Holiday Dinners

Why the deli is a great destination when preparing for festivities.

Keith Loria

While one may not immediately think of the supermarket deli as the place to stock up on food for holiday gatherings, the deli actually presents some great opportunities for holiday meals. 

The deli is one of the most important pieces to any successful grocery retailer and should be treated as such during the busy holiday season. Retailers and deli operators should be fully prepared to offer a wide variety of products, both consistent staples and new innovative products, for consumers during their primary buying season. 

After all, consumers are always looking for a way to tie in inspiration with convenience. They want to host memorable events and gatherings by avoiding the risk of overcooking the turkey or main dish, and retailers have a great solve for this by offering catering solutions and meal kits that make it easier for consumers to prepare a meal the entire family will enjoy.

Tis the Season

The deli offers a treasure hunt dynamic that you cannot find in any other part of the store—containing numerous brands and product offerings that allows the shopper to solve food needs for their family and friends for any busy holiday.

Claire Donohue, product marketing specialist for St. Louis-based Volpi Foods, which offers artisan-cured meats, feels the deli is a great place for holiday dinner opportunities because it offers everything from pre-made to pre-packed items. 

“Items can be pre-ordered at most delis, such as cheese and meat trays made for entertaining,” she says. “The deli is a great destination for all entertaining needs because of the range of charcuterie meats, spreads, dips and crackers—perfect for the entertainer who likes to get creative.”

Carl H. Cappelli, senior vice president of sales and business development for Don’s Prepared Foods, headquartered in Schwenksville, PA., notes during the holidays, consumers want nothing but the best, as they are hosting big dinners for families and friends and want things to be perfect.

“During these times, consumers seek meal solutions and sides that are indulgent,” he says. “Both healthy and indulgent trays for holiday dinners do well.”

David Wagstaff, vice president, North America, for St Pierre Bakery, based in Canada, notes the company has long held that the in-store bakery and deli are about providing the experience and inspiration for shoppers that cannot be delivered in the same way by the commercial aisles.

“Shoppers are always looking for inspiration, but this is particularly true around holidays,” he says. “Reports from IDDBA (International Dairy Deli Bakery Association in Madison, WI) demonstrate that sales see an uplift across sectors around public holidays. Occasion-led buying is big business for the deli. Thanksgiving and Christmas are key occasions and, therefore, sales opportunities that savvy retailers will be looking to maximize.” 

Richard Williamson, manager of corporate communications for Hormel, based in Austin, MN, notes the deli is also a cornerstone for entertaining across the store, offering great solutions that work for any occasion, which is perfect for the holidays.

“Consumers want to create memories during the holidays,” he says. “Because of this, it’s important that we have the right offerings like Columbus Craft Meats and Hormel Gatherings party trays available for them to enjoy. We want to be part of the solution in creating fun family experiences so they have more time to spend with those they care about.”

Stephen Docherty, marketing analyst for Fiorucci Foods Inc., headquartered in Chesterfield, VA, believes the deli area is a great place for consumers during the holiday season because it offers a wide variety of products that can be staples on main plates, ingredients for sophisticated recipes or side dishes, and it provides quick, convenient solutions for last-minute menu additions. 

“As a deli meat manufacturer, we are always striving to provide the highest level of quality and service for our operators so they, in turn, can delight their consumers,” he says. “Providing products that meet all of those key needs is a must for the busiest time of the year.’

Because platters are such a holiday staple, Kimberley Parrales, marketing fairy at Fratelli Beretta U.S.A., based in North Bergen, NJ, says delis are the perfect place to pick up meals and appetizers for holiday meals. 

“During the holidays, we sell platters that are already pre-made, and those are very popular,” she says. “This is the time everyone gets together, and everyone wants to see their loved ones. Food is such a love language, and it’s important for us to get that message through the food.”

Must-have Products

There are endless possibilities of what the deli can carry and do well with come holiday time, and it’s important that deli managers pay attention to what their customers are demanding. 

For example, Fiorucci’s prosciutto, in both whole piece and pre-sliced formats, are very popular staples for the holiday season. 

“A delicate and elegant product that can be enjoyed on its own, used as a center piece for charcuterie boards or incorporated into sophisticated recipes is a product that is a must for delis during the holiday season,” says Docherty. “Our line of Panino products, which consists of a beautiful slice of Italian dry-cured meats like prosciutto, salami and pepperoni wrapped around a creamy mozzarella stick, are perfect for quick snacking bites with busy kitchens.”

Something new from the company this year is charcuterie and sandwich variety packs consisting of three different dry-cured, pre-sliced Italian deli meats to quickly assemble charcuterie boards or sandwiches to feed a crowd.

