looking for a healthier snack or quick meal but don’t want to pay restaurant prices; sales are up more than 70% in the last year at some retailers.

“There are two main reasons in my view [for sushi’s growing popularity]: The convenience and time savings that prepared foods offer, and the growing public prioritization of individual health,” Andy Keenan, executive vice president and general manager of marketing firm Advantage Solutions, told The Food Institute.

“Retailers are offering more prepared foods than ever before—this is an almost $24 billion vertical and one that I assess will continue to grow as consumers are working more than ever before and meal prep time is at a premium. With inflation on the rise, and consumer costs in general increasing, the cost of fine dining or dining out is often prohibitive. This can be offset by offering high-quality, convenient prepared foods—like sushi—and at a comparative value to consumers and families versus a fine dining or take-out option.”

The Wall Street Journal reported (Aug. 21) Kroger is the biggest sushi seller in the U.S., selling more than 40 million pieces per year. Kroger, which owns Ralphs, Smith’s, Harris Teeter, and other chains, and is in the process of buying Albertsons, has made sushi a central component in its expansion strategy, grabbing for some of the dollars consumers budget for eating out. Industrywide, 43.7 million sushi servings were purchased at grocery stores, compared to 238.6 million at restaurants.

The Food Institute reported U.S. sushi restaurants are expected to earn $27.5 billion this year.

“When customers think of sushi, we want them to think of Kroger,” Stuart Aitken, chief merchant and marketing officer at Kroger, told the Journal.

Circana reported sushi sales have increased by 50% in the last four years, with dollar sales up 72%.

Some sellers are getting creative with their sushi offerings, including such variations as sushi burritos and poke bowls.

The key, however, is maintaining freshness.

“Sushi has a very short life not necessarily due to the freshness of the fish,” Karen Green, former commercial director for ichiban UK Ltd, told The Food Institute. “In the [United Kingdom] a majority of sushi uses smoked salmon, cooked prawns, and dare I say it, chicken! So, stores need to be prepared to manage stock carefully or create a budget.

“The best and easiest way to create sushi magic in the store is through a kiosk … so you can make to order keeping it fresh and creating what the customer needs.”

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