Back to School Shopping as Easy as 1-2-3

Keith Loria

The deli is a one-stop destination for new finds and fresh lunch items.

The back-to-school season can be a stressful time. Parents have to buy their children new clothes, shoes, backpacks, school supplies, but they also need to think about what they are giving them for lunch every day.

Carl H. Cappelli, senior vice president of sales and business development for Don’s Prepared Foods, headquartered in Schwenksville, PA, shares that spending in the deli always sees big increases come mid-August.

“Vacations are over, and people need these items to eat at home and at school, and consumers are willing to spend,” he says. “Delis that offer a convenient way for parents to find lunch items will separate themselves from the pack and see an uptick in sales that will last throughout the year.” 

That is why back-to-school season is a core time for supermarket delis as many families look forward to discovering new favorites for the lunch box and for after-school snacking.

Lauren Fuller, director of integrated marketing communications at White Plains, NY-based Sabra, notes what is great about the deli, is that it is where families go for new finds and better-for-you foods that are convenient, delicious and satisfying.  


Oliviero Colmignoli, president and founder at Olli Salumeria, Oceanside, CA, notes across all categories, the biggest value food brands can bring to time-starved parents during the busy back-to-school period is convenience.

“Offering-up products that make it easier to provide students and other family members with high-quality snack and meal options is a recipe for success — in the deli section and beyond,” says Colmignoli. “During school months, there is increased demand for premium snack options and quality deli meats that can easily become complete meals.”

One of the long-term results of the pandemic is a shift away from the sandwich as the traditional centerpiece of packed lunches. Many K-12 students developed a taste for salami and other deli meats as they grew accustomed to mealtime habits influenced by their parents, including grazing-based lunches and snacking.

“As kids became more familiar with the distinct flavor of salami and other Italian deli meats, opportunities grew to develop new products that demonstrate the possibilities of these foods, such as pre-packaged snack packs,” says Colmignoli. “In addition to offering the ultimate in convenience, parents enjoy having a portion-controlled product that gives kids plenty of protein, carbs and fats to get through the day.”

The back-to-school period is important for more than just students, too. Busy parents are equally eager for convenient high-protein snacks and mealtime options once routines are back-to-normal after the slower summer months.


Many companies highlight food that is perfect for this time of year — for both students and teachers heading back to the schools.

“All Sabra products are great for the busy back-to-school months, but it is no surprise that Sabra’s Singles and Snackers do really well this time of year,” says Fuller. “Sabra Singles 2-ounce, 4-packs come in Classic and Roasted Red Pepper which pair perfectly with baby carrots, celery sticks, pita chips or even pickles. Sabra Snackers, which feature hummus and pretzels, are available in Classic, Roasted Red Pepper and deliciously provide 10 grams of protein per serving.”

Additionally, the company offers Guacamole Singles in both Classic and Spicy.

Don’s Prepared Foods is offering five new gourmet cheese spreads this season, which Cappelli notes is great on sandwiches, burgers, wraps, grilled chicken, pizza and for dipping.

“It’s important to remember that back-to-school entails both lunch and dinner, as people are busier than ever, so the deli provides meals for both,” he says. “Today’s customers are looking for healthy foods and globally inspired flavors. Don’s meets all of those needs.”

Several Olli product lines are a perfect fit for the convenience that busy back-to-school lifestyles demand.

“Our recently expanded Olli Snack Packs line is the ultimate in grab-and-go charcuterie snacks, for both students and parents alike,” says Colmignoli. “These convenient 2-ounce packages combine our famous slow-cured Italian-style salami with high-quality cheeses and artisanal crackers. Available in five distinct flavor varieties, Olli Snack Packs are perfect for including in a packed lunch or taken on-the-go as an afternoon snack before after-school activity.”

While they are not marketed as a grab-and-go snack or lunch option, the company’s Olli Antipasto Trays are also a great option for back-to-school that make it convenient for parents to assemble quick charcuterie-based meals and snacks. Each 12-ounce tray features a robust assortment of ready-to-serve charcuterie, including various salami types, along with specialty pairings of artisanal cheeses and other accompaniments like olives, or cornichons and onions.

