Hormel Deli Solutions, a division of Austin, Minn.-based Hormel Foods, ships deli-sliced meats under several brands, including Columbus craft meats, DiLusso deli meats, Jennie-O turkey products and Applegate natural and organic meats.

“The Hormel Deli Solutions team is focused exclusively on the deli business and that allows us to keep a close eye on the latest trends in the deli area,” said Shelly Venenga, Hormel Deli Solutions brand manager. “We see more and more behind-the-glass options moving to the front of the glass as fresh sliced options so shoppers have grab-and-go options and don’t have to wait in line.”

At the outset of the pandemic, Venenga said, the supply of deli meats, like many products, was limited, so consumers tried new things and purchased new brands based on what was available. That led to a change in normal purchasing patterns and brand loyalty.

“Online execution and a fully stocked fresh-sliced cooler were also important during the pandemic, as shoppers looked to reduce time in the stores with minimal person-to-person interaction,” Venenga said.  

Hormel Deli Solutions, she added, is focused on making in-store execution for retailers and shoppers as easy as possible by broadening its pre-sliced offerings beyond the basic, base flavors and also by exploring new packaging options.

“We are constantly listening to our customers and consumers and enhancing and innovating our offerings to ensure we are where consumer preferences and trends are heading,” she said. “The full-service deli case acts as a place of discovery for many shoppers, so keeping the offerings fresh and exciting with new flavors or seasonal offerings is key.”

Shifting demand: a Q and A with Hilary Gerard, marketing manager for Wayzata, Minn.-based Cargill’s North American business

How has your sliced deli meat product roster evolved in recent years? 

In the last 18 months, the brand has received a steady increase in distribution on the packaged lunchmeat wall. In prior years, the brand was primarily merchandised in the full-service deli as a pre-sliced solution. As more consumers are shopping retail in 2020 and 2021, retailers saw an opportunity to add more premium deli meat offerings to their packaged lunchmeat set. Our Castle Wood Reserve brand was able to fill a gap in retailers’ product assortment by offering a premium, high quality product in a family pack format.

How has COVID changed the landscape, e.g. are more retailers asking for pre-sliced packaged as an alternative to case meats packed by a clerk? 

Consumers are making fewer trips but spending more per trip, as a result, we have seen an increased demand for larger pack sizes, as well as, experiencing a consumer base that is willing to trade up for a more premium deli meat product.  The increase in consumers shopping for groceries online has also put more demand on the packaged lunchmeat set which allows for a better digital user experience vs. traditional bulk deli items sold out of the full-service deli.

What are some of the latest updates in your sliced line, e.g. new products, packaging, marketing efforts? 

Our Grab & Go deli innovation has allowed us to capitalize on the explosive growth of that category. As consumers are looking to get in and out of retail stores in record time, more and more are looking to Grab & Go offerings to get high quality deli meat in a convenient format. Our case ready innovation helps retailers manage inventory, manage shrink and keep their Grab & Go cases fully stocked.  

What are some of the trends in sliced, and how is Cargill staying on top of them? 

Even as the country adjusts to a post-pandemic world, we expect American consumers to eat more meals at home than they did pre-pandemic. Many Americans will not return to an office-setting mean there will be even more opportunities for them to consume deli meat at home. We also don’t see consumers demand for convenience waning. Consumers will continue to leverage online grocery shopping and grab and go merchandising strategies to ensure frictionless and less time-intensive retail experiences.