Deli Delivers When the Heat’s On

In most parts of the country, it’s been a long, hot and atypically dry summer, a pattern that has affected where and what consumers are eating.

Turning on the oven for a long period of time or even standing over a blazing hot grill are not on the top of many shoppers’ wish lists, a trend that’s translated to demand for more grab-and-go, ready-to-eat foods and items that don’t have to be heated.

Meanwhile, consumers have been hearing a steady stream of news stories about how the cost of food likely will be going up, at least in part due to the ongoing drought impacting many of the nation’s crops. That concern may drive purchase habits in both the short and long term, as fallout from poor harvests continues through the rest of this year and into 2013.

At the same time that Americans are seeking relief from blistering heat and wary of drought-related food costs, they are starting to look ahead, targeted with back-to-school suggestions and – yes – even early holiday promotions.

In the height of summer, and with back to school not that far around the corner, deli operators are addressing current seasonal demands while anticipating upcoming seasons and buying trends, helped along by a spate of new products and promotions.

Solutions for Scorching Days

Retailers looking to provide sweltering shoppers with cool meal solutions have a variety of options to promote in their stores, from classic prepared foods like salads and sandwiches and hot foods that are precooked for the consumer’s convenience.

Just because it’s summertime doesn’t mean that the soup’s not on at the deli department. Kettle Cuisine, based in Chelsea, Mass., for its part, has added two chilled summer soups to its foodservice line: Roasted Beet and Apple Soup and Tomatillo Verde Soup. The beet and apple soup is made from a purée of sweet red beets, tart green apples, red onions and celery root with caraway seeds and sea salt, and the tomatillo soup is a classic Mexican blend of roasted green tomatillos, diced green chilies and sautéed onions seasoned with smoked paprika, chipotle pepper and fresh parsley.

Cool flavors are popping up in other unexpected categories as well. Golden Island Jerky Co. of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., for example, recently added Chili Lime and Mandarin Orange flavors to its line of kettle-cooked beef and flame-grilled pork jerky. Additional new flavors include Grilled Barbecue, Hickory Black Pepper, Teriyaki and Korean Barbecue.

Other food manufacturers are focusing on warm-weather applications of their products through midsummer and late summer promotions. DCI Cheese Co. of Richfield, Wis. has developed a “Summer of Flavor” promotion highlighting the company’s Great Midwest line of hand-crafted flavored Cheddar and Monterey jack cheeses. The promotion includes traditional in-store materials like shelf talkers as well as more high-tech efforts: shoppers with smartphones can access the company’s website through a QR code on a promotional display and find recipes and an online entry form to win tech-oriented prizes like iPods, Kindle Fires and an iPad.

From Keeping Cool to Back to School

Right after the Fourth of July – in some cases, the very next day – back-to-school promotions started in earnest across many parts of the country. Although such campaigns might be to the chagrin of schoolchildren still enjoying summer break, many parents and teachers like to stock up early, and retailers capitalize on such plan-ahead shoppers.

As back-to-school really picks up steam in the coming weeks, a variety of new products and promotions are designed with busy, discerning parents in mind.

Newell Rubbermaid, for example, has rolled out a line of new modular containers for fresh home-packed school snacks and lunches, designed for convenience, savings and sustainability. The new Rubbermaid LunchBlox, available in different sizes for sandwiches, salads and entrees, snap together to save space and stay organized in lunch containers. For back-to-school season, Newell Rubbermaid has teamed up with lunch brands Arnold Sandwich Thins, StarKist tuna and French’s mustard on a national “Pack a Lunch, Save a Bunch” campaign, featuring advertising, in-store displays and special on-package coupons. 

While the late summer and early fall launch targets school families, LunchBlox containers also appeal to adult consumers who take their lunch to work. These containers would be a natural for cross-promotion with the deli, which has everything busy families need to fill those take-alongs.

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