KANSAS CITY — When considering production processes, raw materials, climate, and craftsmanship passed down over the centuries, specialty meats produced in Italy stand out with unique flavor that consumers on the lookout for truly artisan products will be drawn to, pointed out Emanuela Bigi, marketing manager for Correggio, Italy-based Veroni.

“Authentic products are not only a tasting experience but also a cultural one,” Bigi said. “For this reason, consumers of genuine Italian deli meat and charcuterie are more interested in learning the history and tradition of Italian prosciutto, mortadella, and speck.”

Italian specialty meats have been expanding in the United States, and in 2020 the category saw a further boost in performance as consumers looked to replicate restaurant meal experiences in their homes with high-quality, flavorful products. 

“Italian charcuterie was the perfect option for customers: on one hand, made-in-Italy salami stood out for its taste and aromas; on the other hand, easy-to-open packs preserve the quality of pre-sliced charcuterie, making it easier to fix a ‘restaurant-like’ meal,” Bigi noted. “In the first semester of 2021, the segment is still growing at a fast pace.”

 St. Louis-based Volpi is also witnessing the rise in popularity of the Italian specialty meats category. In the last year, the company has doubled the pace of overall category growth.

Volpi reported seeing tremendous success within the company’s entertainment packs such as the Mild Trio 6-ounce, as well as ingredient pack items like Volpi’s Chopped Pancetta.

“The rise in home-cooking has accelerated adoption of specialty meats in new households and Volpi is focused on harnessing that momentum and developing items that resonate with future consumers,” said Deanna Depke, marketing manager for Volpi. “Convenience is key – whether that looks like easy-to-use ingredient packs or small format, affordable snacks, we are focused on creating items that easily fit into consumers’ lives.”

 A variety of uses for all ages

One of the key benefits of the Italian specialty meats category is its versatility, Bigi said. They can be enjoyed at any time of day from breakfast to lunch or used in a creative way on a charcuterie board.

Bigi noted that simple pairings like cheese, crackers or other gourmet specialties allow the meat’s complex flavors to stand out and provide customers with the best enjoyment and appreciation.

In Italy, charcuterie is often eaten as a snack, which inspired Veroni’s newest line.

“We have recently launched a new line inspired by the Italian ‘merenda’ that combine salami with breadsticks and dry fruit – a balanced, rich in flavor snack to enjoy at school, in the office and while strolling around the city,” Bigi said. “In the past, charcuterie was deemed more of an exclusive food. Now, it appeals to all demographics.”

The line includes four pairing options that come in practical and easy-to-open packaging to enhance break times while offering a real Italian tasting experience. 

Imported Italian mild salami paired with Provolone cheese and breadsticks is the simplest pairing variant of the brand-new line, while the hot spicy version with salame Calabrese is designed for those who love the intense spicy flavors. The other two options with dried fruits include imported Italian salame, Provolone cheese and dried cranberries or dried apricots. 

Currently, the company is also working on expanding lines with new product pairings and developing new ideas for different eating occasions.

Volpi, meanwhile, most recently added a Jamon Serrano to the company’s lineup. The Spanish-style cured ham is aged over 12 months and possesses a unique nutty, woody flavor. Jamon Serrano complements the company’s popular Spanish-style Chorizo and enables Volpi to deliver new flavors from around the world, right to shoppers’ tables. 

Depke pointed out that Volpi’s specialty meats go well with cheeses and breadsticks, can be tossed on a salad, or eaten on their own as snack. Product usage, she said, tends to be a key differentiator between demographics.

“Gen Z is seeking affordable luxuries and are increasingly turning to Roltini Singles for a snack or Volpi Small Bites to build their own micro-charcuterie board,” Depke said. “The lower price point makes these items more attainable and satisfies their craving for specialty foods without breaking the bank.”

Meanwhile, Depke noted that millennial and Gen X consumers are primarily interested in Volpi’s larger format offerings at club stores and traditional grocery retailers where they can shop for the whole family. She recommended that retailers segment sets and product offerings based on shopper behavior.

Highlight flavor and quality with merchandising

While Volpi works directly with its retail customers to analyze purchase drivers and map out the shopper journey within their stores to identify solutions that maximize revenue and create a more tailored shopping experience, cross-merchandising is almost always a must, Depke said.

“Working synergistically with dairy, bakery and beverage leaders will drive basket size and ultimately enhance the shopper journey,” she said. “[Retailers can also] test out different promotions and merchandising initiatives that are seasonally relevant. These items are also perfect to integrate into digital marketing communications as we approach the holidays.”

To help its retail customers best reach shoppers, Volpi not only designs comprehensive retail support elements rooted in consumer behavior, but also designs merchandising collateral, associate training and customized program support to meet shoppers where they are. 

Bigi added that cross-merchandising or promoting with cheeses, breads, crackers, olives and other like products inspires ideas at the point of purchase. Meanwhile, product description and pairing signage that showcases the product’s country of origin and highlights new and unique items is especially impactful, as are recipe cards. And information on how to build a charcuterie board and sampling have also always been sales drivers for Italian specialty meats.

Veroni aims to offer their clients the products they look for, and Bigi said the company is open and willing to share its know-how and recommendations about the best ways to present and market products. 

“Retailers should be aware that authentic Italian specialty meats imply quality, flavor, authenticity, and craftsmanship,” Bigi said. “These aspects make the difference when it comes to Italian charcuterie and should be well flagged to their customers.”

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