Tahoe follows ‘on-the-go’ trend
Homestyle cooking for Andy and Willow Eissinger isn’t reserved to their stove.
Even on vacation, the South Lake Tahoe couple seek healthy choices with on-the-go food at grocery stores when they opt not to cook.
“It’s easier than making it ourselves,” Andy said Sunday, as his wife ordered turkey breast and potato salad for lunch from the Albertsons delicatessen counter.
They have one big consideration other than convenience. Their smiling son Ian just turned 1 and Mom invests some thought to his intake when there’s no time to fix something.
“We want him to eat healthy,” she said.
But the Eissingers shy away from the restaurants known for on-the-go foods.
“We’re not big fast-food people,” he said, adding they take their meal orders to the grocery store three times a week.
The Eissingers join the ranks of the largest-growing segment of grocer consumers. A recent poll found that 72 percent of these customers go as far as to buy ready-to-eat food to take home.
According to a Connecticut-based research firm, InsightExpress, nine out of 10 customers buy on-the-run food from their corner grocery store, with almost half consuming the meals in their vehicles. Thirty-nine percent take the food to the office, 17 percent to a recreational activity and 14 percent to school.
Beyond the choices of where to go with it, the offering of foods has significantly increased in the last few years.
There’s packaged calzones, pizza, wraps and the all-in-one lunchbox, which includes a sandwich, salad and snack.
Rotisserie chickens have turned into the common request at the Albertsons in South Lake Tahoe.
“The health conscious people are buying these,” Albertsons Manager Mike Patton said, adding that the store has expanded this type of offering in the last six months.
And no longer does Swanson’s have the monopoly on pre-packaged dinners in the frozen food aisle. Grocery stores have also brought in more variety of the preserved meals.
Patton said his store has beefed up this merchandise by 20 percent in the last year.
The study showed that three out of five Americans say nutrition plays a key role in deciding the types of food purchased.
“With increasing daily time pressures and with more than half of consumers stating that on-the-go food is sometimes used as a meal replacement, this category continues to have enormous potential,” InsightExpress President Lee Smith said.
The business potential has not gone unnoticed for manufacturers or grocers.
“We see a definite trend. Just walk through the store. More and more people are buying them now,” said Paul Hanson of the Safeway on Highway 50.
Raley’s has followed suit, and there is more demand for its Hot Wok deli. The one at the “Y” store will soon be joined by a Hot Wok deli at the Village Center location.
Eddie Bedwell has worked at both Raley’s where he’s seen tourists and locals go for the ready-to-eat offerings.
“Who’s finding time to cook? People are busy 12 hours a day,” he said.
Even people who work in restaurants are open to the service.
Mike Calandra turns in his New York Pizza apron at least three times a week to have someone cook for him. Having spent a decade in the restaurant business, Calandra rattled off his roast beef-pepperjack cheese sandwich order like a pro.
– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 541-3880 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org