In The National Provisioner’s “State of the Industry” October 2009 issue last month, Kathryn Kingsbury, education information specialist for the International Dairy•Deli•Bakery Association (IDDBA), noted that the economy has caused a shift in the way consumers think. Today’s consumer is different from even yesterday’s consumer — today, Kingsbury says, “consumers are looking for value.”

IDDBA consumer research clearly supports that statement and overall theme (as demonstrated in the tables on the right, supplied by IDDBA), but it appears that the deli category is well-positioned to serve the new consumer point of view. Take, for instance, data from Information Resources Inc. that shows total category dollar sales up 3.1 percent from the same 52-week period, ending Sept. 6, 2009. The deli category is growing — maybe not in leaps and bounds, but in this economy, some growth is better than the cliff-diving some industries are doing.

Processors have responded to the consumers’ demands for value and convenience. As you can see on the upcoming pages of this report, we’ve highlighted some of the more innovative deli products we found over the last year, with our Deli Processing Awards. Also, deli processors are making their voices heard, touting the quality and value of their products like never before. Case in point: Deitz & Watson’s recent blitz of marketing, as discussed in “Dietz & Watson’s call for fair play” on page 16 of this report.

These moves have not only met the demands of the new consumer, but have not skimped on quality and ingenuity, factors that likely will pay dividends when the economy turns completely around and some consumers begin searching for the premium items en masse once again.

Hormel Party Trays

Hormel® Party Trays have a new package and a new look, all brought about by consumer and customer feedback, the company says.

“Our consumers and customers told us they wanted to see more of the meats, cheeses and crackers in the party trays,” Holly M. Drennan, product manager for retail dry sausage and party trays at Hormel Foods, explained in a company release.

Party Trays now feature a square tray (rather than a circular one) and have bins to nest the individual packages of meat and cheese. In addition, the outer layer of shrink-wrap that sealed the entire tray has been replaced with tamper-evident tape on two of the side panels. Furthermore, product graphics are inlaid on the interior of the tray’s lid. There are several resource and cost benefits to this change, Hormel reports:

  • Converting to a square tray reduces the amount of scrap material the supplier will need to recycle after each tray is punched and molded;
  • The elimination of shrink-wrap will produce an annual savings of approximately 100,000 pounds;
  • The corrugated case to ship the product will be smaller, resulting in a corrugated material savings of more than 174,000 pounds per year; and
  • The shipping efficiency will increase by three cases per pallet, eliminating 71 truckloads per year.

Land O'Frost Sub Kits

Land O’Frost’s new Sub Sandwich Kit originally launched in one variety — Smoked Ham and Oven Roasted Turkey — and was developed based on consumer input that the company received through in store surveys and shopper intercepts. Consumers indicated they were interested in product that would make sandwich preparation more convenient and cost-effective.

Each Sub Sandwich Kit contains 24 ounces (12 ounces of each meat flavor) of deli meat. The product features individually layered shingles of meat slices that are separated by interleaved paper. Land O’Frost’s Sub Kit improved on the layered portions concept by separating the two varieties of meat from one another. This product enhancement was made based on feedback that showed consumers preferred the separated portions as it made it easier for those who may only want a ham sandwich, and not turkey.

Land O’Frost Sub Kits also feature a new improved double-zipper closure, which was redesigned in partnership with the company’s supplier to make the product more accessible and the package easier to open for consumers. Land O’Frost was the first to market with this new and improved package feature. The Sub Kit product also features Land O’Frost’s “green” deli pouch packaging that contains less plastic than competitors that ultimately leads to taking up less space in landfills.

Based on the Sub Sandwich Kit’s success, Land O’Frost has created a new Italian Sub Sandwich Kit variety that was slated to be introduced in stores in early November 2009.

Oscar Mayer Deli Creations Focaccia kits and Lunchables

Oscar Mayer launched its new Deli Creations Focaccia Sandwiches in four delicious varieties: Tuscan-Style Chicken, Parmesan Basil Turkey, Steakhouse Beef and Pepper Jack, and Bistro Ham and Provolone. It’s an extension of a highly innovative sandwich kit line. Each Deli Creations kit comes complete with everything you need packed fresh, including high-quality deli meats, specialty sauces, natural cheeses and delicious oven-baked herb bread to make quickly in the microwave. Even more impressive is the fact that packaging in each Deli Creations sandwich was reduced by 30 percent while keeping the same amount of great-tasting product inside as part of a Kraft Foods goal to eliminate 150 million pounds of packaging materials by 2011.

Oscar Mayer also launched a new line of Lunchables Lunch Combinations, including such items as spring water and a number of firsts for the brand, including sub sandwiches and applesauce.

“Moms told us what they wanted and we listened,” said Darin Dugan, senior director of marketing for Lunchables, in a company release. The new line also was launched in an all-new, clear, snap-close package that uses recyclable sleeves, bottom trays and water bottles. It represents the first appreciable change to the packaging in the brand’s 21 years.

Dietz & Watson's call for fair play

By Sam Gazdziak, editor, Independent Processor

Louis Eni Jr., president of Dietz & Watson, is not afraid of competition and doesn’t mind sharing deli space with any competitor.

“Our line of meats and cheeses are second to none, and the consumer is going to choose our product more often than any competitor,” he reasons. However, when the chance for fair competition was taken away, the company decided to make its case to the public.

Dietz & Watson had been a part of the deli cases in Harris Teeter stores in the Charlotte, N.C., area, when the chain fielded some consumer requests to include Boar’s Head deli products. However, Eni explains, Boar’s Head insisted on an exclusive arrangement, so other companies’ products were taken out of the cases in about a dozen stores (Eni points out that the company still supplies a vast majority of Harris Teeter stores).

The company quickly found out through the blogosphere that there were some very upset consumers out there, and it decided to make this a consumer issue.

“It turns out consumers really do find it objectionable to go into a deli case and only be able to buy one brand,” Eni says. “If Boar’s Head wanted to come into a chain that we’re doing business in, I wouldn’t have a problem competing with them. I would rather be in every store competing with them than out of just one store.”

Dietz & Watson advertised in the Charlotte area about the decision and also ran a taste test in a popular area mall, giving away samples of its own meats and comparable Boar’s Head meats. Eni says more than 70 percent of the participants chose Dietz & Watson product.

“Exclusivity breeds mediocrity,” adds Kenneth Hoffman, advertising & communications for Dietz & Watson. “Competition causes brands to get better. Boar’s Head is a fine product. But Boar’s Head is a marketing machine, and Dietz & Watson is a family company that feeds other families. That’s the difference in philosophy.”