A renewed demand among consumers for convenient, fresh meats and cheeses is driving new business for deli operators.
Industry statistics point to a boom in brisket and other deli-related eats. Bernard Shire writes at Meat+Poultry that sales of deli-prepared foods are on pace to be a $13 billion category by 2019 — and those sales are growing faster than all other perimeter categories.
That’s good news for grocers, too. According to Jim Dudlicek, editorial director of Progressive Grocer, 70 percent of grocery retail executives, store managers and deli department leaders say their deli departments’ sales grew last year.
Let’s explore why, and what deli owners need to know to take advantage of these industry trends.
Desire for fresh, natural products makes deli meats a desirable choice for shoppers. Consumers can see the meat being sliced and, to a greater extent, where it comes from, says Scott Zoeller, vice president of deli prepared foods, cheese, meat and seafood for Kings Supermarkets and Balducci’s Market.
Additionally, consumers can customize their orders with a combination of meats as well as personalized amounts. From a sustainability view point, deli meat is a better choice, as there is less food waste and reduced packaging.
The National Provisioner reports on research from the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association, which found that 83 percent of consumers are snacking daily. That figure was 76 percent only as far back as 2014. “While that research covered all food types, it can be assumed that more consumers will be turning to meat to satisfy their between-meal cravings,” the piece concludes.
That’s a healthier habit than it was in years past, too. Melody Bomgardner writes how deli meat providers today are opting for natural preservation techniques in deli meats. This means using spices such as rosemary, garlic, ginger, cinnamon and clove, which helps ameliorate the sodium concerns.
Consumers are also learning to make healthier choices at the deli counter. They are choosing roast beef and turkey over bologna, for instance, which is a good start when cutting down sodium levels. For deli owners, offering beef over pork is a wise decision, as there is more iron and creatine in beef, which is good news for gym-goers looking to make those gains count.
Here are a few tips for deli owners who have health-conscious consumers:
Sara Ipatenco and Jennifer Moll both suggest deli cuts from ground poultry such as chicken and turkey as healthier choices. These are usually lower in sodium and saturated fat compared with other meats. Offering consumers leaner white meat over dark meat also is a good idea. Ipatenco says pastrami runs a close second place in terms of manageable sodium levels. Good news for fans of New York deli’s most-loved meat.
It’s undeniable that consumers want a healthier diet. This is an opportunity for distributors and sellers of meats to inform their consumers. Geraldo Baldino sees the value in this and writes that people want more than just the food or product they’re buying. They also want information: What is it made from? Is it good or bad? Where does it come from? Baldino says the correct marketing can play a major role in educating consumers. This should be an opportunity to inform and build trust.
Food with a story is part of the education, says Mary Kay O’Connor, vice president of education at the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association. O’Connor says an important deli meat trend is the desire for clean and clear labels. “All generations want more natural, organic, antibiotic-free and non-GMO foods,” she writes.
Driving demand for fresh, organic and natural products is the millennial market, which is fixated on healthy options, says John Stanton, professor of food marketing at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. This demographic regards healthfulness as a significant lifestyle choice.
According to Brian Bell, vice president of Cargill Beef North American Sales, millennials love their meat. He tells The National Provisioner that this group spends more on fresh red meat than any other generation, and they plan to spend even more in the future.
But they also want to know where that meat comes from and how healthy it is. This underscores the importance of not just providing healthy options to consumers, but also building trust between them and your brand or product.
Part of building trust requires being transparent.
Steve New at the Harvard Business Review argues for making the opaque supply chain transparent. All consumers, not just millennials, want to know where their products come from. Sourcing meat from reputable sources — and communicating that — will help alleviate some of the health concerns of consumers.
All in all, industry statistics reveal a positive story: Consumers want meat they can recognize and trust. Who better to get it from than the delis that have served local neighborhoods for generations?
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