Deli meats take on trendy flavors, but may need help getting into shoppers' carts

Dive Brief:

  • Specialty deli meats are trending now, as are flavored bulk and sliced meats featuring sriracha, teriyaki, herbs and other seasonings, according to a report in Supermarket News

  • Manufacturers such as Hormel and Boar's Head have devoted more effort to flavor-heavy deli meat varieties in recent years, including ginger, salsa, lemongrass and habanero peppers. These manufacturers and others have putting strong advertising bucks behind these products.

  • Specialty deli meats account for 4% of department sales, but grew 4% in the last year, according to Nielsen. While it isn't a huge category, shoppers who purchase the meat tend to also buy products like yogurt, pasta and specialty cheese. 

Dive Insight:

It's safe to say that a majority of deli customers are made, not born. Unless they come from a strong deli-shopping tradition, it's easy for them to bypass a wall-hugging section with a lot of unfamiliar-looking items half-hidden in glassed-in cases. Consequently, the deli operator needs to get aggressive – with powerful counter top, web site and store flyer advertising.

But these and more healthful versions of old standbys need to be explained to shoppers, who can't be assumed to understand new items on their own. A new item under the deli case doesn't necessarily tell the shopper much about the product's taste, ingredients, health or sustainability. 

One way to do this is through product sampling.  Manufacturers used to send product samplers on routes, getting them into stores large and small. And store personnel used to be encouraged by managers to share a little inventory with shoppers, many of whom have yet to experience the taste of an olive loaf – not to mention the more exotic items making their way into the deli these days. While most deli employees will offer a sample when cutting meet or cheese for a customer, there is much less opportunity for customers to taste samples in front of the counter.

Nielsen says deli items pair nicely with at least 50 food items from around the typical supermarket. A push to make those pairings — either with placement near the deli, suggestions from employees, pictures or deals on both products — would be helpful in both reinforcing more purchases and driving interest in products. It would be foolish to assume customers will figure that out on their own without help from sampling, and advertising.   

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Filed Under: Grocery Marketing
Top image credit: Hillshire Farm Facebook