Holiday Meats Offer New Flavor and Variety

Slow-roasted meats bring traditional flavor, while charcuterie and salamis offer enticing alternatives.

Sarah Klose

As tastes change and palates expand, customers continue to purchase and enjoy deli meats at the holidays. Sales of deli entrées and prepared meats increased by 2% in 2020, according to New York’s Statista, and supermarkets have a wide array of holiday deli meats to display to attract shoppers.

From Traditional Meats to Salami

Classic deli meats are versatile, and can be carved up for appealing after-holiday sandwiches, sliced up for breakfast steaks or whipped up into frittatas. Customers appear willing to pay a bit more for “super deli meats,” which offer superior flavors and quality.

“We have natural-juices-only hams—you really get the slow-roasted, at-home texture,” says Evan Inada, charcuterie/partnerships director at Columbus Craft Meats, Hayward, CA. “We have 100% turkey. Our holiday carved turkey breast still has the skin on it and has buttery texture and flavor.

“We have roasted pork loin—there are two different cuts of pork, seasoned with rosemary and thyme. It gives you so many choices for making a sandwich. You could make a Cubano Cuban sandwich, for example, or a roasted pork with thick bread and Brie.”

Columbus Craft Meats, founded by Italian immigrants over 100 years ago, specializes in whole cuts of deli meat. It manufactures a full line of Italian products, including salami, prosciutto and pancetta. Its meats include everything from bulk 8-pound Finocchiona (rich in fennel) to Cacciatore Salami (dried pork with spices, chopped coarse) to Charcuterie Tasting Boards (with salami, cheese, crackers, olives and cranberries).

“We have a very large holiday portfolio. We have a whole bunch of grab-and-go salami items that are ambient and smaller sized, perfect for entertaining and charcuterie,” says Inada.

When it comes to holiday meats, suppliers may offer roast beef and pot roast, or they may offer salami and charcuterie, as well.

“During the holidays, we really push Wild Boar, Tartufo and Italian Dry salamis,” says Gil Perales, marketing director of Olli Salumeria, Oceanside, CA. “Wild Boar, which is a sought-after delicacy, has a nice, flavorful taste to it. It is one of our unique flavors. Italian Dry is our traditional with black pepper, nutmeg and fresh-peeled garlic. It’s fairly new; it came out last year. Those three flavors all tend to be holiday favorites.”

Olli Salumeria makes artisanal fine meats, based on family recipes that date back more than four generations. Its salamis develop complex flavors through slow cure production. Products include antipasto, bulk salami including Napoli (salami smoked over applewood), and snack packs with sliced salami such as Genoa (a simply seasoned ground pork) and Calabrese (ground pork with cayenne pepper and paprika).

Evolution of Holiday Meats:
From Soppressata to Cocktail Salami

Soppressata (a spicy salami made from ground pork) is another holiday meat option. The cured meat, along with marinated olives, roasted red peppers and mozzarella, comprised the antipasto holiday platters Scott Bridi feasted on when he was a child in an Italian-American family in New York City.

“For me, that’s what would go on an antipasto platter,” says Bridi, president and founder of Brooklyn Cured, Brooklyn, NY. “Brooklyn Cured honors that tradition by making Sweet and Hot Soppressata, which are two of our best sellers. Our goal is to honor that tradition, but also to push charcuterie forward with different flavor profiles.”

Brooklyn Cured was founded in 2010 by Bridi, who’d been a chef, butcher and charcuterie maker. The company specializes in small-batch charcuterie made from local, sustainable meats. Brooklyn Cured makes salami, sausages and meats including Smoked Coppa (Italian-style dry-cured pork) with Tasso Spice, pre-sliced charcuterie including Chorizo (Spanish-style salame), Lamb Prosciutto and Maple Bourbon Ham.

Bridi is proud of the company’s Cocktail-Inspired Salami, which have festive flavors including Pork Salami with Bourbon and Sour Cherries, and Pork Salami with Rye Whiskey and Orange Zest. Salami and charcuterie are part of the mix for holiday meats, as consumers seek out choice and quality.

“We are seeing a premiumization of everyday items, and shoppers trade-up in the deli and add those packages of pre-sliced artisan salami to their carts,” says Deanne Depke, marketing manager, Volpi Foods, St. Louis. “At Volpi, we have introduced perfectly paired and sliced charcuterie Trios that are a simple solution for shoppers to build their own charcuterie boards at home, available in both a Mild and Spicy pack.”

Volpi Foods, a fourth-generation family-run business, follows the original recipes developed in 1902, when it opened as a dry-cured meats store on the Hill in St. Louis. Volpi Foods raises its hogs responsibly, and employs a slow aged, small batch process. Its Salame chubs include Traditional Peppered and Pinot Grigio. Other products range from 1.5-ounce Roltini Singles (snacking sticks of pepperoni rolled around mozzarella), to 6-ounce sliced Genoa Salame snack packs, to bulk Pistachio Mortadella.

Global Cuisine Blossoms

An interest in new tastes and a desire for easy serving options are some of the factors driving purchases of global cuisine for the holidays.

“You have the growth of the Millennial market, in conjunction with the popularity of the Keto diet,” says Connie Shih, manager of research and development at Pocino Foods Co., City of Industry, CA. “It’s spilled over to the holidays; everyone is happy to try something different—Asian fusion in addition to traditional Italian.

