Although there are 24 hours in a day, consumers certainly can’t tell, given the hectic juggling of work, commute, home/family life and other social and business demands that are put on them. All common sense points to eating the right foods, ingredients and portions, but many consumers simply cannot find the time to do such a thing.

On top of today’s time crunch comes a pocketbook squeeze. With the rising cost of everyday items such as gasoline, commuter fares and other staples of life, eating out is becoming less and less an option, even for the workday lunch crowd.

Such is the demand to which deli processors must respond — and the windfalls in the past year, according to the winners of The National Provisioner’s 2008 Deli Processing Awards, have been exceptional. Each year, the Provisioner recognizes companies that are leading the way in the deli segment.

This year’s winners, Oscar Mayer and Tyson Foods, have been honored in the past — Oscar Mayer in 2007 for its original Deli Creations sandwiches, and Tyson in 2006 for its Consumer Insights program.

This year, despite a wide variety of extremely innovative products in the deli sector, the Provisioner is proud to single out these companies for their out-of-the-box thinking:

Oscar Mayer this year is being recognized for its Deli Fresh line, which includes a unique single-serve packaging option on five varieties of shaved meat such as Honey Oven Roasted Turkey and Honey Smoked Ham, among others. Oscar Mayer also expanded its Deli Creations line by adding five varieties of flatbread sandwiches to the stable of build-your-own meal options.

Tyson Foods launched its innovative Gourmet Wraps line — pre-made, top-quality wraps in a modified-atmosphere package that delivers on product presentation and consistency and extends product shelf-life to 10 days.

Is your company on the cutting edge of the deli category? Do you have a new deli product that should be considered for next year’s Deli Processing Awards? If so, please contact The National Provisioner and tell us about it. E-mail Andy Hanacek, executive editor, at hanaceka@bnpmedia.com with the product information, any pertinent press releases and photos of the product.

Oscar Mayer

Product: Deli Fresh Singles and Deli Creations Flatbread Sandwiches
Processor: Oscar Mayer
Headquarters: Madison, Wis.

It should come as little surprise to dedicated readers of The National Provisioner that, once again, Oscar Mayer shows up in our annual Deli Processing Awards. The company simply has been on a roll when it comes to innovative new products.

Whether one points to last year’s breakthrough product, the original line of Deli Creations build-your-own sandwiches, or Fast Franks, an already-bunned, ready-to-microwave hot dog, or this year’s winning products, Oscar Mayer certainly deserves to be included in any talk of revolutionary product development.

This year, Oscar Mayer earns recognition in the Deli Processing Awards for a double whammy of initiatives.

First, the processor tops the charts for its Deli Fresh Singles product — convenient, two-packs of shaved meats individually wrapped in single-serving sizes, in five varieties.

Second, Oscar Mayer is being recognized for a truly innovative line extension, bringing flatbread sandwiches to the Deli Creations banner, a brand formerly composed of sub-style sandwiches.

Both products meet the demands of a time- and money-crunched workforce, explains Nick Meriggioli, president of Oscar Mayer.

“At Oscar Mayer we like to say a great lunch shouldn’t require a financial plan,” he says. Deli Fresh Singles are targeted at the one- and two-person households, where the consumer may want to make one sandwich or even have a snack. Meanwhile, Deli Creations Flatbread Sandwiches allow consumers who are brown-bagging lunch to have a convenient, hot sandwich without having to leave the building and spend the money to fill their tank with gas.

Oscar Mayer’s biggest challenge with the Flatbread Sandwiches, just as it was with the original Deli Creations lineup, was getting the bread recipe just right, so that it would come out of the microwave warm and soft. Once again, Meriggioli says, Oscar Mayer was able to leverage proprietary Kraft Foods (parent company of Oscar Mayer) technology to get the flatbread recipe just right.

For Deli Fresh Singles, the challenge, he says, wasn’t so much getting the portion sizes right, but instead, it was finding a way to assist retailers through handling the unique package.

“We worked to design the package so it can be merchandised in two ways — on the peg via a hole [in the package] and on the shelf via a stand-up design,” Meriggioli explains. “This customer merchandising flexibility was a focus for us when we designed the package.”

At presstime in late August, Oscar Mayer reported that Deli Fresh Singles had posted 21 consecutive quarters of share and volume growth, and that the entire Deli Creations line, including Flatbread Sandwiches, was on its way to reaching the $100 million mark.

Tyson Foods

Product: Tyson Gourmet Wraps
Processor: Tyson Foods
Headquarters: Springdale, Ark.

As consumer trends go, the convenience factor certainly appears to have settled in for a long stare-down with food processors — a battle businesses must address or be left behind. Tyson Foods this year took convenience in the supermarket deli section another step forward with its newest contribution to the new product landscape: Tyson Gourmet Wraps.

The wraps offer consumers a pre-made meal option that is consistent and easy to take on the go, and gives them yet another alternative in the fast-growing takeout deli sector.

The wraps arrive frozen at the retailers’ door, pre-packaged in modified-atmosphere packaging (MAP) that extends thawed shelf-life from three days to 10 days.

Tyson’s Deli Division collaborated with the company’s Foodservice Division, says Mary Stiles, senior product manager for Foodservice Retail Solutions at Tyson, to understand the sandwich category trends in the restaurant business. Tyson also leveraged its Discovery Center to play a major role in the development process on the front end, she says, on the formulas and varieties.

“We found the growth of wraps was actually the largest category of growth in sandwiches,” Stiles says. “And we did a lot of research on foodservice menu offerings to understand what they were offering to determine the flavor profiles.”

Tyson Gourmet Wraps include four varieties: Turkey Club, Asiago Roast Beef, South of the Border Chicken, and Pulled Pork & Provolone.

“We tried to stay right on with on-trend flavors, and a lot of research has pointed us in the direction of very upscale condiments as what the consumers were asking for,” she adds. “And we ended up being able to use existing foodservice products for the ingredients — we didn’t have to create new formulas for the wraps.”

But there were challenges to getting the product produced and on the store shelves with the right presentation and product quality. Stiles says food safety was of paramount importance in the development of this product.

“We ended up having to put together a clean room at one of our facilities specifically for the wraps to be produced, since it’s all fully cooked product and in ready-to-eat form,” she says.

Furthermore, Tyson wanted to increase the shelf-life of the product, seeing as the fresh wraps gave only three days. Thus, the wraps were placed in MAP and frozen before being shipped to customers, who would then thaw the product and place it on the shelves as needed.

“Because of the thaw process, we had to add an anti-fog coating to the film, otherwise there’d be too much condensation on the film and customers wouldn’t see the product,” Stiles explains. “And that anti-fog is working just beautifully — within minutes of taking it out of the freezer, all the condensation just disappears.”

The wraps have been very well-received by consumers, Stiles adds, and Tyson’s customers have lauded the fact that the product is labor-free and fully prepared, and it brings consistency to a product that is often inconsistent when prepared at store level.