Deli Meats Update

Carol M. Bareuther

New usages create sales opportunities for Old-World classics.

Meat is the quintessential cornerstone of the deli. This is especially true in the U.S., where late 19th-century delis in New York City were known for cured meats and sausages. These foods fit the meaning of the word deli perfectly. It’s derived from the German word “delikatessen” meaning “delicacies.”

Gradually, delis started to sell other complementary foods like cheeses and breads. They also moved beyond simply selling deli meat by the pound to offering it made into pre-prepared sandwiches. Ruebens, starring corned beef; Italian subs stuffed with layers of paper-thin capicola, salami, pepperoni and ham; and hot pastrami on rye, are all classic favorites.

Today, consumers are still coming into the deli to buy meat. Sure, sandwiches and sandwich fixings are still a big draw to the deli, but not the only appeal. Deli operators who position wholesome and convenient deli meats for versatile uses like snacking, meal-making, and entertaining are certain to sell more.

“We pay close attention to changes in shopping behaviors across not just the deli meat category, but total store,” says Michael Burgess, marketing director for Salt Lake City, UT-headquartered Charcuterie Artisans, formed in 2020 from a merger between Daniele Foods and Creminelli Fine Meats.

“What we have observed over the last few years can be summarized by two themes: convenience and versatility. With the right assortment, deli meat can capitalize on these changing expectations. Consumers are asking for a spectrum of choices, spanning from traditional sandwich fixings to contemporary charcuterie selections and convenient snack options.”


There’s been a spike in demand for presliced deli meats as many shoppers don’t want to wait in the service counter line, according to Scott Bridi, founder of Brooklyn Cured, a Brooklyn, NY-based maker of premium deli meats and sausages made with pasture-raised, antibiotic-free meats.

Nowadays, “best-sellers offer convenient and presliced is driving the category. Some popular retailers like Trader Joe’s and Aldi don’t even have a counter service deli. That said, behind the glass, for those retailers who offer it, isn’t going anywhere.”

Service deli meat led sales at $4.88 billion for the 52 weeks ending Nov. 26, 2023, according to the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association’s (IDDBA) What’s in Store 2024, with dollars and units down 2.2% and 7.8% versus the year prior. Grab-and-go came in second at $2.7 billion, up 5.5% in dollars yet with units down 1.9%. Presliced ranked third at $846 million, up 0.3% and 3.1% in dollars and units, respectively.

For operators, presliced deli meats solve challenges such as the availability and cost of in-store labor.
“Operating a sliced-to-order deli requires a decent amount of labor, and long lines can deter a consumer from ordering items from behind the counter. Having a wide variety of sliced deli meat options allows that shopper to still spend their money in the deli, which is always an advantage,” says Claire Donohue, product marketing specialist for Volpi Foods, in St. Louis, MO, whose bestsellers included Sliced Genoa Salame and Sliced Traditional Prosciutto.

As for variety in deli meats, turkey ranks No. 1, according to the July 29, 2023, published report, 15 Most Popular Deli Meats in the U.S., by Insider Monkey, a New York, NY-based finance website tracking hedge funds and corporate insiders. Honey ham is second, followed by roast beef, corned beef and chicken.

“Turkey and ham trade positions for No. 1 and 2 depending on the area of the country. For us, that is our Oven Roasted Turkey, Honey Ham and Black Forest Ham. One-pound packs are popular for their quantity and double zip feature to retain freshness. However, as more consumers seek out value, we are bringing our 22-ounce mega packs, previously just in club channels, to regular retailers,” says Saverio Spontella, senior vice president of sales, marketing and innovation for Land O’Frost, in Munster, IN.


Salami comes in No. 6 on Insider Monkey’s list. In April, Land O’Frost announced the return of its presliced Hard Salami. The product began shipping in the spring to retailers like Food Lion, Spartan Nash, AWG, Meijer, several Kroger divisions, and others.

“Consumers desire to ‘plus up’ a sandwich is where Italian-based meats like our Land O’Frost Hard Salami come in,” says Spontella, citing the TikTok popularity of The Wreck sandwich from the Chicago, IL-headquartered 400-plus unit Potbelly Sandwich Shop, which is made of Black Angus roast beef, Old World salami, oven roasted turkey breast, hickory smoked ham and melted Swiss cheese.

Bolonga, pastrami, capicola, Soppressata, olive loaf, prosciutto, Braunschweiger, mortadella and pepperoni round out places 7 through 15, respectively, in Insider Monkey’s list.


Almost all (90%) of U.S. adults report eating one or more snacks a day, with the average between 1.2 and 3.0 snacking occasions daily, according to an April 2023 article in the journal, Nutrients, published by Louisiana State University Agricultural Center researchers.

