Millennials are likely the most frequent customers in the deli, as it appeals to several values the generation tends to share, such as convenience, variety, the ability to experiment with food without needing culinary experience, and quality and freshness of products. This and dozens of other food industry and retail trends within the dairy, deli, cheese, and bakery sectors are examined in What’s in Store 2015, the 29th edition of the annual trends publication of the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association (IDDBA).

Among the highlights of the Deli chapter:

People are increasingly cooking at home and looking to improve kitchen skills. The deli can bridge the gap by providing consumers with tools or kits to make cooking at home a bit easier, while still allowing for some skill development.

Deli operators have the opportunity to connect with shoppers by sharing more information regarding the health attributes and origins of the foods they offer. High quality and unique flavors are in demand for Millennials being exposed to an evolving food culture.

On-trend are deli products promising innovative flavors reflecting regional, ethnic, and restaurant-inspired cuisine. Department menus need to highlight small plate ideas, add-ons, time-saving options, sides and other tie-ins to home meal solutions, and customizable options.

Millennials are more likely to use deli departments than their Boomer+ counterparts, as stated in IDDBA’s original research, Engaging the Evolving Shopper: Serving the New American Appetite. Gen Y seeks these values in the deli products they buy—convenience, variety for them and their children, the ability to experiment without needing culinary expertise, and high quality, fresh products.

Additionally, gourmet and premium options are becoming more commonplace in delis as retailers cater to consumers who value taste over price. “Select retailers are making it worth the time and money to splurge in the deli, as consumers are willing to wait and pay to indulge on a variety of meal options from the deli,” Chris Zagorski, analyst, Nielsen Perishables Group, told IDDBA. “It is not unusual to see gourmet options such as prime rib, pork tenderloin, and stuffed salmon taking up space behind the glass.” 

Regarding Millennials, IDDBA’s Engaging the Evolving Shopper research suggested that by changing offerings frequently, deli departments can leverage new flavor and ingredient trends, curate new foods with quality distinctions, and become shoppers’ ‘sous chefs’ in order to build trust and long-term relationships.

“Retailers can capitalize on Millennials’ propensity to shop deli departments by keeping current with food trends and delivering an ever-changing assortment of offerings,” said Mary Kay O’Connor, VP Education, IDDBA. “Gen Y shoppers are more likely to use fresh perimeter departments for everyday needs, rather than just for special occasions.