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The Jewel-Osco grocery store in south Oak Park, Ill., features a typical in-store deli at the end of the main entrance aisle. But there in the cold case, along with the usual array of deli meats and cheeses, health-conscious shoppers can also find reduced-fat cheese, low-sodium hard salami, reduced-sodium Polish ham and fresh-made Kale Super Salad—a relatively recent offering that one deli employee describes as “really popular” with regular customers.
Demand for these kinds of healthier deli alternatives, including products that are free from gluten, allergens, GMOs, artificial flavors and preservatives, added sugars and unhealthy fats, is on the rise, according to the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association (IDDBA). And the 2014 Food & Health Survey from the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation also reports that American consumers are trying to eliminate or avoid many ingredients when choosing the foods they buy. Fifty-three percent, for example, are trying to limit or avoid sodium/salt, 51 percent added sugars, 49 percent trans fats, 48 percent high-fructose corn syrup and 47 percent saturated fats, notes IFIC.
Meanwhile, U.S. retail sales of natural and organic foods and beverages rose 5.5 percent to nearly $53.5 billion in 2014, 53 percent higher than sales five years earlier, with the organic foods sector leaping ahead 12.5 percent in 2014, according to Packaged Facts.
Delis deliver on healthier fare
These statistics underscore how important it is for supermarket delis to offer the kinds of better-for-you products that today’s shoppers increasingly desire.
Stocking deli cases with “free from” and “healthy” options is the obvious approach. But some stores are also using more creative ways to show shoppers that the deli is a destination for better-for-you fare.
The Fresh Market’s website, for example, offers “Healthy Lunch Ideas” that feature deli items such as fully cooked salmon—a main ingredient in the Salmon with Field Greens Salad.
Wegmans Food Markets’ “Love Your Veggies” weekend—held at every location in late March—includes cooking demonstrations and tastings showing how easy it is to add vegetables to meals or snacks. As a tie-in with the deli/prepared foods department, the company offers samples of its Kale-elujah! Roll at the sushi counter.
And in January, Wegmans announced a plan to reduce added sugars in its store-brand products. The company’s fresh-made snack packages, for example, now have little or no added sugar and are made from fruits, vegetables, hummus, salsa, Greek yogurt, organic turkey, whole-grain crackers and wraps.
“For more than a decade, the Wegmans Eat Well, Live Well approach has helped customers live healthier, better lives by showing them how to steer personal choices in healthier directions, and by offering plenty of easy, delicious and affordable foods, menu ideas and recipes to use as building blocks of a healthy lifestyle,” says Jane Andrews, Wegmans nutrition and product labeling manager. “The work we’re doing now to bring attention to added sugars is the latest chapter in this story.”
Wegmans is not alone in turning to in-store events and other promotional programs to build a better-for-you profile. According to the Food Marketing Institute’s 2014 Report on Retailer Contributions to Health & Wellness, 100 percent of respondents had offered community health events, product sampling and healthy recipes in the past year. Not far behind were store tours, kiosks with health tips/brochures, cooking demos and health screenings, followed by kid-focused events, end caps promoting “healthy for you” choices and nutrition counseling.
Download a free copy of the FMI Health & Wellness report.