Make Sandwiches a Destination

A versatile meal with widespread appeal

Bob Johnson

The deli has a unique opportunity to make itself a destination for sandwiches, a multi-billion-dollar category in foodservice that figures to keep growing.

Whether the fare is conveniently pack- aged for grab-and-go convenience or skillfully made to order as the customer watches, the deli can inspire culinary respect with ingredients that are a cut above the competition in flavor and nutrition.

And the sandwich is one traditional favorite that looks to fit just fine with the hectic pace of modern life.

“I still see the handheld food trend to be big and maybe still growing,” says Warren Stoll, marketing director at Kontos Foods, headquartered in Paterson, NJ. “People are on the move and something they can hold on to while they are on the move is pre- ferred. We at Kontos continue to put out products that facilitate this.”

Kontos Foods uses artisan hand-stretch- ing to make more than 50 flatbreads including Pocket-Less Pita, traditional pita of the Eastern Mediterranean, Asian naan, Pan Plano infused with the spicy flavors of Mexico, ‘better-for-you’ Greek Lifestyle, Rustics Collection Naan and Panini.

“We’ve introduced a mini oval flatbread that is 4-inches-by-6-inches and is used by outlets offering a half sandwich and a cup of soup,” says Stoll. “We also have a line of wraps. That is something people are eating more at diners and delis.” 

Show Them the Good Stuff 

Sandwiches are a $1.7 billion category in foodservice and growing, according to the Madison, WI-based International Dairy Deli Bakery Association’s (IDDBA) What’s In Store 2020, and one way to stand out from the crowd is to use the same quality ingredients in the sandwich program as are available in the cold case and nearby bakery, and let consumers know you are doing this. 

“Meats and cheeses that reflect the health orientation and ethnic variety are catching consumers’ attention and driving traffic,” says Karen Toufayan, vice presi- dent for marketing and sales at Toufayan, Ridgefield, NJ. “If the sandwich destination allows consumers to feel it’s an up-to-date location for healthy and adventurous eating experiences, it should be successful.” 

The Toufayan family has been bak- ing breads for more than 90 years and takes pride in developing, along with an ever-increasing line of breads, a tradition of contributing to the community. The bak- ery delivers artisan baked goods, including naan, pita bread, tandoori flatbread, tor- tillas, smart pockets and sprouted whole wheat bread. 

“The consumer is seeking both healthy options, like low carb, gluten free, oat driven and spouted grain varieties as well as breads that promise a new taste experi- ence, like tandoori or naan,” says Toufayan. “When retailers are selecting the breads for their sandwiches, it should not just be the basic ‘same old’ sandwich breads. While some of the staples will always be necessary, spice it up and recognize that the bread can and should be more than a mere carrier for the sandwich.” 

No one can compete with the deli when it comes to offering unique meats and cheeses that come with a story and a stamp of quality. 

“Our products are made of high-quality meat and are the perfect ingredient to add to any sandwich,” says Jaline Isidor Horta, marketing director at Cibao Meat Products, Rockaway, NJ. “We have Induveca Ham, which is gluten-free, 97 percent fat free and low in salt; and chicken and turkey breast, which are both glu- ten-free, have no MSG, zero allergens, are fully cooked and have zero grams of trans fat. We also came out with a Campesino Sharp Cheddar; it is aged for nine months to reach perfection and has a casing of a black wax, which adds a nice color to any plate of cheese.”

Cibao began with its flagship Salami Campesino in New York City 50 years ago and continues to grow its facilities and its lines of Hispanic meat products. 

“The products are as fresh as can be. Therefore, when receiving an order from our company, delis have a total of 120 days from manufacturing date until our product expires,” says Horta. “We manufacture on a daily basis to ensure that everyone receives the freshest batch possible.”

These ingredients can appear on a board with the finest cheese or as the main attraction in a deli sandwich. 

“Right now, the talk is all about char- cuterie boards, and we are currently developing new items so we can have a nice mixture of different Hispanic-style sausages for the plate as well as different cheese. We are hoping to soon add pas- trami to our very popular deli items,” says Cibao’s Horta. 

Only the deli can offer consumers con- noisseur versions of the sandwich meats they are using at home. 

“Our top-selling deli sandwich ingredi- ent is applewood smoked bacon, but it’s followed closely by applewood smoked ham and turkey breast,” says Megan Dorsch, marketing manager at Nueske’s Hillcrest Farms Meats, Wittenberg, WI. “Turkey breast and ham remain two top staples for sandwiches being made at home, and sandwiches being ordered out- side the home are most often in the form of subs.” 

Nueske’s produces a line of pork, poul- try and beef with a special emphasis on gourmet smoked products. 

“We are introducing a new applewood smoked pepper-coated boneless ham that we hand-rub with crushed black pepper- corns before we slow-smoke it,” says Dorsch. “We had a bone-in version avail- able in the past, but after interest from our deli customers, we made the move in early 2020 to bring a boneless version to super- market delis.” 

