Gelson's Markets has created award-winning charcuterie offerings.
In the world of charcuterie, consumers have more choice than ever – including whether to buy a ready-made board or to put together their own. Progressive Grocer asked experts in the charcuterie space to weigh in on how retailers can help shoppers decide what’s best for them.
“The pros of retailers assemblingcharcuterie boards and cheese trays are that customers can get fresh, professionally selected, high-quality [meats and] cheeses paired with delectable accompaniments,” noted Gayle De Caro, category manager of specialty cheese and deli merchandising at Encino, Calif.-based Gelson’s Markets. “Also, ready-made boards are convenient. There’s no hassle in creating your board. The cons to assembling in-store would be the necessary labor [and] less artisanal and fewer options. We believe freshly prepared is the best option, [but] it depends on the customer's needs.”
“Charcuterie boards offer consumers and shoppers the ability to build and serve what appeals to them and who they are entertaining, so provide them with the tools, tips and techniques they need to take a DIY approach [and] give them the option to explore and determine what works best for them,” counseled Shawn Munk, director of marketing, European brands and foodservice at Colonial Heights, Va.-based specialty meat and cheese provider Fiorucci Foods Inc., a division of Sigma USA. “Be cautious of combining options and ingredients together that don’t necessarily fall into the same flavor palette or experience. Make sure that each board has a theme involved if you plan to create ready-made charcuterie boards, and consider mainstream offerings that appeal to a broader audience, especially for ready-made boards.”
For consumers creating their own spreads, Munk suggested that they “consider their audience – family, friends, neighbors, colleagues. … If you are serving certain beverages or a specific main entrée, research what pairs well with them. Charcuterie boards are all about shape, form and color; don’t be afraid to experiment and taste-test options before serving. And make sure your board fits the spread you want to build and is the right size for your audience.”
Charcuterie “presents many advantages to consumers, among them … the high level of service provided by the ready-sliced products, as well as the flexibility and simplicity of combining them in different ways to create an appealing display to satisfy all palates,” observed Lorenzo Tedeschi, sales director at New York-based Rovagnati USA, a producer of ham and cured meats. “Whether one chooses something ready-made or the DIY experience – which usually means a longer shelf life of the individual ingredients – the result is always appreciated.”
Rovagnati USA offers a range of ham and cured meats well suited to charcuterie applications.
“As with any dish, assembling your own charcuterie board allows for some additional personalization,” said Allison Schuman, chief business development officer at Fairfield, N.J.-based Schuman Cheese. “If you’re someone who knows a bit more about cheese, or has specific pairing preferences and a little bit of extra time, you might prefer to build your own. However, if you’re like most consumers who are looking for convenient, high-quality options, or if you’re just pressed for time, a ready-made one is an equally great option. It all depends on shoppers’ unique entertaining needs and knowledge, and we try to be a resource in any scenario with a diverse portfolio of stand-alone and paired offerings.”
“Having a ready-to-go board with pairings is great for retailers to do for their consumers and creates a grab-and-go [item] for an entertainment occasion,” noted Debbie Seife, director of marketing at Dutch multinational dairy cooperative FrieslandCampina, whose U.S. headquarters is in Paramus, N.J. “It can really help consumers that don’t have time to do it themselves or are not feeling confident they can do proper pairings. … Depending on how many people [the] board is for [will] dictate … how big [the] board will be.”
“There is a lot of freshness associated with the board being made in store, and the quality is higher and more customizable,” said Kimberlie Le, founder of Berkeley Calif.-based Prime Roots, a plant-based meat brand. “If customers are looking for a unique experience or looking for something more personalized, freshly made boards are recommended.”
According to Leslie Maclin, chief marketing officer of The Simple Root, a maker of plant-based dips, cream cheese and artisan cheese-style products that is based in London and has its U.S. headquarters in Denver, while creative food shoppers will prefer to gather and assemble their own plant-based entertaining tray ingredients, they will value retailers’ help with availability, cross-merchandising and serving suggestions. Further, consumers with limited plant-based food knowledge will appreciate retailers that make pre-made plant-based boards and trays available in the chilled case or as catering options from the deli or prepared food department, as Aldi U.K. did last year with pre-assembled vegan cheese boards.