The combination of more people cooking at home and continued, growing interest for convenient meal solutions has made demand for value-added meat products surge.

Northglenn, Colo.-based Niman Ranch has been steadily expanding its value-added product mix, with an increase in demand from both consumers and its retail partners, said John Flynn, the company’s vice president of retail sales.

In just this past year, Niman has rolled out new varieties of its pre-cooked breakfast sausages, a new pulled pork offering that has won multiple awards and a retail pack of pre-diced bacon.

“We’re seeing sharp demand for value added, particularly when coupled with our robust claims set,” Flynn said. “Consumers are looking for convenience and on-the-go options without sacrificing their values, including sustainability, transparency, humane animal care and better-for-you.”

With COVID, people spent a lot more time cooking in their own kitchens, Flynn said. These newly minted confident cooks are looking for meal short cuts and variety for the dinner table, and value-added products offer expanded convenience, perfect for quick meals and on-the-go snacks, he added.

The pandemic also resulted in consumers making fewer shopping trips with larger basket sizes. Having easy grab-and-go options with a longer shelf life is ideal as consumers looking to stock their fridges and freezers, Flynn said.

And it’s not just people cooking more at home who benefit from value-added meat products.

“Value-added isn’t just better for consumers, it’s also a great choice for grocers,” Flynn said. “Particularly today, with labor challenges in retail, an easily merchandized product set with a longer shelf life and less shrink is appealing for grocers.”             

Niman’ full line of premium, value-added products includes pulled pork, shredded beef, heat-and-serve sausages, a Craft BBQ Collection in partnership with New Belgium Brewing, artisanal charcuterie and snack packs.

What’s true in the meat category as a whole is true also of value-added retail products, Flynn said. Consumers are looking for transparent, sustainable and humane value added products. And it’s not something that’s likely going away anytime soon.

“I wouldn’t call it a trend, but rather a new expectation from consumers.”

What could be put in the “trends” category, Flynn said, is increased demand for multi-purpose, diverse products that can be used as both an entrée and an ingredient. Niman’s sausage links, he said, are an excellent example of this: great on their own as a quick and satisfying dinner, but also perfect as an ingredient in a larger dish like lentil soup or jambalaya.


A “long runway” for future growth

For Hormel Deli Solutions, a division of Austin, Minn.-based Hormel Foods, “value-added” is almost a redundancy, said Megan Ward, brand manager.

“Just about our entire portfolio is value-added,” she said. “We have our Hormel Gatherings party trays, Columbus products, and one of our newest innovations, our Perfect Plate items.”

Perfect Plate includes fully assembled meals and protein solutions with varieties that include flamed seared chicken breast, flame seared pulled chicken, pit smoked sliced turkey and authentic Italian meatballs.

The items are produced with specialized cooking methods from flame searing, sous vide cooking and pit smoking, methods that are used in the restaurant industry but are difficult to replicate at home, Ward said.

For retailers who want to go the private label route, Hormel leave rooms on the products’ labels for retailers to add their own branding.

One of the top things consumers are looking for in value-added is high-quality ingredient starters that aid in meal preparation, Ward said.

The Perfect Plate rotisserie chicken is a great example of a protein solution that Americans can incorporate into easy, delicious meals, she said.

Hormel’s Columbus Craft Meats brand is bullish on its charcuterie offerings heading into 2022, said Sean McNeil, senior brand manager.

“Charcuterie is really expanding in this country and consumers are interested many varieties of salumi, including salame and prosciutto,” he said. “We’ve really focused on educating and inspiring consumers to build and enjoy charcuterie boards.”

Columbus is introducing more products that include multiple components to make a charcuterie board, along with tips and pairing ideas for how easy it can be to enjoy charcuterie.

New items in the Columbus charcuterie lineup include the Columbus Charcuterie Tasting Board and the Columbus Grand Charcuterie Sampler.

Customers have said they like the Charcuterie Tasting Board because it’s ready-to-serve, including salame, cheese, crackers, olives, and chocolate covered cranberries, giving them everything needed to serve a delicious charcuterie experience in a convenient and premium packaging tray, McNeil said.

Customers have also praised the six premium salami included in the Columbus Grand Charcuterie Sampler and the pairing suggestions on the package, he added.

“The charcuterie category continues to grow, and more consumers are searching for charcuterie online, consuming charcuterie at home and in restaurants and sharing their experiences on social media. We continue to educate and inspire our consumers to build great charcuterie boards through our website, instore signage, product packaging, and on social media.”

The category still has a “very long runway” in the United States, and Columbus looks forward to a lot more growth, McNeil said. and there is ample growth ahead.

To help ensure that growth, it’s important, he added, that retailers and manufacturers continue to offer the highest-quality, best-tasting charcuterie meats, which will lead to increased repeat and adoption.