Kali Kinziger, product manager for Madison, WI-based Placon, notes we are coming up on a lot of big, family-friendly seasons, with tailgate season and holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas not too far away.

“We see a huge uptick in our catering trays right now because people want quick foods to simplify their lives,” she says. “We have these new tamper-evident salad bowls, with a lot of different depths. You can fit lots of pasta salads in it, sandwich wraps, baked goods, trail mix—the deli can put whatever they want and ensure that products are secure.”

Consumers are looking for ways to find convenience and value-oriented solutions that don’t sacrifice quality. 

“As part of our Hormel Foods foodservice at retail business, we have numerous product lines that we offer to retailers to take the prep work out of making meaningful creations for consumers that they will love,” says Williamson. “Some examples are our Fontanini meatballs, Austin Blues rib tips and our Hormel Firebraised flank steak.”

Volpi sees an increase in sales during the holidays, as shoppers are looking for premium options to impress their friends and family. 

“We see an increase in sales of sliced items such as Volpi Traditional Prosciutto, Volpi Mild Trio and Volpi Bresaola,” says Donohue. “We also have new items this year such as the Volpi Beer Salame Flight, which features lager, stout and IPA flavored salame. Our staple products are Volpi Sliced Traditional Prosciutto, Volpi Sliced Genoa Salame and Volpi Chopped Pancetta.” 

“From the end of October, St Pierre’s seasonal Brioche Star will be available in Kroger, Harris Teeter and Meijer,” says Wagstaff. “It’s the first time we have offered the product in printed film, so it is in-keeping with the rest of our product range in delivering our authentic, premium messaging.”

Come holiday time, Don’s Prepared Foods offers more than 20 grain salads and side dishes that marry well with holiday dinners. The company also just launched five new gourmet cheese spreads for football season and holiday gatherings. 

Savvy Marketing

Delis should be marketing holiday dinner items towards the occasions they are best suited for. 

The best way to market holiday dinner items is to run promotions in-store and online to reach a broad audience of shoppers, says Donohue.

“Also running shoppable ads with retailers and e-commerce partners can leverage your brand and appeal to new shoppers along with those loyal to the brand,” she says. “Volpi can help market these items in the deli by working with retailers to create collateral that is appealing, putting recipe cards in the deli to help take the guess work out of meal-planning and creating artwork that is within our brand guidelines.”

Delis can do a lot to distinguish their departments during holiday time. This could include cooking meals, building party platters or slicing CPG items behind the counter to make preparation more efficient for shoppers. Delis can also run sampling events to boost overall sales and increase shopper interactions.

Elegant displays can be built with all the necessary ingredients and accompaniments consumers will need for their meals. 

“Delis should consider merchandising their products with festive displays throughout their floor space, but also consider their online presence for products, as well,” says Docherty. “Consumers are continuing to shop for their grocery products online through retailer websites, so both the in-person and online spaces should be built out to maximize consumers’ opportunities to fill their carts.”

Williamson offers merchandising charcuterie items together, such as Columbus salame, specialty cheeses, crackers and jams, is a great way to educate and inspire consumers to create stunning charcuterie boards throughout the holiday season.

Holidays also offer a great opportunity for delis to add new products as limited time offers while consumers’ baskets are larger. Should a limited-time offer perform well at the holidays, there may be an opportunity to bring products on for the coming year.

“Callouts on packages can speak to product benefits and ingredient implementation into recipes, offering consumers a higher level of knowledge of the products in their basket,” says Docherty. “This in turn puts more control into the consumers’ hands around the dishes they serve during holiday meals.”

Merchandising is also key and should be focused on heavily at this time. 

Merchandising during the holidays is the most important part of distinguishing the deli and boosting sales during the holidays. 

“Great merchandising draws in the shopper, increases sales and adds more items to carts,” says Donohue. “This merchandising should include plenty of signage, products that complement one another and have high visibility within the deli. Recipe cards and QR codes can be added into the mix to keep shoppers in the deli, as well.”

Cross merchandising is also important, as many shoppers might skip the deli and head to other perimeters of the store. Finding placement in those areas can reach shoppers who otherwise would have missed your products. This merchandising should be translated to e-commerce as well so that online shoppers are intrigued 

Remember, holiday shoppers are important to target because they are buying products that they normally wouldn’t the rest of the year. They are looking for premium items and ingredients to impress friends and family, so leveraging your brand during the holidays can take holiday shoppers and make them loyal customers.


Sign up to get the latest news in retail deli, including prepared foods, foodservice and specialty cheese markets from Deli Business Magazine...

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.