CHICAGO — While retailers have gained a larger share of the food service market during the recession, it is going to take work to keep this share as the economy improves, according to market researcher Technomic.

“Restaurants consistently provide consumers with foods that respond to their changing preferences and ideas of value,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice-president. “Locally sourced ingredients, organic and additive-free foods and humanely sourced menu offerings have been growth areas. In a down economy, retailers grained a larger share of the food service market, but in order to keep that as the economic picture improves, they need to respond to consumers as effectively as restaurants have.”

In its “2010 Restaurants & Retail Shopping Report: Segmenting the Food and Beverage Consumer” report, Technomic found when visiting a traditional fast-food restaurant, a consumer’s typical choice is likely to be McDonald’s, Burger King or Subway. The core users of this segment are 18 to 44-year- olds with consumers in the South visiting most often.

When it comes to higher-end fast food, consumers are most likely to visit Panera Bread, Boston Market and Panda Express. In addition, consumers in the West visit these restaurants most often and patronage generally increases as income brackets increase.

Applebee’s, Olive Garden and Chili’s are the top three casual-dining brands, representing almost half of primary brands.

In the traditional supermarket category, Kroger is the leader, but it was the primary supermarket brand for only 15% of respondents. Those in higher income brackets tend to shop at supermarkets more frequently. Wal-Mart also stands out among mass merchandisers as it is the primary supercenter and mass merchandiser brand for food purchases for 68% of respondents. Target came in second, and those ages 18-34 are more likely to use mass merchandisers and supercenters more often.

Also, heavy users of warehouse clubs, specialty and natural food stores and upscale supermarkets tend to source food from many different types of retailers and restaurants. Men are also more likely than women to be heavy food shoppers at convenience stores and warehouse clubs.