“More recently, we unveiled Olli Salamini — our line of bite-sized salami sticks, which offer 2.6 ounces of bite-sized salami sticks in a resealable bag and are available in bold, gourmet flavors like Smoked, Pequin, Bourbon and Classic,” says Colmignoli. “Olli Salamini is a true on-the-go convenient snack, which doesn’t require refrigeration and can be easily tucked in a school bag and enjoyed anytime.”

For the 2023 back-to-school season, Olli Salumeria is launching the industry’s first preservative-free salami.

“At Olli, we believe that quality ingredients and careful attention to the curing process are essential and that customers can taste the difference,” says Colmignoli. “The quality of our products is fundamental to our company’s growth, which is why we remain committed to innovation and technology that allows us to produce a clean-label product without compromising flavor.”


People’s tastes change, especially children, so it’s important that companies stay up on the latest fads to know what kids are interested in taste-wise.

“We stay close to our retailer partners who know their shoppers well,” says Fuller. “We also leverage data insights, keep close watch on trends online and always take care to listen to feedback from those who take the time to reach out. We have updated packaging based on consumer feedback and absolutely keep in mind requested flavors when we head into R&D.”

One of the biggest trends in back-to-school foods is the same trend that is sweeping the supermarket in all categories: increased interest in healthier foods that offer clean-label transparency and high-quality ingredients.

“We recognize the importance of delivering on consumer demand for products made with simple, honest ingredients,” says Colmignoli. “While Olli was already making authentic Italian-style salami from 100% vegetarian-fed pork raised without hormones and antibiotics, we raised the bar yet again by introducing the industry’s first-ever salami formulation that is entirely free of added preservatives such as nitrates and nitrites.”

This groundbreaking curing process debuts with the Olli Salamini snacks, followed by Olli Pre-Sliced salami but it will also introduce this preservative-free process to its Olli Salami Chubs line later this year. As we continue to apply this innovative technology to our production, we plan to expand preservative-free throughout the entire range of Olli products.”


The sales and merchandise team at Olli is dedicated to helping retail partners uncover the unique benefits of authentic Italian-style salami. To back that up, the company offers retailers a full slate of promotional incentives, including temporary price reductions, custom POS materials and social- and web-based programs designed to introduce shoppers to the brand.

“Olli is continuing its marketing support for back-to-school through integrated brand and product campaign encompassing digital advertising, promotions, shopper marketing, social and PR,” says Colmignoli. “The program’s first phase will focus on our new preservative-free Olli Salamini line, ideal for busy households transitioning back to the fall routine and looking for clean-label ingredients.”

Customers are actively looking for interesting new ways to enjoy specialty deli meats, so unique pairing suggestions, cross-merchandising and back-to-school themed displays can help motivate trial and keep customers coming back for more of what they already love.

Savvy deli managers can set up secondary displays of fruits and vegetables right in the deli section, to provide parents with convenient meal-planning inspiration and create an enticing visual display that encourages a balanced diet.

Olli offers a robust range of secondary display opportunities for its products. For Olli Antipasto Trays, it offers a floor display that holds 40 units or a shelf display that holds eight units, both ready to use. It also offers clip strips that can hold Olli Chubs, Pre-Sliced Salami or Salamini products.

“This allows our retail partners to cross-merchandise Olli Salami with a complementary section of the store to drive incremental purchases,” says Colmignoli.

When it comes to showcasing the back-to-school items, Cappelli notes it’s important to be visual, and that includes samples, plating, and eye-catching signage that attracts both parents and children.

“Creativity resides in each retail chain,” he says. “Tie it in with an ad, digital photography and merchandise things together.”

Companies also need to be honest about products and not let a design steer people the wrong way.  After all, parents are savvy — they research online, know how to read labels, and differentiate marketing labels from the nutrition panel. Many don’t trust what they perceive as marketing labels, so any displays that offer more transparency about ingredients and nutrition are a plus.

Deli managers need to keep in mind that all parents strive to provide their children with healthy, fresh foods. The deli is a one-stop destination for new finds and fresh lunch items, providing a quick shopping experience and a plethora of healthy options for back-to-school lunches and snacks.


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