The deli can offer sandwiches made from ingredients that are different and sim- ply better to complement the artisan meat, cheese and the breads to the spreads. 

“To be a sandwich destination, retail- ers need to entice the consumer with something new and unique,” says Giuliana Pozzuto, director of marketing and product innovation at George DeLallo Co., head- quartered in Mt. Pleasant, PA. “Sandwich spreads are what it’s all about. Due to the recent demand for this sector within the deli, we’ve been promoting our innovative sandwich programs as a way for stores to elevate their basic sandwich options and create something special.”

DeLallo began as an Italian market in Jeannette, PA and has grown to be a major, but still family-owned, importer, producer, and distributor of specialty Italian and Mediterranean foods. 

“Top off a sandwich of arugula, prosciutto and Brie with our fig spread for some instant European flair,” says Pozzuto. “Our nut-free pesto is the perfect topping for a vegetarian option like a caprese sandwich with fresh Mozzarella. An instant hit, our wild hot pepper spread features the trending hot, vinegary flavor profile in a creamy dressing.”

A Healthy Trend 

In building a supermarket deli sandwich program, it is worth keeping an eye on the growing demand for ingredients that are better for you. 

“People want foods that are health- ier and have fewer calories,” says Stoll from Kontos Foods. “Our Greek lifestyle flatbreads have half the carbs and double the protein. We have a new thinner flat- bread that has 40 percent fewer calories. It’s starting to receive a positive recep- tion in major retail outlets. People are always looking for healthier, better for you alternatives.” 

The interest in healthy ingredients goes beyond the sandwich breads, meats and cheeses to also include the vegetables. 

“The biggest trend we’ve been seeing is actually in what’s being paired with our smoked meats,” says Dorsch. “It’s the simple addition of things like fresh avocado, quick-pickled vegetables and slaw. These ingredients compliment a rich, smoky sandwich and consumers are interested in ways to introduce additional vegetables to their diets. Combinations like these allow customers to feel better about what they are eating but still give them something that feels a lot like comfort food.” 

As we grow more diverse as a people, our sandwiches are also growing more diverse to include wraps and flatbreads. 

“The staples include wraps, pitas, flat- breads, rolls and bagels,” says Toufayan. “Bread manufacturers are developing both healthier bread options as well as more ethnic bread varieties that provide enhanced taste and texture than the tra- ditional breads. At Toufayan, we have introduced Toufayan gluten free wraps in five varieties, both Tandoori and Naan breads in various flavors, low carb smart carb pockets, which provide a low-calorie option to pita. They are meeting with both trade and consumer acceptance, and we will continue to innovate in 2020.” 

Other Growing Trends

One way to attract younger customers is to use social media to let them know you have sandwiches that look really cool.

“Club sandwiches and BLTs/ABLTs (BLTs with avocado) are very strong in terms of popularity and BLTs are not only a perennial favorite but are also something we see tagged on Instagram frequently. So if your place is making a terrific BLT, make sure to get some good images and share them with proper hashtags,” advises Dorsch at Nueske’s. IDDBA’s What’s In Store advises that the trend toward more eating events with smaller portions may bring a market for sandwiches made with artisan or whole grain breads because they are more nutrient dense.

This trusted annual survey also revealed some changes in trends of what is hot and what is not among deli sandwich products. Sandwich combo meals in the deli declined more than 20 percent in a recent year, and more than 40 percent in three years, according to IDDBA’s What’s In Store 2020.

But sandwiches in top line foodservice sales increased 1.5 percent in a year, and nearly 4 percent over three years.  

Breakfast sandwiches were also up $10.4 million in the year ending in Nov. 24, 2018, according to statistics compiled in the IDDBA’s What’s In Store 2020. 

This is a potentially strong growth area, as IDDBA statistics show a 39 per- cent increase in breakfast sandwich sales in foodservice in a recent year.

Another important trend is toward offering a greater selection of convenient grab-and-go items.

“It’s our experience from working with retailers across the country that the demand for prepared foods is growing exponentially,” says Pozzuto. “Many retailers are expanding these once-mod- est sections in their deli departments and making room for more convenient grab- and-go and ready-to-eat items. We want to help our deli partners to stand out in this market. Along with bold and colorful Mediterranean-inspired sandwich spreads and signature sandwiches based on these bestloved

Ethnic meats, cheeses and flavor pro- files are also becoming more important in deli sandwich programs.

“Our newest addition Induveca ham has become one of the most popular items amongst our deli brand,” says Horta. “Right now, our current staple items are the popular Campesino salami that has over 50 years in the market as well as our Induveca salami that has over 30 years in the market.” 

Demand for Hispanic meats is increasing so quickly that Cibao upgraded both its production capacity and its logistics.

“Keeping up with the demand has been a big challenge, and that is why we pur- chased a brand-new building that consists of over 50 acres so we can hopefully sup- ply enough for the demand,” says Horta. “We have a logistics department where we are trying to handle all my deliveries on a timely basis to ensure that our customers in the tri-state area received the products in time.” DB


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