Retail Trends 2024

Carol M. Bareuther

Tackle these six trends in 2024 to move the needle on retail deli sales.

Everybody eats. Nearly 90% of Americans chow down four or more times a day, according to United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service data from 2019. Now, it’s even more expensive to do so.

Last year, U.S. consumers spent 11.3% of their disposable income on food, up 1% from 2021. But it’s what, how, and where Americans eat that’s up for grabs on a continuum from scratch-prepared meals at home to white tablecloth restaurant dining. We asked a dozen-plus retail deli suppliers, representing department staples like meats and cheeses to prepared foods, and even packaging and fixture manufacturers, what they saw as the big trends in this space for 2024. Their answers were not only informative but also instructive.

Getting a head start by capitalizing on these trends is a sure way to ensure the retail deli gets its slice of the “share of stomach” and “percent of pocketbook” pie.


It’s really all about value for the consumer, in supermarket prepared foods and delis and across the industry, says Mike Kostyo, trendologist and associate director of publications for Datassential, a Chicago, IL-based market research firm. “We’re seeing some ‘high price fatigue’ set in and consumers are questioning the worth of everything they purchase. In some ways, this can be an opportunity for supermarket-prepared food and deli sections.”

The opportunity is not slash-and-burn pricing, but giving customers value.

“Value doesn’t mean cheap. It means optimizing quality and the eating experience at a fair market price. Consumers are willing to pay for quality,” says Bob Sewall, chief customer officer and executive vice president of Fall River, MA-headquartered Blount Fine Foods, which makes and sells fresh soups under its Blount Family Kitchen as well as Panera Bread brands.


“Hot soup to go is on fire today. And, it has a health halo. You can sell a 24-ounce soup in the deli for $4, whereas in a restaurant a 10-ounce portion can be $6.99. Promote soup and salad, or soup and a sandwich, or soup and flatbread, or soup and pot pie as a meal deal. Or promote a buy-one 16- or 32-ounce soup from the hot bar, maybe its Shrimp and Corn Chowder or Gumbo with Sausage, Chicken, and Shrimp, and get-one like macaroni and cheese for free. These are ways to offer value,” says Sewall.

The company introduced two new restaurant-quality macaroni and cheese products last year under its Blount Family Kitchen label. One is a Buffalo-Style, and the other is Smoked BBQ Flavor, both made with white meat chicken.

Another good example of offering value is harnessing the power of food trends, especially on lower-cost deli staples.

“Mortadella has been trending on social media used on charcuterie boards, in sandwiches and as a pizza topping,” says Todd Hunt, research and development manager at Pocino Foods Company, an Industry, CA-based manufacturer of classic Italian meats. “It’s more affordable than whole muscle deli meats today. Delis can take a page from social media and either post pictures of creative ways to use mortadella to inspire customers or offer Instagrammable choices like sandwiches with thin slices of the pink meat piled high.”

Strategically selling products in specific quantities is a great way to proffer value too.

“Portion sizes are changing, in that smaller portions of quality products are preferred. This is being driven to a degree by inflationary times and rising costs. Consumers still crave quality and will sacrifice portion size to retain the quality. They strive for value too. Sourcing high-end cheeses allows consumers to use less in a recipe and still be satisfied with the flavors,” says Frank Alfaro, vice president of food service sales at BelGioioso Cheese, Inc., in Green Bay, WI.


Even deli packaging can be a value-driver. Some 82% of respondents are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging, according to the 2023 Buying Green Report, by Chicago, IL-based Trivium Packaging. However, Anchor Packaging has come out with its Reusables line, which offers customers a value-add in the packaging itself. The line of round, square, and rectangular bases with interchangeable lids in 16- to 104-ounce sizes can be used by delis to pack everything from cold to microwavable and single-serve to family-size offerings of grab-and-go meals.

“Reuse offers benefits consumers recognize, plus reduces packaging waste,” says Kurt Richars, director of market development and sustainability for the St. Louis, MO-headquartered company.


Convenience is consistently ranked as one of the top consumer needs when it comes to total adult eating occasions, according to a September 2023-released report from the Bellevue, WA-headquartered Hartman Group’s Compass Eating Occasions Database.

