Slice of the Market

By Lynn Petrak
Special Projects Editor
Processors offer prepackaged deli meats in more forms and package formats.
If you hang it, they will come. That seems to be the mantra of processors offering prepackaged deli meats hoping to appeal to consumers preferring packages that are easy to use and re-use.
Once a cousin of sorts to deli meats sold at the service counter, refrigerated sliced lunchmeats now represent a $3.07-billion business. Whether processed from beef, pork, chicken, or turkey, sliced lunchmeats continue to grow in popularity reflected in 4.4-percent sales growth over the past year.
From a brand perspective, it’s been a mixed bag. The Oscar Mayer brand from Northfield, IL-based Kraft Foods tops the category, with a recent sales increase of 4.1 percent, although second-ranking private label sales have dipped 3.1 percent. The Hillshire Farm® Deli Select™ brand from Sara Lee Foods, rose 58.8 percent and the Buddig brand from Homewood, IL-based Carl Buddig & Company increased 18.1 percent, while sales of Butterball® sliced lunchmeat from Omaha, NE-based ConAgra Foods and Kraft’s Louis Rich sliced lunchmeat both decreased, 6.6 percent and 9.0 percent, respectively.
Category leader Oscar Mayer isn’t resting on its laurels, however. Late last year, the company extended its line of Deli Style shaved meats with new oven roasted turkey and honey ham varieties, both sold in resealable plastic containers.
Indeed, thin is in, as several brands have moved to develop thinly-sliced deli meats. Tyson Foods, Springdale, AR, recently unveiled a line of Tyson Shaved Sliced Lunchmeat in several ham, turkey, and chicken varieties marketed in a 12-ounce resealable package. In 2003, Hillshire Farm also went for the close shave, with new Deli Select Ultra Thin™ Deli Meats in ham, turkey, roast beef, and pastrami flavors.
Flavor variety is another area of activity. In addition to basic smoked and oven-roasted products, processors offer more premium profiles. Austin, MN-based Hormel Foods Corporation, for example, recently launched Black Forest Ham sliced deli meat, which won a 2004 “Consumer’s Choice Pork Award” from the National Pork Board. “Our pre-sliced Hormel Black Forest ham is unique because it combines the award winning recipe of our traditional service-deli Black Forest ham with the convenience and consumer confidence of a pre-sliced package with Slide-Rite closure technology,” notes Jeff Baker, senior product manager.
In terms of variety, consumers also can choose from a growing array of natural and organic deli meats. Branchburg, NJ-based Applegate Farms, for example, has complemented its all-natural deli meats with new certified organic sliced deli meats. “Offering a line of certified organic deli meats is another step toward realizing our vision of providing the purest, most delectable products available while helping to preserve our planet for future generations,” says president Stephen McDonnell.
Finally, shape is also a focus for deli meat processors. Tyson now offers 4-inch by 6-inch D-shaped sliced lunchmeats in oven roasted and honey roasted chicken varieties. Phoenix, AZ-based Bar-S Foods Co. recently added a one-pound Oven Roasted Premium Sliced Chicken Breast to its Extra Lean Oval Slices line, marketed in a resealable pouch.