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Today, customer experiences are vital to bringing shoppers into physical stores—and to keep them coming back. To that end, deli departments have expanded
Eye on the National Brands
New products from two leading national brands clearly illustrate prevailing trends in deli lunchmeat and cheese.
way beyond a place to pick up a pound of cheese. The new deli department is an imperative driver of the positive shopper experience, with coffee shops, juice bars, sophisticated hot and cold bars, ethnic food choices, and more.
Wegmans, for example, offers a food court of prepared foods with some stores offering sushi, cold and hot subs, wings, carryout pizza, and even made-to-order steamed crab and shellfish. Other prepared foods might include hot bars serving Italian, Asian, home-style, or vegetarian options, sometimes with counter seating with a view of chefs preparing the made-to-order items. Some Wegmans stores include Market Cafés, with full menus, offering seating for hundreds.
In-store restaurants are becoming more and more popular with shoppers. It was reported this summer that Hy-Vee Food Stores plans to add a full-service restaurant and bar called Market Grille to 75 stores within the next three years. The remaining stores will reportedly add a scaled-down version of the concept called Market Café.
New York–area Duane Reade drugstores have been adding more and more take away choices to stores, debuting its new Up Market: Chop department in 2012. The gourmet salad bar concept offers shoppers a chance to build custom salads with a choice of premium greens, artisanal cheeses, 30 additional toppings, and an array of dressing options.
“Intricate salad creations have become the main course for many health conscious, on-the-go New Yorkers,” said Michael De Fazio, Duane Reade’s senior director of store concepts, in a press release.
In a July 16, 2013 article, “Chopped Salad Has Become the Lunch of Choice in the Northeast” The New York Times reported that the chopped mania seems regional. “The fervor for it burns hottest in the Northeast, along the Amtrak corridor from Washington to Boston,” wrote the article’s author. “In California, where most of the salad ingredients originate, enthusiasm is muted.”
Duane Reade stores also offer Up Market: Café (hot and cold coffee drinks with a full-time barista), Up Market: Juice (fresh juice or smoothies), Up Market: Sushi (sushi and sashimi made daily), Up Market: Fro-Yo (frozen yogurt stations), and Good & Delish self-serve hot soups in flavors like chicken noodle, split pea with turkey bacon, wild mushroom barley, cream of broccoli, and coconut curry chicken.
Kroger offers Wholesome@Home Fresh Soups, available in ready-to-eat single-serve bowls, family-style tubs, and bulk Hot Soup stations. Additionally under the line, the retailer offers ready-to-bake pizza, pasta and pasta sauce, deli salads, rotisserie chicken, and chicken wings and tenders, served fried or baked.
Whole Foods Market delis can include different types of restaurants (ethnic, burger, barbecue, pizza) and taverns or wine bars, as well as sushi, seafood, raw food, hot food, salads, cookie bars, and grab-and-go sandwiches with unique options like vegan chicken salad sandwiches.
The new Kings Food Markets location in Gillette, N.J. showcases its MarketSquare concept, which offers sandwiches (including gluten-free and vegan), “Chef-Inspired Gourmet Meals to Go,” a chef-staffed hibachi station (noodle bowls), brick-oven Neapolitan-style pizza, hand-rolled sushi, a “grain exchange” (bean and grain salads), mezze bars (olives, falafel, hummus, antipasti), a coffee house, and soups.
Retailers, especially in the Northeast where even drugstore deli departments are sophisticated, must keep up with emerging trends and find ways to add creative
In July for example, Whole Foods Market debuted a Creamy Chocolate-Avocado Dip, an outcome of the company team member dip contest. Produce buyer Justin Weisensel and healthy eating specialist Curtis Whitwam from the Whole Foods Market in Tampa worked together on the grand-prize winner featuring fresh avocado and raw, unsweetened cacao.
Additionally, as consumers seek out healthier choices and search for transparency in their food, these trends will be reflected in the deli aisles.
“I think as far as cheese goes, you’re going to see more artisanal cheeses,” said Mike O’Donnell, director of business development, Federated Group.
O’Donnell explained that this trend will be layered on top of the additional trend of buying local. The big switch in the cheese aisle is that instead of buying mass quantities of cheeses at lower prices, shoppers are trading up to higher-quality cheeses.
Additionally, O’Donnell noted, goat cheese will probably see good growth, driven by its appeal to lactose-intolerant people.
For meat, less processed is the trend, O’Donnell noted. Over the last 10 years, an increasing range of meat selections have been processed. Now there’s a return to alternate—sometimes older—methods of production. For example, many shoppers are looking for grass-fed beef now.
“You’re going to see a move back to more healthy, less preservatives,” said O’Donnell.
Expect to see ancient grains like quinoa in the salad aisle, added into the traditional favorites, as well as added into crusts and breads, said O’Donnell. He also expects shoppers will see more gluten-free items, more global flavors, and spicy dishes.
And then there’s the yogurt trend. “The explosion of Greek yogurt has pushed its way everywhere,” noted O’Donnell, who said shoppers will see more sauces featuring Greek yogurt in deli items, as consumers like them for their probiotic properties. Other healthy additions will involve switching up traditional items. For example, instead of just chicken salad, shoppers will see cranberry pecan chicken salad, as the pecans add vitamins and the cranberries bring lots of antioxidants to the recipe for a healthier version.
“Transparency is more important than ever,” said O’Donnell. Shoppers are looking for BHT-free milk in cheese, no hormones, and generally more understanding about the product and its origins.
One prepackaged option Wegmans recently added is Organic Fully Cooked Chicken Sausages under its Organic Food You Feel Good About line. They are low in fat, have no artificial ingredients or preservatives, and come in flavors such as Breakfast with Sage, Sweet Apple, and Spinach & Garlic with Asiago. Wegmans also has added Organic Uncured Turkey Bacon with no nitrates or nitrites added.
Safeway’s Open Nature line in prepackaged deli is another good example of the natural trend. Products are antibiotic-free with options like Prosciutto or Salami with no preservatives, nitrates, or nitrites added.
Antibiotic-free and nitrates are more of the buzzwords right now, said Jeff Schwartz, national sales manager, private label retail, West Liberty Foods, but he noted non-GMO is emerging.
When it comes to variety, from a prepackaged deli meats standpoint where space is an issue, you’re more likely to find your mainstream honey ham, smoked ham, and turkey, said Schwartz. Core items continue to be your best sellers.
Retailers need to keep tabs on packaging, an area that continues to change. “Packaging is evolving,” said Schwartz. Expect to see a lot more of the peel-and-reseal packaging in prepackaged deli meats.
“The traditional zipper pack that you find in the service deli has been largely replaced by either a Sara Lee tub-style package, or you’re starting to see more of like a Boar’s Head, Dietz & Watson type of package that are thin, typically formed in-line, versus being a preformed tray or tub,” said Schwartz. “And then they have fill capabilities that are designed to press to reseal.”
In prepackaged meats, Schwartz said shoppers are getting away from, at least in the service deli, the tub style deli meats like the Sara Lee or Walmart Prima Della sort of meat, sliced into a package with a snap-on lid. Customers are moving toward more of a snack pack, but still in a similar type of package.
He also agreed natural and organic is becoming more popular, particularly in the service deli. The evolution is taking it more and more down the path toward natural.
“It’s still sort of a convenience category,” said Schwartz. “It always has been. It’s for that person who wants to grab and go and doesn’t necessarily want to wait in line to order.”