Categories / Merchandising Features / Trend Features / Deli / Tactics
A Walk Down the Aisle - Deli

Meat the Truth

June 15, 2012
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Our PLBuyer secret shoppers were a bit confused and didn’t find a lot of private label choices when it came to deli items. Read what else our secret shoppers found that can help you improve sales of your private label deli products.

Apparently, retailers didn’t read the Walk Down the Deli Aisle from the May 2011 issue of PLBuyer. Retailers still are not using price tag comparisons between their private label products and national brand deli products, PLBuyer’s secret shoppers report.

Of the four stores chosen throughout the country for our secret visits, not one carried price tag comparisons between private label and branded deli items. And, in many cases, products were not available in the categories that we chose to profile.

In-store private label advertisements were scarce as well. Only one of our shoppers at a Safeway in Mesa, Ariz., noted that there were advertisements promoting private label deli products. There were mixed results on whether stores stocked their merchandise next to their national brand competitor, as well. Most of our shoppers said in cases where there were comparable products, they were displayed next to each other.

PLBuyer sent four of its secret shoppers to check out the delis of food retailers in Kansas, Colorado, Arizona and North Carolina early in May, and asked them to evaluate how their local stores market and merchandise their private label deli products.

In addition to looking for in-store merchandising, shoppers also recorded prices of comparable private label and national brand roast beef, hard salami, Swiss cheese and macaroni salad, and conducted their own taste tests.

The goal of our walks down the aisle is to provide our readers with market intelligence and insight you can use.


Private label marketing in the deli section remains scarce, according to data found by our secret shoppers. Shopper Sarah C. reported that she did see in-store signs/ads promoting private label deli products, but she didn’t specify what kind of sign it was. Christina R. reported that at the Safeway she visited in Colorado Springs, newspaper inserts were in a cart by the entrance of the store, but many of the items asked for were not on sale this week. However, Christina noted that other deli products, such as ham and provolone cheese, were on sale.

Of the four stores visited, none carried any form of on-shelf price comparisons of their deli meats.

There also seemed to be much confusion among the shoppers as to what brands are private labels. Some of them also had a hard time locating the products on our list, period.

Sarah C. was unaware that Primo Taglio is one of Safeway’s private label brands, as she recorded it as the national brand product. Christina R. could not locate a national brand of roast beef or hard salami.

Price comparisons proved difficult, as our secret shoppers had a hard time in many cases locating either a private label brand or a national brand in the products that we featured. For those where both private label and national brand products were found, prices for private label products were only slightly lower.

For example, Mike G., who visited the Hy-Vee in Prairie Village, Kan., notes that there was only a 50 cent price difference between the Sara Lee brand roast beef and the Hy-Vee brand roast beef. The DiLusso brand hard salami was exactly the same price as the Hy-Vee brand hard salami.

In many cases, the private label product was more expensive.

At the Safeway in Mesa, Ariz., Sarah C. noted that the Primo Taglio Swiss cheese was $9.99 and the Alpine Swiss brand Swiss cheese was $7.99. At the Ingles in Asheville, N.C., that secret shopper Bill K. visited, the Borden Swiss cheese singles were on sale for $2 and the Laura Lynn brand Swiss cheese singles were $2.28.


Shopper Christina R. tried the Deli Counter brand macaroni salad. “I just needed to add pepper for my taste, but overall it was flavorful and filling,” she says.

Secret shopper Sarah C. says the Primo Taglio deli meat is good. “It costs more, but can be found on sale during Safeway’s $5 Friday lb. Promotion.”

Bill K. tried the Borden Swiss cheese singles and had this to say, “Buying from a cheese shop or deli department and having it sliced costs more, but the product is better.”

In addition to the Hy-Vee store he visited, Mike G. also shopped at a Cosentino’s Price Chopper in Kansas, City, Mo., as it was difficult for him to find all of the products we asked for at one location.

He tried Cosentino’s private label Big Eye Swiss and used it with the sliced ham from the same deli for a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. “It melted well and tasted good and was a good quality for the price.”


One interesting observation from Mike G. was that none of the deli case products at the Cosentino’s Price Chopper that he visited in Kansas City, Mo., were national brands.

And at the Hy-Vee in Prairie Village, Kan., he visited, the private label products are not merchandised very well. “The price tags are barely readable and are not really distinguishing,” he says.

Christina R. was aware that Primo Taglio was one of Safeway’s private label brands, unlike Sarah C. “I noticed that Safeway sells a brand called Primo Taglio as their premium brand that costs a little more than their cheaper Deli Counter brand.” She also notes that she doesn’t think that Safeway has a big selection to choose from in the deli.

Bill K. noticed that the private label packaging was similar to the national brand product. “The packaging tried to mimic the colors and graphical elements of the national brand products for the Swiss cheese.”

Sarah C. noticed that there wasn’t a big selection for private label in this category. But, had she known that Primo Taglio was one of Safeway’s private labels, she may have changed that observation.

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