As consumers’ end-of-summer plans merge with back-to-school shopping and preparation for the fall, the retail foodservice industry prepares to meet their needs – and anticipates their appetite for dips.

Carl Cappelli, vice president of sales and business development for Schwenksville, Pa.-based Don’s Prepared Foods, has kept an eye on the flow of consumer behavior throughout the pandemic. He noted an increase in foodservice sales through the summer as the attitude toward the pandemic has relaxed among many.

“People were pent up with nothing to do, and now they have money saved up and are out spending money like crazy,” he said. “Come back to school, with inflation and gas prices, things may slow down.”

However, Cappelli predicts the decline to be temporary, as football season and holiday gatherings pick up in the fall. What does this mean for the supermarket deli? Consumers are looking for deli sides to entertain guests and to enjoy by themselves while watching the game at home.


The desire for dips

The main thing that Cappelli said has remained consistent from the beginning of the pandemic is the consumer’s increase in snacking, particularly on dips. With more Americans working from home than ever, consumers strayed from traditional mealtimes and portion parameters.

“The evolution that occurred was snacking at home, dipping at home,” he said. “It’s not ‘Leave It to Beaver,’ not the 1950s. It’s not three square meals a day. Americans went dip crazy.”

Cappelli observed that at both the IDDBA show in Atlanta and the New York Summer Fancy Food Show in June, “everyone” had dips.

“The two most sought-after things were buyers and foodservice retailers looking for dips and spreads,” he said.

While the summer created a rise in demand for cold dips and salads, the fall will bring more demand for dips that are best served heated up. Consumers will also be looking for unique, exciting flavors with healthy options.

“If you’re working from home, you can’t do burgers and fries all the time,” Cappelli said. “People want flavor, globally inspired cool stuff, but they want health.”


New flavors for a new season

No matter if the consumer is looking for a healthier option or a more indulgent choice, they want their snacks to be packed full of flavor. Don’s Prepared Foods currently sells both dips that are more indulgent and dips that the company considers “clean.”

What’s more, Don’s Prepared Foods has five new cheese spread flavors that debuted in August. The company’s newest dips cover classic flavors that people know and love, plus some new combinations that it thinks people will be eager to try. The newly launched flavors are: pimento, caramelized onion and bacon, chipotle, beer cheese and roasted garlic and Dijon.

“Cheese spreads have really come of age,” Cappelli said. He attributed this partially to the cream cheese shortage in the US several months ago. Now that it is back, it is in high demand.

Cappelli noted that the types of cheese dips and spreads consumers crave depends on where they live. He sees cream cheese and schmears on bagels as more popular on the East Coast. People in southern states gravitate more toward pimento; however, Cappelli said that pimento is also the No. 1 cheese dip in most households across the country.