Two reasons supermarket delis were successful last year were because they were able to keep price increases manageable and they were able to innovate, says Jonna Parker, account services director at the Perishables Group, Chicago. For example, more retailers began offering bundling and combo options to create convenience.

In addition to more new low-sodium offerings, Parker also has seen a rise of bold flavors, such as buffalo. New flavors and brands are a way the deli case tries to stay relevant to consumers, she says.

“We’re seen a lot of innovation in the deli and you’re seeing that be the place where the supermarket tries to change typical perception for a shopper,” Parker says.

As the United States slowly climbs out of the economic doldrums, Alan Hiebert, IDDBA’s education information specialist, believes the industry will see the success of more new products.

“Data we’ve seen showed a significant drop in new product introductions in 2010,” he says. “2011 should show some recovery, though I’m not sure we’ll see levels where they were a few years ago.”

However, innovation has not disappeared, it has seemingly adapted. IDDBA has seen a huge new bacon trend.

“One menu survey I saw recently indicated that bacon was used more often than turkey in sandwiches,” Hiebert says.

Many deli-meat suppliers have launched new products and recorded success during the past year. For example, the Sara Lee Fresh Ideas Lower Sodium sliced-to-order varieties have performed well over the course of the past year, says Paula Shikany, director of Sara Lee Deli.

“The lower-sodium varieties deliver against what consumers are looking for — great tasting, more nutritious options that help nourish families simply and easily,” she says.

In order to maintain growth and address consumers’ desire for bolder and more differentiated flavors from the deli, Sara Lee Deli will launch a Sara Lee Fresh Ideas Herbed and Seasoned line at the end of September. The line will include Sara Lee Fresh Ideas Herbed and Seasoned Rosemary and Sage Turkey Breast, Herbed and Seasoned Basil Pesto Chicken Breast, and Herbed and Seasoned Peppercorn Premium Roast Beef.

“The new product line provides a key protein ingredient for consumers to easily create restaurant-inspired meals at home,” Shikany says.

The most significant successful new item from Tyson Foods in the past year has been its Crispy Glazed chicken wings, says Worth Sparkman, manager of public relations at Tyson Foods Inc.

“The wing category in deli is driven by repurchase, and repurchase is driven by the consumer’s eating experience,” he says. “Crispy Glazed wings deliver a superior taste and crunch with gross margin benefits to the retailer. These wings have been very successful with retailers, achieving significant volume increases and displacing established competitive product.”

In 2010, Butterball introduced a Deep Fried Deli product line, including Deep Fried Turkey in Original and Thanksgiving Style along with Deep Fried Buffalo Chicken.

“These are full-flavored products that provide consumers the taste of deep-fried turkey without the expense and mess of frying their own turkey,” says Kari Lindell, director of retail marketing at Butterball LLC. “The best news is that these products are 99 percent fat-free and carry the American Heart Association (AHA) certification.”

This year, Butterball is continuing to help consumers eat healthy by reducing the sodium content by an average of 10 percent of its top selling SKUs, which are also AHA certified. These will be available in market late summer, Lindell says. In addition, Butterball is introducing a new flavor, Butterball Original Naturally Roasted Gold Turkey Breast, which also carries AHA certification and will be available late summer.

Trial on Kraft Foods’ Oscar Mayer Carving Board Meats, launched earlier this year, is ahead of expectations, says Tom Lopez, the company’s director of marketing. The line includes Oven Roasted Turkey Breast, Rotisserie Seasoned Chicken Breast, Slow Cooked Ham and Slow Roasted Roast Beef. The company attributes the line’s success to its “carved-off-the-roast” taste and unique cut, he says.

“As they carry more sandwiches, consumers seek quality and variety,” Lopez says. “They are looking for high-quality cuts and flavor cues such as ‘slow oven roasted.’ More are seeking a carved-off-the roast taste.”

Sadler’s Smokehouse Ltd. aimed to make meals easier for consumers with its new Dinner for Two options. The portioned controlled meals for two are based on barbecue favorites, Pulled Pork in a savory barbecue sauce with baked beans and Shredded Beef Brisket in a savory barbecue sauce with macaroni and cheese, says Greg Klein, executive vice president of marketing at Sadler’s. The company’s new Mini Briskets also offer smaller and more convenient portions for smaller households, he says.

The deli-oriented focus of Canadian processing giant Maple Leaf Foods Inc. has been on the introduction of Natural Selections, a line of natural deli meats introduced a year ago, made from cuts of meat and other ingredients consumers can actually pronounce, the company says. Moms are embracing the line and driving growth for Maple Leaf Foods.

In one year since the product line was launched, Maple Leaf’s share of the Canadian deli market has grown by 35 percent, the company has 30 of the top 600 selling SKUs, Natural Selections is now the top-selling sliced meat product in Canada, and Natural Selections won the 2010 Product of the Year in the Fresh Deli category as voted by a survey of 5,900 Canadian consumers.