Consumers are looking for more international flavors and clean-label options in their deli sides and salads, says Carl Cappelli, senior vice president of sales and business development for Schwenksville, Pennsylvania-based Don’s Food Products. Asian, African, Mediterranean and Latin-American are among the hottest performers in ethnic and international, he says.

Staples like potato and macaroni salads and coleslaws, what Cappelli calls “belly stuffers,” remain strong performers, but younger consumers are continually on the lookout for something new.

Don’s, Cappelli says, is meeting the need with new gourmet salads and a line of artisan deli offerings, including:

  • Beets with Tahini
  • Korean BBQ Green Beans
  • Braised Italian White Beans
  • Bruschetta
  • Carrot & Chickpea with Chermoula
  • Coconut Rice and Lentils
  • Cranberry Grain Salad
  • Deluxe Orzo Salad
  • Fruit and Nut Quinoa Medley

Grab ‘n go and meal solutions — e.g. a meal kit with a Don’s side accompanying it — are also a big trend for today’s consumers, Cappelli says. And “fresh not frozen” remains a priority for more and more people.

And as the above list attests, grains — “clean” grains in particular — are surging, Cappelli says. “They marry well with chicken and fish,” he says. “Consumers want healthy and delicious meal solutions.”

Don’s offers more than 140 products, and more than a third of them are now clean label. All Don’s products are available in branded packages and bulk.

All about the meals

In hot packaged sides, Beaverton, Oregon-based Reser’s Fine Foods introduced its new Creamy Cauliflower year-round side at IDDBA ’19 in Orlando.

Ready to eat in four minutes, Creamy Cauliflower consists of cauliflower, whole milk, butter, chives and Romano and gruyere cheeses. The product ships in six 12 oz containers to a case and features a shelf life of 35 days, says John McCarthy, senior brand marketing manager for Reser’s.

Image courtesy of Reser’s Fine Foods

Like all of Reser’s sides, salads and entrees, Creamy Cauliflower is shipping under the American Classics label. The company switched many items from the Sensational Sides brand to American Classics this year to bring coherence to Reser’s total offer, McCarthy says.

“It’s all about meal solutions,” he says. “This helps connect all of our categories.” Creamy Cauliflower, for instance, would pair well with an item like Reser’s Baked Five Cheese Macaroni and Cheese, McCarthy says.

Reser’s also rolled out new hot sides for the instore deli hot case at IDDBA. Creamy scalloped potatoes and Spicy Pepperjack Macaroni and Cheese are among the new offerings, McCarthy says.

“It brings a little more excitement to the heated case,” he says.

On the salad side, Reser’s spotlighted two new 1 lb packaged salads at IDDBA: Garden Pasta Salad and Cheddar Bacon PastaSalad.

The Garden Pasta Salad, which began appearing on retail shelves in March, is Reser’s first salad made with an Italian-style vinaigrette dressing, says Nathan Roe, Reser’s senior brand marketing manager.

“It’s doing very well, we’re optimistic,” he says. “There’s not a lot of competition out there” for vinaigrette-based salads.

“Nashville hot” fires up the deli

New for the cold deli case from Reser’s in 2019 is Nashville Hot Sweet Potato Salad, Roe says. The mayo-based salad taps into surging demand for Nashville hot, which Roe pointed out has been featured recently in products by food giants like KFC and Pringle’s.

“Our team of chefs continues to innovate based on the latest and future consumer trends,” Roe says. “In the deli we’re seeing more frequent rotations of flavors and varieties, as well as consumers buying a favorite along with something new they haven’t tried before. Our new deli salads and sides provide grocery shoppers with classic staples as well as bold new innovations.”

McCarthy singled out three deli trends Reser’s is keeping a close eye on:

  1. Meal Solutions: “The deli continues to be a destination for meal solutions and retailers are looking to expanding their selection with meal kits, entrees, and sides. By launching four new entrees and sides this fall, we give consumers variety and let them customize by mixing and matching in-store.”
  2. Healthier Options: “Deli consumers crave healthier food options. Our entire line of American Classics sides, entrees, and salads is made with real ingredients and free of artificial flavors and colors.”
  3. Hot (Fill) Opportunities: “Retailers are looking for new and distinct dishes to refresh and drive traffic to their behind-the-glass cases and re-pack sections. Reser’s fills this gap with our new bulk side dish and hot-fill items such as our Shepard Pie Filling.”

To support retail sales and drive consumer excitement on both a regional and national level this year, Reser’s is sponsoring Joe Gibbs Racing and Erik Jones in the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. With a 38-week season that races nationwide, the sponsorship provides a great year-round opportunity for retailers to drive excitement in the deli and meat departments with in-store promotions, social media and show car sampling events, according to the company. Reser’s is also sponsoring the nation’s largest country music festival, CMA Fest in Nashville, Tennessee, as well as regional country music festivals.

Something for everyone

Medina, Ohio-based Sandridge Foods now offers 12 heatable sides to appeal to a wide range of consumer tastes:

  • Butternut Squash
  • Cajun Style Sliced Sweet Potatoes
  • Cheddar Grits
  • Glazed Carrots
  • Harvest Vegetable Medley
  • Homestyle Celery Stuffing
  • Homestyle White Cheddar Mac & Cheese
  • Macaroni & Cheese
  • Roasted Potatoes with Kale Pesto
  • Seasoned Green Beans
  • Seasoned Roasted Potatoes
  • White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese. 

Bulk up

In addition to its regular hot and cold cases for packaged and case sales, Reser’s offers its customers four bulk deli sides. The sides, with comments by Reser’s, include:

  • Reser’s Special Request Baked Macaroni & Cheese: “This flavorful, fully-baked casserole of real cheddar cheese and elbow macaroni with a golden-brown top is the star of the hot case but shows off its versatility when cut into portioned squares for a beautiful display in the cold case or included in repack deli meals for grab-and-go.”
  • Reser’s Special Request Creamy Scalloped Potatoes: “Families will devour this rich and flavorful dish of sliced potatoes mixed in a rich, creamy white cheddar cheese sauce with parsley and a touch of pepper.”
  • Reser’s Shepherd’s Pie Filling: “Featuring rich Burgundy wine-based and beef flavored sauce with carrots, peas, and mushrooms, simply mix with a favorite protein - beef, shredded chicken or turkey - and top with mashed potatoes for a fan favorite.”
  • Reser’s Pot Pie Filling: “This filling of creamy poultry sauce with potatoes, carrots, and peas is ready to mix with protein such as chicken or turkey and bake in a pie crust. This versatile recipe fits a variety of recipes including chicken and dumplings.”