KANSAS CITY, MO. – With the coronavirus (COVID-19) forcing more people to test their culinary skills in the kitchen, heat-and-eat meat products sold in the grocery perimeter are proving to be a viable option for cooking-challenged consumers or those seeking convenience and quality.  

Retail grocery heat-and-eat products from Austin, Minn.-based Hormel Foods Corp. include Lloyd’s Barbeque meats, Hormel refrigerated entrees and Hormel side dishes.

“Products in this space focus on convenience and providing consumers with expanded flavor options,” said Swen Neufeldt, Hormel’s vice president of marketing, meat products, and recently appointed president of Hormel Foods International. “Our focus on the branded retail side is to continue offer consumers a quality and convenient option that is as authentic as you’d find in a restaurant.”

New at Lloyd’s, the top-selling heat-and-eat barbecue brand in America, is a partnership with two-time world barbecue sauce champion Pig Beach Mustard BBQ Sauce, the result of which is Pecanwood Smoked Pulled Pork and Hickory Hardwood Smoked Pulled Chicken with Pig Beach Mustard BBQ Sauce.

“These are high quality pulled pork and chicken meals combined with these award-winning sauces,” Neufeldt said. “It gives people a restaurant-style barbecue experience at home in a convenient way.”

The Lloyd’s line — and ribs in particular — have enjoyed consistent growth for years, he added.

Hormel is also seeing strong growth in its refrigerated entrees lineup, driven largely by younger consumers looking for products that combine convenience and quality.

Hormel Slow Simmered Beef Roast Au Jus has been one of the standout performers in the category, Neufeldt said.

“We’re taking the preparation out and giving these consumers a high-quality meat, already slow-cooked, to deliver a great comfort food experience. As younger consumers get busier, they’re looking for these options that combine a great product in a convenient format

Don’t forget deli

Hormel has also seen new heat-and-eat applications in its Deli Solutions Group, said Andrew Quinn, the group’s senior brand manager.

“We’ve seen solid growth in our products that help retail partners transition from raw to fully cooked items,” he said. “The items like our new Hormel Carvers Club and Hormel Cuisine Crate products help solve the pain points of labor, food and team member safety and make preparing heat and eat options less labor intensive.”

Carver’s Club and Cuisine Crate products include a starch, protein and sauce, and Hormel is offering retailers new flavor profiles and meal options to put either in a in a tray or other application to serve their consumers, said Jeff Baker, group vice president of the Deli Solutions Group.

“We’ve continued to innovate and develop new products to help customers solve for labor and shrink issues in the deli while assuring the highest levels of food safety, and that is not changing,” he said.

With the coronavirus, people are looking for alternate meal solutions, and heat-and-eat products sold at grocery retail are a perfect choice, Quinn said.

Neufeldt added that people eating at home more are looking for quick, convenient meals like those provided by Hormel, with Lloyd’s products leading the way.

“Since people may not be able to go to their favorite BBQ restaurant as easily anymore, we have high quality options that take the prep work out and still provide the restaurant-type experience in the comfort of home,” he said.

Hot bars, salad bars and other “high touch” areas of the grocery perimeter have been seriously affected by the pandemic, Quinn said.

Hormel and other providers of heat-and-eat products are helping retailers get creative, in Hormel’s case offering solutions that can be pre-packaged as “no touch,” which aligns with the expectations of deli customers, he said.