Holiday Preparations

Keith Loria

Tips to thrive this holiday season.

As the calendar flips to the final month of the year, people start thinking about the holidays, with Christmas and New Year’s Eve some of the biggest occasions for family and friends to get together.

This is especially true after the pandemic years when people were unable to enjoy the holidays together. And since the quarantines have been lifted, people are looking for any excuse to get out and see their loved ones.

“The holidays are all about friends, family and co-workers gathering for celebrations, and great shared food is always the focal point,” says Oliviero Colmignoli, president and founder of Oceanside, CA-based Olli Salumeria. “As charcuterie continues to grow more popular each year, cured Italian deli meats like salami and prosciutto have become a mainstream part of many holiday gatherings in the U.S.”

For example, he notes, salami is a versatile ingredient in many popular Italian holiday dishes, and it’s often paired with cheeses and other accompaniments in grazing boards and charcuterie served at parties.

Heather Prach, vice president of education for the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA), notes there have been some big changes in the way holiday meals are prepared, as no longer does one person do all the heavy lifting.

“Someone may bring a side dish, one a dip for example,” she says. “There are now gatherings like Friendsgiving. With social media, technology and practice during the pandemic consumers can be do-it-yourselfers.”

Savvy supermarket delis know how to capitalize on the holidays.


“Shoppers are always looking for inspiration, but this is particularly true around holidays,” says Neil Pittman, sales director, U.S. for St. Pierre Bakery. “We have 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.”

Reports from IDDBA demonstrate that sales see an uplift across sectors around public holidays. Occasion-led buying is big business for deli and bakery departments, and Thanksgiving and Christmas are key occasions that savvy retailers will be looking to maximize.

In Demand

It’s vital to have products for local traditions and holidays available.

Whitney Atkins, vice president of marketing for the IDDBA, notes holidays are a busy time and more and more purchases during the holiday season are being made later and later. Therefore, her biggest tip for stores is to be ready and have the popular items in stock.

“Make sure your teams are prepared for the busy times,” she says. “Make sure you have plans for party trays, dinners and that everybody knows the plan.”

For online orders/pickup and delivery, she says to have holiday offerings like party trays, dinners, or sides marketed early.

Bob Sewall, chief customer officer and executive vice president of Blount Fine Foods, based in Fall River, MA, notes the company continues to innovate around holiday time, and offers in-demand items through its Blount Family Kitchen line of turkey gravy, cranberries and side dishes like rice cauliflower, which is keto-friendly, so it takes the place of mashed potatoes.

“Then, of course, we do a lot of hot-to-go soups around the holidays,” he says. “We have spiced pumpkin and Thanksgiving soups that do really well for Soup of the Month sections in the deal. We also have seafood soups that do well around the holidays, especially lobster bisque, which is a big favorite for Christmas and New Year’s.”

Joseph Piraino, East Coast regional sales manager of DePalo Foods, Inc., headquartered in Belmont, NC, notes as it gets colder outside, everyone looks for a warm, cozy meal — especially with the holidays approaching.

“At the end of the day around my family table, we had conversations, calzones, and stromboli was always involved one way or another,” he says. “It’s a great appetizer and a great meal in of itself. It’s nice and warm during those winter months.”

DePalo’s pepperoni calzone is its bestseller come holiday time. The company also has other flavors such as the Philly Steak, Buffalo Chicken, Four Cheese and newer options like Sausage, Pepper and Onions, and Meatball calzones.

“We’re always looking to innovate and bring in new flavors,” says Piraino.

Another big seller during the holiday season is the company’s take-and-bake stromboli, which always sees an uptick in November and December because it’s a food item that can be considered a party bread.

While salami and other charcuterie favorites have been a part of family gatherings during the holidays for a long time, the category has picked up a lot of momentum in recent years. The pandemic led to immense growth of charcuterie as consumers sought excitement from food at home and explored the premium flavors of salami and cheese through influence by social media content on Instagram, Pinterest and TikTok, sharing creative preparation and serving ideas.

“This influenced a larger trend toward a lighter, less entrée-focused approach to meals that is now making grazing boards and charcuterie the main meal offering at holiday parties,” says Olli Salumeria’s Colmignoli. “Instead of a big traditional turkey dinner or roast, many families and groups are instead gathering around a large spread of salami, crackers, cheeses, olives, dried fruits and more.”

Olli Salumeria continually offers new products, recipes and serving ideas that make it easier for consumers to make salami and charcuterie a central part of their holiday gatherings.

