More and more, consumers are purchasing hot deli sides as appetizers and entrée complements to create a restaurant experience at home.

“While so many perimeter categories saw significant upticks in the last year, consumers also increased their purchases of supermarket hot side dishes as excellent alternatives to restaurant and foodservice offerings,” said Nathan Roe, senior manager of deli strategy and customer marketing for Beaverton, Ore.-based Reser’s Fine Foods. “These consumers brought their desires for choices and options to the supermarket, and retailers have responded accordingly.”

Roe also predicts an increase in demand for hot sides as summer comes to a close. However, he has seen that sides like macaroni and cheese tend to be evergreen.

“Unlike cold deli salad varieties, which tend to all share similar consumption peaks (summer) and valleys (winter), hot side dish varieties are less closely aligned,” Roe said. “Mashed potato purchases spike in November and December, while consumer interest in macaroni and cheese and roasted potatoes is steady all year long.”

Roe recommends that retailers take advantage of the steady demand by adding innovation to an already well-loved product to create even more interest.

“Reser’s has met this interest with unique macaroni and cheese ‘kits,’” Roe said. “Retailers complete the final assembly, and the consumer heats — and eats — at home. With components that include toppings like flavored breadcrumbs, bacon or barbecue sauce, the consumer and retailer have options that can change by the week, month or season.”

Packaging and presentation are key elements to successfully marketing a classic favorite as something new.

“Reser’s has also invested in our branded deli hot sides with a package design refresh,” Roe said. “The design brings it more in line with our top selling deli salads, so the consumer who shops deli salads who hasn’t tried a deli hot side may be more likely to consider. We are excited about the growth of the hot deli sides category and anticipate that consumers will continue to explore the deli as an easy and satisfying alternative to dining out.”