“Consumer-defined convenience, or the ever-growing importance of ease of meal planning, shopping, preparation and cleanup, is driving sales growth,” says Whitney Atkins, vice president of marketing for the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA), in Madison, WI.

The next frontier in convenience for the retail deli could be the removal of the service counters in favor of exclusive self-service, according to Claire Donohue, product marketing specialist for Volpi Foods, a St. Louis, MO-based artisan cured meat producer. “There is a demand right now that is pushing retailers to focus on convenience, so we are going to see even more packaged goods being sold. The flavors and formats of our products, from single-flavor offerings to trio packs and chopped items, can drive shoppers to purchase from the prepackaged deli sets. This makes meal planning simple when merchandised in a way that encourages recipe integration.”

Self-service is indeed growing fast, with the grab-and-go and pre-sliced deli meat and cheese segment growing from a 28.6% dollar share in 2017 to 44.7% in 2022, according to the IDDBA’s What’s in Store 2023. What’s more, this same source showed 55% of shoppers said they were somewhat and very interested in easier shopping with grab-and-go for deli and bakery.

The popularity of charcuterie and snacking also makes the case for delis to add more pre-sliced, pre-packaged products to their selections.

“For newcomers to charcuterie, it can often be daunting to get a board started and pick complementary flavors. We’ve recently expanded our line of Antipasto Trays, which offer 12 ounces of ready-to-serve charcuterie in a convenient, resealable package. Available in five varieties, the trays include numerous selections of our slow-cured salami paired with artisanal cheeses and accompaniments like olives or cornichons and onions,” says Oliviero Colmignoli, president and founder of Olli Salumeria, in Oceanside, CA.

Nearly three-fourths (73%) of Americans snack at least once a day, according to the Washington, DC-headquartered International Food Information Council’s 2022 Food and Health Survey. More specifically, 34% of respondents snack once daily, 25% twice daily, and 14% three or more times daily.

Suppliers have risen to the retail deli customer’s noshing needs.

“Our newest products have emerged from the continued demand for charcuterie but are sized appropriately for snacking and smaller households. For example, our newest line of pre-sliced air-cured salumi in bite-size pieces are perfect for two people as a snack alongside olives and wine,” says Giuliana Pozzuto, director of marketing and product development for the George E. DeLallo Company, in Mount Pleasant, PA.

Underscoring this trend, Olli has expanded its line of Snack Packs, 2-ounce packages of Italian-style salami, high-quality cheese, and artisanal crackers, to six flavor varieties. The company recently launched a new snack line, Olli Salamini, of bite-sized salami sticks in Smoked, Pequin, Bourbon and Classic flavors, in 2.6-ounce resealable bags. In October, it released its Original and Spicy Salami Stix in 2.5-ounce packages, and showcased its new 2-ounce Snack Cups in two varieties: Cheddar Cheese with Uncured Pepperoni and Fontina Cheese with Genoa Salame. These items are eco-friendly packaged, also a trend as more consumers lean into sustainability to reduce their footprint on the environment.

This convenience equals self-serve trend will also be fueled going forward by labor shortages.

“The equipment and fixture trends I see coming out of this is a reduction in service cases, an increase in self-service cases, and the use of pushers inside the self-service cases. This helps customers get in and out of the store more quickly with a reduced amount of store labor,” says Jack Sjogren, director of sales for Alco Designs, in Gardena, CA. “I think this is going to be a culture shift, and we won’t see this trend shift over time.”


Self-serve options are coming back slowly but surely, says Datassential’s Kostyo. “They make too much sense at a time when it’s still hard to find qualified workers. Millennials, in particular, rate them highly because they can stock up on options to feed the whole family.”

A full program is key for the most successful retailers, adds Pozzuto. “Since COVID, stores that have re-opened bars are seeing pre-pandemic sales from those bars and have incrementally added packaged products into their assortment as a grab-n-go option. The self-serve olive bar and a selection of packaged olives and antipasti are how you win. Our newest olive bar/merchandiser allows for the versatility of both all in one location for a complete destination.”

