An emphasis on healthier profiles has transformed the deli meat category.
In 2023, the latest trend in meat categories at the deli is an emphasis on healthier and more sustainable options. Turkey, for example, is increasingly popular due to its lower fat content and its versatility in dishes. Ham is also becoming more popular as a lean and nutrient-dense meat. Then there’s roast beef, which is a good source of protein, iron and B vitamins; and salami, which is gaining popularity for its convenience and versatility in recipes, including sandwiches and salads.
“In deli so far this year, sales were up around 5.6% from the first quarter in 2022,” says Whitney Atkins, vice president of marketing for the Madison, WI-based International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA), who pointed to strong sales of deli meat products as being a catalyst.
She explains that deli meat prices continue to increase, as consumers have become less sensitive to costs with meats, even in the current challenging economic environment. Additionally, consumers who buy their meats in the service case are extremely loyal, with the highest annual dollar spend and trip frequency than any other segment.
According to IDDBA, grab-and-go comprised about 33% of meat sales by volume, with service deli accounting for 60% of sales.
Deanna Depke, marketing manager for Volpi Foods, a St. Louis-based manufacturer of artisan cured meats sold at the deli, has noticed a shift towards classic flavors such as Genoa salami, pepperoni and prosciutto.
“The classic charcuterie varietals are appealing to consumers’ everyday use of the products and simple innovations like pepper-coated salami are proving to perform well,” she says.
Lorenzo Tedeschi, sales director for Rovagnati North America, based in Vineland, NJ, notes one of the most consistently popular types of meat in the deli market is ham in its various forms.
“In recent years, the United States has witnessed a consistent rise in the demand for Prosciutto Crudo, a type of dry-cured ham that originates in Italy, with American producers adopting traditional Italian methods to produce their own versions,” he says. “Even more recently, the popularity of mortadella, another type of deli meat originating from Italy, has been on the rise.”
This trend can be largely attributed to the growing interest in high-quality artisanal charcuterie products in the United States.
“Mortadella is a type of cooked meat known for its unique flavor and texture, recognized by its bright pink color and pearly white spots,” says Tedeschi. “In recent years, chefs and food enthusiasts have taken a liking to mortadella, featuring it in various recipes, such as sandwiches, salads, pasta and pizzas. This has led to an increase in its visibility and appeal to consumers.”
For Rovagnati, mortadella has quickly become one of its top-selling products in the foodservice channel and is now on its way in retail,too.
John Alfano, deli general purchasing director for North Palm Beach, FL-based Doris Italian Market & Bakery, says turkey, roast beef and other meat subs remain popular at the store.
“Our roast beef, which we make on premise, is legendary and a bestseller,” he says. “Customers still want fresh, so all of our custom sandwiches are made and sliced to order. Customers also want convenience, especially during lunch breaks and after work, so we have a large grab-and-go section.”
Rise of Charcuterie
It’s no surprise that charcuterie has been trending for several years. Charcuterie became increasingly popular during the pandemic, as consumers sought exciting, premium foods at home. This trend led to increased interest in charcuterie boards and grazing platters, which encouraged a lighter, less entrée-focused approach to meals.
Oliviero Colmignoli, president and founder of Oceanside, CA-based Olli Salumeria, notes that as consumers became more familiar with the robust flavor of salami, artisanal cheese and other charcuterie favorites in recent years, there was an interest in enjoying these foods in portable snack form. As a result, one of the biggest trends lately is an increased demand for convenience in deli meats.
“Whether it’s grab-and-go snack packs or pre-packaged charcuterie trays, consumers want to make the process of enjoying salami and other deli favorites easy,” says Colmignoli. “For consumers who want a convenient starting point for their own charcuterie creations, we offer a line of Olli Pre-Sliced Salami in resealable 4-ounce packing in a variety of flavors, from our most popular Genoa to the spicy calabrese, pepperoni and more.”
Packaging Innovation in Sustainable Deli Meats
The biggest shift in demand recently is for clean-label products. As consumers become increasingly aware of the health impact of certain food ingredients, they demand a higher level of transparency in packaged foods.