“Powering this growth is an increasing appetite for high protein, low carb on-the-go options which don’t sacrifice flavor. To this end, Creminelli is introducing a new snacking item: Pepperoni, White Cheddar, & Crackers,” says Charcuterie Artisans’ Burgess.

Best-selling snacks under the Fratelli Beretta label include a 2-ounce line of Italian Style Snacks, with combinations like Original with Milano Salami, Sharp Provolone Cubes & Bread Sticks, and Everyday with Milano Salami, Cashews & Dried Cranberries.

“These are especially popular as back-to-school snacks,” says Kimberley Parrales, marketing manager for Fratelli Beretta USA Inc., in North Bergen, NJ. “We offer a shipper display that will hold five to six flavors. These are best placed in high-traffic floor areas in the deli or by the cash register for impulse sales while customers are waiting in line.”

At 3 ounces each, the company’s Aperitivo line offers a bigger snack or mini-meal. Variations include Milano Salami, Prosciutto Crudo Cubes, Black Olives, and Sharp Provolone Cubes, as well as Milano Salami, Sharp Provolone Cubes, Toasted Corn Nuts, and Sunflower Seeds.

Volpi’s most popular snack items are its Roltini Singles, 1.5-ounce single-serve portions of meat-wrapped cheese sticks in combinations like Mozzarella and Pepperoni, Mozzarella and Prosciutto, and Mozzarella and Spicy Salame.

“These products fit with consumer demand because they are great for those with on-the-go lifestyles looking for better-for-you snack solutions. These items are all keto-friendly,” says Volpi’s Donohue.


Since its peak in 2020 and 2021, 64% of Americans continue to cook at home to save money, according to the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association’s December 2023 released Eating at Home industry report. What’s more, 81% of consumers now cook more than half of their meals at home.

“Shoppers are looking for quick meal solutions. Having pre-sliced and pre-portioned options like our Chopped Pancetta or Sliced Pepperoni readily available in the deli makes meal prep easy,” says Donohue. “Our Chopped Pancetta is seeing more growth as the 4-ounce package size equals one portion for many recipes.”

She says consumers are looking for meal inspiration, so it’s important to place complementary items near each other. “We have seen great success when merchandising Sliced Pepperoni near fresh pizza dough, shredded mozzarella cheese and sauce. This is an easy way to increase sales without having to dedicate too much space, which can sometimes be an issue for retailers.”

Pocino Foods, a City of Industry, CA-headquartered manufacturer of handcrafted specialty pre-cooked meats inspired by cuisines worldwide, is receiving more requests from meal kit companies and retailers that sell meal kits for ready-to-use meat components, says Todd Hunt, research and development manager. “They are looking for sliced, diced individual portions as small as 2 ounces or two pieces in the case of pork belly, which is popular in ramen dishes.”

Legacy items like pepperoni are getting more play in both deli- and home-prepared dishes, adds Hunt. “For example, the vast majority of pepperoni is used on pizza. Now, some add it to macaroni and cheese, or crisp it for a crunchy addition on charcuterie platters.”


Interest in charcuterie won’t let up anytime soon, says Land O’Frost’s Spontella. “Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day as well as summer picnics and entertaining, charcuterie fixings like deli meats are popular year around now.”

A major driver of interest on what goes on that charcuterie plate is authenticity, says Claas Abraham, chief executive officer and president of Abraham of North America, a Towaco, NJ-headquartered importer and exclusive North American representative for chilled deli meats. “There has been such an increase in flights from the U.S. to Europe over the past two years that consumers have had a taste of authentic black forest ham from Germany and authentic mortadella from Italy. It’s all about the way something has been made through the ages.”

“Charcuterie pairings are a good strategy for cross-merchandising. Indeed, deli meats with cheese, bread, or wine create ideas and solutions at the point of purchase. To capitalize on these trends, deli operators can use signage and dividers to provide more information to customers and guide their purchase decisions,” says Emanuela Bigi, senior marketing manager for Veroni and Veroni USA, based in Correggio, Italy with a slicing facility in Swedesboro, NJ.

In 2020, the company launched its AperiTime line consisting of four ready-to-share charcuterie boards made up of a combination of Veroni-brand deli meats, plus cheese, olives, dried fruit and breadsticks. These come in a practical ready-to-share tray that contains 6 ounces of product, ideal for two to three people.

Looking ahead, “The deli meat category will continue to grow, as new flavors and formats hit the shelves every year. Constant innovation drives trial among shoppers and allows them to get creative in the kitchen. I believe that the category will continue to see growth, especially as new generations come into their buying power,” says Volpi’s Donohue.


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