To further harness this trend, deli operators can suggest simple ideas customers might not have thought about such as tapas night at the food bar, suggests Sjogren. “Customers can get different samples and share. Maybe offer 10% off a bottle of wine with a food bar purchase that night. Fast food restaurants have helped to open this slot if stores want to take advantage of it. Fast food is currently very expensive, and it really isn’t fast anymore. The problem I see in stores is not having food at dinnertime. If they want to capture this business, they need to have food when customers want to eat.”


The hybrid meal has taken over America’s kitchens, with 50% of consumers using a combination of scratch-cooked and semi- and fully-prepared items to put dinner on the table, according to IDDBA’s What’s in Store 2023.

“The strength of deli-prepared food continues to be very encouraging,” says Jonna Parker, team lead fresh for Circana, citing the September edition of Circana’s primary shopper survey, as shared by the IDDBA. “It reflects a marketplace in which consumers need a break from cooking occasionally, but as part of the ongoing balancing act, it is deli that is increasingly winning those trips over restaurants. We know from our National Eating Trends study in 2023 that nearly 41% of all meals are ‘quick prep,’ meaning more heat/eat and component assembly than traditional cooking.”

The No. 1 factor that would prompt buying grocery deli-prepared more often is a better variety of items and cuisine, voiced by 81% of shoppers, according to the IDDBA’s What’s in Store 2023.

“The three hottest trends in deli-prepared foods for 2024 are value, convenience and unique items,” says Carl Cappelli, senior vice president of sales and business development for Don’s Prepared Foods, in Schwenksville, PA. “A good example of uniqueness is our grain salads. Launched in 2021, the line includes Mango Lime Quinoa, Island Grain with Bean Salad and Roasted Corn Salad. Our new items are available in bulk, so delis can scoop out or pair with other deli items to offer customers meal solutions.”


To provide unique culinary experiences, prepared foods might introduce Italian cheese-infused condiments and spreads, suggests BelGioioso’s Alfaro. “These could include cheese-infused pesto, spreads with blended Italian cheeses and herbs, or even cheese-based dressings for salads, creating new flavor profiles and adding versatility to dishes.”

Unique too, and something even the local pizzerias can’t offer, is the new Reserve Collection Tuscanini Margarita Pizza.

“Our ingredients are sourced and imported, not just from Italy, but by specific regions. Our packaging lists the country of origin and the region where we researched, met with local suppliers, and sourced each product,” says Shani Seidman, chief marketing officer for Kayco. This Bayonne, NJ-based kosher food service distributor carries the Tuscanini brand of Italian foods.

Thirty-nine percent of supermarket prepared foods operators say future sales increases will come from menu innovation, which is second only to new sales and marketing efforts, says Datassential’s Kostyo. “Consider what’s on-trend in foodservice but makes sense for the supermarket. Birria, for instance, is one of the fastest-growing options on menus, but it takes a long time to prepare, so a juicy birria stew option could be perfect as a prepared foods item.”

Three-quarters of those cited in IDDBA’s What’s in Store 2023 said that “more healthy options” would encourage them to buy more deli-prepared foods.

“The pandemic refueled consumers’ focus on health, a trend that is continuing today,” says Briana Voss, senior director of omnichannel marketing for the Good Foods Group, in Pleasant Prairie, WI. “As more consumers seek a flexitarian lifestyle, we are proud to offer plant-based dips such as Plant-Based Tzatziki Style Dip, Plant-Based Cilantro Dip and Plant-Based Queso Style Dip. We also recently launched a Dill Pickle Chip Dip, which is free of the top nine allergens. The fact that more than 85 million Americans are currently living with life-threatening food allergies and intolerances influenced our decision to make this product. More products in this line will be announced in 2024.”

Rovagnati North America has introduced products made in the USA without preservatives like nitrites. This includes nine pre-sliced and ready-to-slice salami SKUs including hot soppressata spicy, finocchiona with fennel seeds, and classic mild Genoa.

“Our new salami line guarantees products without the use of nitrites of any kind, including those naturally occurring in certain vegetable ingredients like celery powder,” says Giovanni Quattrone, chief executive of the Vineland, NJ-based company.