“With busy lifestyles, consumers are looking for easier and more convenient ways to store and enjoy their high-protein charcuterie and salami snacks in 2023,” says Colmignoli. “It’s never been easier to take salami to work, to the park or to a sporting event with convenient charcuterie options like Olli Snack Packs. These products are a great-tasting, practical option for consumers who need a quick, satisfying high-protein snack between meals or when they’re on the go.”
The fact is, today’s savvy consumer is concerned about the environment and what happens today impacts the future.
“That is why the ABC’s of ESG’s is one of IDDBA’s Guiding Trends,” says Atkins. “One of our key roles in the industry is to provide our member companies with education and business solutions that help them prepare today for the consumer of tomorrow. With today’s speed of light technology and innovation, manufacturers and retailers are working together to create environmentally-friendly product processes through the entire product life cycle, including sustainable packaging a consumer sees in brick and mortar retail.”
Along those lines, this summer Volpi is introducing an innovation to its Eco-Pack packaging.
“Now, each package will use 80% less plastic than standard deli packs as well as be curbside recyclable,” says Depke. “This is a huge win for our retail partners and the Earth.”
Labor continues to be a pain point for many retailers, so pre-sliced items and grab-and-go are mitigating the losses from the service case, so a lot of retailers are bringing attention to these items.
Convenience was and will always be a driver for grocery retail. Having grab-and-go sandwiches for example, is a fabulous solution for lunch or even a quick on-the-go dinner on the way to and from spring and summer activities. The key is to consistently offer a variety of fresh sandwiches. Offer sandwich box options that include a variety of sides like chips, drinks and fresh fruit.
Olli Salumeria responded to the shift in consumer demand for grab-and-go charcuterie with its line of Olli Snack Packs, which pair its slow-cured Italian-style salami with high-quality cheeses and artisanal crackers in a convenient 2-ounce package.
“As demand continues to grow for the distinct flavor of salami in North America, consumers are continually looking for new ways to enjoy these foods,” says Colmignoli. “At Olli Salumeria, we stay ahead of this trend by providing compelling new serving suggestions, flavor pairings, recipes and usage ideas on our website and social media pages that encourage customers to enjoy more of the salami they already love.”
Atkins adds that with grab-and-go, consumers don’t have to wait at a service counter anymore to get deli brands and quality in a random weight package.
“It’s an absolute revelation, and consumers will become more frequent purchasers with grab-and-go,” she says. “Grab-and-go meats and cheeses from the deli are among the fastest growing categories in the store, both in dollars and volume.”
Cross merchandising is paramount to a successful deli program, especially in 2023.
“Creating convenience adds value for shoppers, and that value can drive up basket rings through incremental purchases,” says Depke. “Placing Volpi sliced pepperoni next to pizza dough and shredded mozzarella is an easy, convenient meal solution that will yield increased revenue to the deli.”
Alfano notes that cross merchandising is key to take advantage of impulse sales.
“We always have items near our sandwich stations that pair well, such as chips, snacks, hummus and dips, fresh soup and salad bar, cut fruit and also cold drinks,” he says. “We cater to both customers that prefer full service at the deli counter as well as the customer that prefers to not wait in line and grab something quick to go. We are successful both ways, and we feel it is because of the high quality and freshness of everything we make.”
Additionally at Doris Italian Market & Bakery in North Palm Beach, FL, meats are marketed in numerous ways, including a robust email list that it sends to customers informing them about deals and packages for the week and month; promoting on its website and social media channels; posting in-store signage as well as an extremely large section of displays in-store; and taking advantage of custom catering orders for all sorts of occasions to showcase the deli and prepared food offerings.
Beyond secondary displays, Colmignoli notes retailers can also take advantage of the year-round appeal of salami by promotions, limited time offers and displays that position salami and charcuterie as the perfect snack for group gatherings timed to key events and seasons throughout the year, such as tailgate parties, summer barbecues or holiday gatherings.
“Customers are actively looking for interesting new ways to enjoy specialty deli meats, so unique pairing suggestions, cross merchandising and themed displays can help motivate trial and keep customers coming back for more of what they already love,” he says.