Sandwich Makers

No numbers please! The always-popular sliced lunchmeat category is distinguished by an endless variety of ultra-thin, deli-quality products in convenient packages.
Innovation without the wait is the name of the game in the prepackaged lunchmeat category. New products and packaging developments are driving growth in this huge segment, whose U.S. retail sales topped $3.14 billion for the 52 weeks ending May 15, 2005, up 2.6 percent from the year prior, relays Chicago’s Information Resources Inc. Oscar Mayer led the way with $833.6 million in sales, followed by private label’s $450.6 million, and Hillshire Farm Deli Select’s $261.9 million.
Sara Lee’s Hillshire Farm Deli Select line, which pairs “shaved” slice-style whole-muscle lean meats with reusable Gladware containers that allow the lunchmeat to rest naturally in the package, recently advanced to new level of convenience by combining ultra-thin meats and cheese together in one package. Also featuring Gladware containers, the Hillshire Farm Deli Select Combos are available in five varieties including brown sugar baked ham with American cheese, oven roasted turkey breast and smoked provolone cheese, hickory smoked turkey breast with pepper jack cheese, smoked ham with baby Swiss cheese, and roast beef with mild cheddar cheese.
“For sandwich-making convenience, Hillshire Farm Deli Select Combos combine ultra-thin meats and cheeses in one convenient package. Five flavorful varieties mean everyone can find their favorite flavor combination,” Hillshire Farm’s Web site notes.
Category leader Oscar Mayer Foods, a Madison, WI-based division of Kraft Foods, meanwhile, recently added a new flavor, Slow Roasted Roast Beef, to its Oscar Mayer Deli Style Shaved Luncheon Meats lineup. Packaged in convenient, resealable trays, the products are said to offer the “light, fresh taste of the deli without the wait.”
Top 10 Refrigerated Sliced Lunchmeat Brands*
  Dollar Sales ($ millions) Dollar Sales %
Change Prior Year
Dollar Share Unit Sales
Unit Sales %
Change Prior Year
1. Oscar Mayer 833.6 7.3 26.5 328.1 8.3
2. Private Label 450.6 -1.3 14.3 234.6 -7.9
3. Hillshire Farm Deli Select 261.9 33.6 8.3 86.4 16.4
4. Buddig 134.1 2.6 4.3 100.6 -7.2
5. Butterball 114.5 -14.9 3.6 47.8 -14.4
6. Land O Frost Premium 79.7 9.3 2.5 20.6 7.6
7. Louis Rich 76.2 -8.2 2.4 31.8 -5.8
8. Bar S 75.6 1.6 2.4 38.4 0.2
9. Hormel 73.8 8.7 2.3 22.4 3.3
10. Bryan 46.8 -13 1.5 22.1 -13.9
Total Category 3,147.2 2.6 100 1,357.8 -1.8
*Total U.S. supermarkets, drug stores, and mass merchandisers excluding Wal-Mart for the 52 weeks ending May 15, 2005.
Source: Information Resources Inc.
Today’s consumers are willing to pay for the convenience of a recloseable package, observes Chad Baker, assistant vice president sales, packaged meats, for Smithfield Inc., Smithfield, VA. Smithfield in February rolled out four varieties of deli-thin ham and turkey in the company’s resealable Sandwich Keepers containers. “Consumer demand for premium ham and turkey products in plastic containers is undeniable,” he adds. “The days of cutting open a package, making a sandwich, and placing unused product in a plastic resealable bag that you pulled out of the pantry are gone.”
Baker notes that Smithfield’s Sandwich Keepers can be used as traveling lunchboxes after the meat is used. “Our container was engineered to carry a sandwich to work or school,” he says.
Omaha, NE-based ConAgra Foods last year introduced a new line of Healthy Choice Deluxe Thin-Sliced lunchmeats, and as recently as May unveiled Butterball Extra Thin Sliced turkey in Ziploc packaging. The Healthy Choice products feature a 10-ounce resealable, reusable container (a pair of 5-ounce pouches are located within each container to guarantee extra freshness).
Some meat processors also are experimenting with portioned product in the deli. Lansing, IL-based Land O'Frost Inc., maker of 2.5-ounce Deli Style Thin Sliced Meats, DeliShaved Meats, and regionally-inspired Taste Escapes, recently introduced Chicago Sub Co. Snap-Apart Fresh Packs in honey ham and smoked ham varieties. The product is sold in a four-pack of snap-apart tubs, each perfect for one sandwich. NP