Beverages are a basket builder in the deli, especially those that are healthy and sustainable. An example is Wonder Juice, which offers three organic, cold-pressed, all-natural juice brands: Wonder Melon, Wonder Lemon, and Wonder Beet, distributed by Kayco’s Beyond division. These are made of six or more fresh fruit and vegetable ingredients, are organic, non-GMO, and fair trade, and are packaged in reusable or recyclable glass bottles. They bridge the gap between juicing at home, and pricy juices from dedicated juice stores, giving the deli the ring.

As nearly half of consumers say they’re visiting restaurants less because of budget concerns, so supermarket delis can offer these best-selling prepared food options but at a more affordable price point, says Datassential’s Kostyo. “The single fastest-growing option on menus in the past year was barbecue chicken wings, which many prepared foods departments already offer. In marketing materials, use terminology like ‘chef-crafted’ or ‘gourmet’ to showcase the quality.”


The key to meeting consumer needs in the perimeter is understanding how the shopper mission differs between perimeter and center store, says Neil Pittman, U.S. sales director for the St. Pierre Groupe, an international bakery based in Manchester, UK. The business supplies its premium brioche brand bread, croissants, buns, rolls and new Brioche Pretzel Rolls in the U.S.

“The center store shopper is shopping habitually, selecting their staple items, and moving to the next category. But this is not true in deli and in-store bakery. Our research has shown that this shopper is looking for inspiration, new ideas, and impressive items to help them dine and entertain at home. This is truer than it has ever been in the wake of a pandemic and increases in the cost of living,” says Pittman.

The company’s Eiffel Tower displays offer in-store theatre in the deli. Table topper versions of the tower still make for an eye-catching display but don’t require additional floor space. Parisian-inspired “knee-knockers” are specifically designed to allow retailers to cross-merchandise St. Pierre products with chilled goods, such as meats and cheeses.

More cross-merchandising techniques that focus on making meal prep easier for busy consumers is a trend for 2024, according to Volpi’s Donohue. “We see retailers merchandise our products in a way that takes the guesswork out of shopping, such as placing our Chopped Pancetta near fresh pasta, or our Uncured Pepperoni near fresh dough and mozzarella cheese. Shoppers are looking for recipe ideas while they shop, and when our items are merchandised in these ways, basket size is increased as well as retailer revenue dollars.”

Salami is one of the few deli meats that doesn’t need refrigeration.

“Savvy retailers have taken advantage of the versatility and long shelf life of salami through secondary displays that go beyond the refrigerated deli section, a trend that we’re seeing more frequently and expect to continue in 2024. Placing salami in other store sections that feature classic pairings, such as crackers, cheese or wine is an effective way of reminding customers about the possibilities,” says Olli Salumeria’s Colmignoli.


A take-over of TikTok and social media when it comes to driving what people buy and eat was identified as one of the Top Ten Food Trends for 2024 by Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, a 70-store chain based in Downers Grove, IL, and a subsidiary of Meijer Company Ltd.

This isn’t just a Midwest phenomenon.

According to IDDBA’s What’s in Store 2023, the percentage of respondents who said their meal inspiration came from YouTube was 32%, followed by Facebook (28%), Pinterest (21%), Instagram (21%) and TikTok (18%).

Look at TikTok trends like Baked Feta Pasta and, more recently, Chopped Italian Sandwiches.

“While social media has been a part of the industry for many years, the growth of new platforms like TikTok and the evolution of Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and even YouTube has proved to be a source of highly visual inspiration for consumers and a valuable marketing tool,” says Olli Salumeria’s Colmignoli.

The most common content consumers look for on social media is preparation techniques and interesting serving ideas.

“Showcase how the ingredients in the deli can be used for these trends, offer recipes online and in-store, and use the culinary and marketing teams to create videos for social media harnessing the trend,” says Kostyo. “Operators need to pay attention and leverage these trends more.”

Finally, looking into 2024, the future of supermarket deli and prepared foods will continue to see expanded prepared products and retail experiences from existing and emerging brands that prioritize convenience, says the Good Foods Group’s Voss. “The pandemic has fundamentally and irrevocably changed how consumers go about their day-to-day lives, directly impacting their eating and shopping habits. It’s up to retail delis and brands to communicate and work even closer to keep pace with consumer insights for new prepackaged innovations and make the shopping experience seamless from point of entry to checkout.”


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