“We have Chorizo meatballs, a popular Hispanic flavor, and Teriyaki meatballs, an Asian flavor. We plan to launch Bulgogi, a Korean BBQ beef. We have Japanese pork and beef meatballs; you can put them on a tray and serve them as a buffet item. You can use them in salads and chowders, as well.”

Pocino Foods has manufactured precooked and specialty meats since 1933, and supplies to restaurants and retail stores. It focuses on authentic flavors, and produces Beef Bacon, Italian-style meatballs, salami including Capocollo (Italian ham with spices) deli meats such as pastrami and natural roast beef, and delicacies including Japanese-style and Mexican-style meats.

Creating a Meat Destination

As far as creating a holiday meat destination, supermarket delis may want to spotlight the authentic flavors, artisanal techniques or heritage listed on the meat product labels.

“We produce our cured meat in the Emilia-Romagna region, widely known as the Italian food valley,” says Emanuela Bigi, marketing manager of Veroni, Reggio Emilia, Italy. “This area has a century-old food production tradition, and it is home to specialties such as Parma ham and Parmesan cheese. We import our products into the U.S., where they are sliced and packed to fully preserve the quality and flavor; they taste like they were just trimmed.”

Veroni was founded in Correggio (the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy) in 1925, by five brothers. In 2016, the fourth generation owners began importing made-in-Italy salami into the U.S.; it is sliced in New Jersey. The company produces 6-ounce salame flavors including Salame Toscano, a deli line including Salame DiParma, and a wide range of antipasto and pre-sliced charcuterie including Coppa Italiana.

To promote holiday meats, supermarket point-of-sale displays increase the market basket by including photos and recipes so customers can make sandwiches and quiches at home. Meat producers can also work with cheese partners.

“Blue cheese can be paired with our roast beef in the deli. Add roast red peppers and arugula, and you’re good to go,” says Inada of Columbus Craft Meats.

Brooklyn Cured has a chart of recommendations, such as Bresaola (boldly seasoned prosciutto) paired with an arugula salad, and Spicy Beef Salami utilized as a pepperoni upgrade for a pizza topping.

Several meat suppliers say TikTok, Facebook and Instagram are hugely important.

“Some customers create wonderful cone charcuterie shaped like an ice cream cone but filled with pears, olives and cheeses. There are people who are so creative, it’s amazing,” says Perales of Olli Salumeria. He’ll reach out to customers with exciting ideas who post photos on Instagram and tag his company, and they may collaborate.

Timeline for Promoting

Holiday meats are best promoted from September through January, according to suppliers. But the planning aspects start much earlier.

“Usually you need about four to six months in preparation to plan ahead how to market the item and determine who your target customers are. And then you need to start marketing by at least the second week in October,” says Shih of Pocino Foods.

Many meat producers believe customers now seek specialty meats for any get together post-pandemic, even birthdays and the 4th of July. “We suspect 2021 will have an elongated holiday season, as consumers make up for lost time with loved ones,” says Depke of Volpi Foods.

“For the next couple of years, I think we will see more mini holidays and get togethers with family, especially with older family members we haven’t seen in a long time,” says Inada of Columbus Craft Meats.

Shelf Life, Shrink & Packaging

Salami and charcuterie may be in transparent, resealable packages or in packaging that preserves the product and highlights quality.

“Our Salami Chubs are optimally packaged because they are vacuum sealed, which preserves their great texture. They are also hand-wrapped in butcher paper, which reflects the care and craft that goes into making Brooklyn Cured products,” says Bridi of Brooklyn Cured.

Packaging of grab-and-go items is important, too. Customers bought $94.2 million of deli grab-and-go lunchmeat for the period ending November 2020, according to What’s in Store 2021, the annual trends report by the Madison, WI-based International Deli Dairy Bakery Association (IDDBA), and IRI, headquartered in Chicago.

Veroni makes trays with modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) that preserve the charcuterie for weeks. Volpi Foods’ Eco-Pack for pre-sliced charcuterie uses recyclable plastic and paper, a packaging innovation that’s better for the planet and does not impact shelf life.

When it comes to complementary items in grab-and-go trays, “we definitely work hard on the way our packaging separates the flavors, so there is no integration between cheese and our products,” says Perales of Olli Salumeria. “Shelf life is six months for antipasto or anything with cheese.”

New Products

As far as new product development, pasture-raised meats with no antibiotics or nitrates are attractive to customers. So are salami and charcuterie flavors that contain unusual spices, which are made with special processes or dressed up in party trays.

“We introduced a Jamon Serrano, which is like prosciutto’s Spanish cousin. While the ingredients are the same, the process is unique and results in a deep, bold, earthy flavor,” says Depke of Volpi Foods.

“Our Charcuterie Party Trays will further expand our offering of pre-selected cheese and charcuterie trays following last year’s successful launch of the Enjoy AperiTime line, suited for small at-home Italian-style gatherings,” says Bigi of Veroni.

In addition to salami and charcuterie, deli meat suppliers are developing other products to meet sophisticated tastes. Shih of Pocino Foods says its new multicultural products include Chashu pork belly and “curry meatballs, another Japanese flavor.” The company plans to release additional Asian high-protein products into the holiday season.Brooklyn Cured launched Gilbert & Bernard pâté, with flavors including Pâté de Campagne with Port Wine and Citrus and Wild Mushroom Pâté, inspired by the founder’s travels with his family. “We’ve celebrated many special occasions with pâté and charcuterie, so we are excited to share these products with the world, just in time for the holidays,” says Bridi. DB


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