The pace of change in the food world has never been greater, a reality that poses steep challenges but also incredible opportunities for instore bakery and deli.

That was among the takeaways of the June 4 kickoff session of the International Dairy, Deli, Bakery Association’s (IDDBA) annual show in Anaheim, Calif., a first-ever What’s in Store keynote address by IDDBA’s vice president of marketing, Whitney Atkins, and the group’s vice president of education, Heather Prach.

“Consumer buying habits are evolving quicker than ever before,” Prach said. “And the one word that best sums up what is needed is ‘flexibility.’”

Before you know it, Prach added, households led by people under the age of 40 will be in the majority in the US.

In the shorter term, even with the pandemic in the rearview, Americans are still cooking far more at home than they did before COVID. That, Prach said, creates enormous opportunities for premium purchases in the instore deli and bakery to bring home-cooked meals closer to restaurant quality.

Today’s consumers want to eat foods that are good for them, but that definition of “good” has changed, Atkins and Prach said.

Advertising something as “made with real butter” would have been unthinkable not that long ago, Prach said. But today, many consumers are likely to choose real butter because, while higher in fat, it’s cleaner than some substitutes.

Balance is key, Atkins said. She cited an example of a retailer who promoted an oven-fried chicken in deli prepared as having 30% less fat and 20% less salt. Next door in the instore bakery, however, an indulgence callout was used to sell cake.

Balance also applies to physical and mental health, Prach said. According to IDDBA What’s in Store 2023 data, 78% of consumers say that physical health and emotional wellbeing are closely linked.

In their discussion of the huge opportunities for deli prepared, given Americans’ continued preference for eating at home, Akins and Prach cited the top reasons for consumers eating deli prepared meal options more often.

Deli prepared: why consumers choose them

  • Better variety (81%)
  • More frequent promotions (80%)
  • Daily specials, like Taco Tuesday (76%)
  • More healthy options (75%)
  • Ability to order in advance (69%)
  • Home delivery (62%)
  • Specialty options (organic, vegan, etc.) (55%)

Meal solutions 

Meal solutions were again one of the dominant themes at IDDBA ’23.

MamaMancini’s, a leading national marketer and manufacturer of fresh deli prepared foods, rolled out a new line of meal solutions at the show.

Mama’s Creations broadens MamaMancini’s produce reach to include international cuisine. New products in the line include General Tso’s Chicken, vegetarian Chana Masala, Beef Fajitas, Korean-Inspired Meatballs and more.

“As we continue our rapid evolution into a first-of-kind national deli solutions company, we are thrilled to announce Mama’s Creations,” Adam Michaels, the company’s chairman and CEO, said. “This gives us the opportunity to launch an incredibly wide array of in-demand products into grocers nationwide, staying true to our vision of fresh, clean and easy to prepare meals, further enabling us to drive incremental SKUs into our grocer customers.”

In addition, in order to better reflect the company’s transition into a national deli solutions platform company, at its next annual meeting, MamaMancini’s will change its corporate name to Mama’s Creations.

“While the consumer facing MamaMancini’s brand will remain unchanged, the Mama’s Creations corporate brand name will enable us to honor our original MamaMancini’s Italian food recipes, while reflecting our expansion into a variety of new international and differentiated deli foods products.”

Kevin McCray, president of Stockton, Calif.-based Kevin’s Natural Foods, admits to being “asleep at the wheel” when it came to the gourmet soup category in grocery deli.

There was Panera, private label and little else, McCray said.

Kevin’s got busy and rolled out a Thai-Style Coconut Chicken Soup for Costco. It was a huge hit, and McCray knew they were onto something.

At IDDBA ’23, Kevin’s formally introduced four soups for sale in instore delis. In addition to Thai-Style Coconut Chicken, there’s Chicken Gumbo, Chicken Queso and Tuscan-Style Chicken.

The soups come in pouches, which is very common in Europe but not in the US. The pouches have a smaller carbon footprint, McCray said.

The soups are paleo and gluten-free with no refined sugar, grains or artificial ingredients. The chickens used in the soups are raised without antibiotics or hormones.

Brand power

Santa Paula, Calif.-based fresh avocado specialist Calavo is continuing its evolution into other products, with several new products on display at IDDBA ’23, highlighted by new branding collaborations.

The company showcased new salsa and guacamole products under its partnership with legendary salsa brand Old El Paso.

The salsas not only benefit from the brand power of Old El Paso but are also distinguished by their cantina style, said Andy Foster, Calavo’s vice president of sales.

The company also showcased several new products in the deli prepared category, including entrees for all three dayparts, snack packs with fruit and cheese, and salad kits.

Phoenix-based dips and spreads specialist Fresh Cravings, meanwhile, introduced two new brand partnerships at the show.

Fresh Cravings Chile Lime Hummus features seasoning from Mexican spice legend Tajin.

Tajin representatives visited the Fresh Cravings booth at the IFPA show in October, and the partnership followed from that, said Jay Whitney, CMO of FoodStory Brands, owner of the Fresh Cravings brand.

The second new Fresh Cravings collaboration, coming out this summer, is a snack pack pairing Fresh Cravings hummus with fresh-cut vegetables from Taylor Farms.

Convenience, health, flavor 

Banana bread and loaf and pound cakes are nothing new to Andover, Mass.-based Bake’n Joy. But until now, the company had never offered them sliced.

Bake’n Joy showed off its new sliced products at IDDBA ’23.

The fact that the new breads and cakes come sliced, combined with their being thaw-and-sell products, makes them a perfect fit for retailers facing labor shortages, said Jayne Kearney, Bake’n Joy’s marketing director.

The product ships 10 to a pack and retails for about $6.99-7.99, Kearney said. And for retailers looking for an even lower price point, it can be repacked instore and sold, for instance, in a 4-pack for $4.99, Kearney said.

The line includes Banana Bread, Apple Crisp Loaf, Blueberry Loaf, Butter Pound Cake, Lemon Pound Cake, Marble Pound Cake and (seasonally) Pumpkin Loaf.

Vineland, N.J.-based Rovagnati North America LLC, a division of Italian specialty meats producer Rovagnati, introduced a new line of nitrite-free meats at the show.

Other producers have nitrite-free meats, but Rovagnati is the only one to roll out an entire line, said Stefano Scarso, marketing and category manager.

The line consists of four nitrite-free versions of the company’s salami meats. The meats taste the same as their conventional counterparts and have similar shelf lives, Scarso said. Packaging includes a QR code on the front of the pack to educate consumers about the benefits of nitrite-free.

For now, distribution is mainly centered on the East Coast, with some Midwestern accounts and plans to spread further west.

Green Bay, Wis.-based BelGioioso Cheese Inc. spotlighted several new products at IDDBA ’23.

At the top of the list was a follow-up to the company’s blueberry-infused Artigiano specialty cheese, which was introduced in 2022, said Jamie Wichlacz, the company’s marketing public relations manager.

Blood Orange is the new flavor in the Artigiano lineup. Soaked in a citrus marinade, the cheese combines slightly sweet and savory flavors, Wichlacz said.

Also on show at the show were new Provolone & Genoa Salame Snacking Rolls, Burrata Single-Serve Cups, Burrata Filling Cups and Parmesan-Romano Blend Grated & Shaved Twist Tie Bags.