“On the product side, we are continually expanding our line of Olli Antipasto Trays, which help make it easier and more convenient for consumers to start their own charcuterie creations or even enjoy directly out of the resealable package,” says Colmignoli. “Each of the five flavor varieties of Olli Antipasto Trays include 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 onion
Another key consideration for retailers driving sales during the holidays is offering versatile products that cater to multiple demand moments and are suitable for sharing.


St. Pierre Bakery’s Pittman notes that brioche, overall, is a category on the rise, both in value and volume sales.

“That’s no mean feat in the current climate and bucks the trend of the wider bakery category and many others,” he says. “Offering quality brioche as an upgrade is the perfect way to increase basket spend because it also drives incremental sales in other areas of the store. Shoppers spending more on quality bread carriers are more likely to spend on better quality meats and cheeses, for example.”

Packaging Innovation

Packaging is a critical part of making deli foods part of holiday gatherings.

“We strive to take out the guesswork when it comes to great-tasting salami pairings with our antipasto trays and other products like Olli Snack Packs by selecting complementary flavors and ingredients and offer these in resealable, grab-and-go packages,” says Colmignoli. “We also communicate ways for further engagement with Olli directly on-pack, leading consumers to our website or social pages for serving suggestions and pairing charts that help educate the public on which salami varieties pair with specific cheeses and wines.”

DePalo recently updated its retail labels to show more of the product in the clamshell, which allows consumers to view the entire product in the package, which is becoming increasingly important.

There has also been a major shift in recent years toward clean-label products. Consumers are increasingly aware of the health impact of certain food ingredients and demand a higher level of transparency in packaged foods, seeking options that are minimally processed.

“While all Olli salami products are already produced with 100% vegetarian-fed, antibiotic-free and hormone-free pork, we answered the call for clean-label products made with simple, honest ingredients by developing the industry’s first preservative-free salami formula,” says Colmignoli.

Changes in packaging during the holidays are often driven by consumer needs and wants. For example, single-serve, smaller packaging continues to grow.

“Smaller packages can provide that indulgence or even be a bit more affordability,” says Prach. “Consumers want ingredient transparency. Holidays are special, and today, more than ever, consumers take into consideration allergies and food preferences of others. Clear packaging can help them find that special food without spending forever searching. The customer comes away feeling it was made just for them. It touches the happy holiday emotions.”

Merchandising and Marketing Ideas

Retailers can’t ignore inflation and its impacts, but consumers have always spent a little more during the holidays.

“Post-pandemic, consumers want to make holidays even more memorable,” says Atkins.

What happens when consumers feel the pinch is not that they spend less money necessarily, but that they become more discerning with where and how they spend that money. That means that brands and suppliers offering quality goods have an opportunity.

When merchandising items for the deli, Piraino notes the importance of sales and marking down prices, as you need to get people to try new items.

“It’s the best way to bring trial and incentivize people to try new flavors,” he says. “People buy with their eyes, so it’s important to promote things out of the deli, so consumers become one step closer to buying it.”

Merchandising solutions that highlight quality and authenticity will help retailers drive sales, especially in the current climate, says Pittman.

“Our Eiffel Tower racks, not only act as a trip trigger, driving footfall into the in-store bakery and offering a little extra ‘theatre,’ but they also communicate our unique proposition — authentic French products that can elevate everyday meals,” he says. “In communicating that, we are automatically addressing the ‘why pay more’ question. Shoppers will pay more for quality — especially during the holidays.”

Not surprisingly, party trays are one of the most popular items available at the deli for the holiday time, so it’s important that these are displayed prominently and have a holiday theme around them — maybe something as simple as a ribbon around them.

One great aspect of salami is that it’s one of the few deli meats that doesn’t need to be refrigerated in the grocery store. Retailers can take advantage of the versatility and long shelf life of salami by expanding displays beyond the refrigerated deli section.

“Secondary displays in other store sections that are classic salami pairings, such as crackers, cheese or wine is an effective way of reminding customers about the possibilities of salami — which is especially important during the holiday season when consumers are seeking new serving ideas in-store, as they shop for holiday party offerings,” says Colmignoli.

Olli offers a robust range of secondary display opportunities for its shelf-stable products, such as a floor display for Olli Antipasto Trays that holds 40 units, or a shelf display that holds eight units, both ready-to-use. These versatile display options encourage retail partners to cross-merchandise Olli Salami with a complementary section of the store to drive incremental purchases.

“We also share preparation techniques and serving suggestions on Olli’s social media channels and website, and several of our retail partners even offer tastings during the holiday season to encourage trial,” says Colmignoli.


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.