CHICAGO – A key driver for U.S. consumers who are increasingly turning to prepared foods purchased at the supermarket deli for in-home suppers continues to be convenience, according to The NPD Group, a market research company. Consumers indicate that one of the top reasons they purchase prepared foods is for an easy meal at home, according to NPD’s DeliTrack, which tracks deli-prepared food purchases,

Nearly half of deli-area prepared food purchases are in-store decisions, according to DeliTrack data. This aligns with findings from NPD’s upcoming report entitled “Before the Store,” which studies consumer shopping habits and meal planning. According to the study, the top challenges consumers face when planning and shopping for meals are getting new ideas and finding meals that are quick to make. Although most purchases of deli-prepared foods are driven by habit and convenience, 10% are items buyers are trying for the first time.

Approximately one-in-five adults purchase a prepared food from retail in a typical week, according to NPD’s DeliTrack. When making prepared food purchase decisions, consumers’ top picks are chicken or turkey items; sandwiches; deli salads, such as potato salad; and leaf salads. These four types of foods account for just over half of all deli-prepared food purchases.

“The popularity of deli-prepared foods is not surprising,” said Ann Hanson, executive director, product development in NPD’s food and beverage unit. “We are a convenience-driven society. Picking up a prepared meal in the supermarket deli along with other staples we might need for home represents one-stop shopping. There are more prepared food options available at supermarkets today providing consumers with both variety and the convenience of buying a prepared meal along with their other groceries.”

Convenience in terms of reducing or even eliminating the amount of food preparation is a trend that is expected to grow over the next decade, she added.

“Prepared foods represent an opportunity for growth,” Hanson said. “Consumers are looking for a way around having to cook and deli-prepared foods are one solution for quick and easy meals in the home.”