Sales of deli meats on the rise in The Great White North
By Kathleen Furore
Poutine might be a star on Canada’s culinary scene, but it is lunch meat, bacon and sausage that have become popular components of consumers’ daily meal plans in The True North (as the national anthem lovingly calls the country). That’s true, at least, if industry data is any indication.
According to industry data published by the Alberta Agriculture and Forestry Ministry, while per capita protein consumption—most notably of beef and pork—has declined, sales of processed meat is on the upswing. The article (available at agric.gov.ab.ca) shows that to be especially true for the bacon, sausage and luncheon meat categories.
The country’s meat manufacturers are reaping the rewards of Canadians’ growing embrace of meat products.
“In particular, charcuterie products such as air-dried fermented salami, hams and coppa continue to be sought out in Canada more than ever,” reports Sven Freybe, CEO and president of Freybe Gourmet Foods Ltd. in Langley, BC. The company, recognized for its German heritage and authentic products such as its European wieners, dry-cured salami and authentic hams, will celebrate its 175th anniversary in 2019.
The story is much the same at Les Aliments Roma Food Products Ltd., a family-run maker of authentic Italian deli products in Saint-Laurent, QC. Pascal Ramacieri, vice president of operations, reports that the company has seen a strong demand for bacon, as well as for Italian dry cured products such as salami, prosciutto and pancetta. “We’ve had an increase in sales overall—our products are up 15%—due to consumers’ high-quality perception of this line of products,” Ramacieri says.
Herb Sliced Salami
Weighing In on Trends
What characteristics are Canadian customers seeking in the processed meats they’re purchasing? Low sodium, unique flavor profiles, a minimum number of ingredients, and claims such as all natural and gluten free are among those “Consumer Corner: Demand for Processed Meat” cites.
Freybe says consumers’ preferences have expanded even beyond those features.
“While the consumer has demanded certain product attributes such as gluten free for quite a number of years now, transparency is becoming a significant conversation, whether around animal welfare policies or global footprint,” Freybe says.
In effect, when it comes to flavors, this industry pro believes that what was once old is new again.
“While there are always flavor trends that pop up from year to year, we’re actually finding that most consumers are looking for authenticity,” Freybe says. “German dry cured ham should have a distinctive smoke characteristic and the richness that comes from dry curing this product for months. Strong, clean and true flavors.”
Freybe Black Forest Ham
Ethnic influences also abound.
“German, Italian and Spanish flavors have been a growing trend for quite some time now and are sought out for lifestyle choices around convenience and entertaining,” he adds.
Those lifestyle choices currently include snacking, which Freybe calls “a very significant category that is outpacing the average market growth.
“The category is changing,” he continues. “It’s no longer just products such as pepperoni and beef jerky, but now sliced salami or dry cured ham [that people are eating] as healthy, energetic afternoon snacks.”
That trend prompted Freybe to add an entire line of products geared toward snack-loving customers.
“Snacking remains among our fastest growing categories—we’re constantly adding to our snacking category,” Freybe says. “This past year we’ve launched a 70g sliced snacking salami and continue to build our offerings around convenience and distinctiveness.”
For Roma, pepperoni remains king. Ramacieri says the item—which is just cooked, and not cooked and dry cured like its U.S. pepperoni counterparts—is the company’s best seller.
The Slicing Connection
Slicing, of course, plays a vital role in the overall appearance and quality of the products Freybe and Roma produce. Both companies rely on Weber to help them meet the unique slicing demands their product lines present.
As Freybe notes, packaging, freshness and presentation are critical to success in the food industry.
“You have such a brief moment to create a connection with your potential consumer. We rely upon partners such as Weber to show us new technology in slicing on how to achieve this,” he relates. “Also, it never ceases to amaze me the different experience you have with some of our products depending on their slice thickness. Generally, you want a product like salami sliced very thinly—but if you want a snack, you need to slice it thickly. We require our slicers to be able to handle such variations while minimizing operational issues such as waste, efficiency, consistency of slice and so forth.”
Roma’s Ramacieri believes the way a product looks is key—and that’s where slicing plays a role.
Freybe Parmesano and Pepper Salami
“In Quebec it represents 95% of sales, [but it was] almost non-existent in the rest of Canada until 2017,” Ramacieri says. “We introduced a cooked-only pepperoni to Loblaws and Wal-Mart nationally, and sales are surpassing our expectations.”
Sales of Roma’s sliced dry cured meats and sliced Italian cooked products are also increasing throughout the industry.
And what about formulation of meat products?
“We have lowered our salt content except on our dry cured meats. We are also analyzing lowering fat content—but our taste test panel is negative on this issue,” Ramacieri reports.
“It’s all about appearance,” he stresses. “A clean-cut product plays the major role in a sliced product. Shavings, debris, too thin/thick slices are not acceptable.”
The way a slicer performs trimming and end piece management functions is of utmost importance, Ramacieri notes.
“A slicer is worthless if it does not slice properly! This is why we just purchased our third Weber 305 this year. Weber does offer many features but bottom line it delivers on quality slicing and dependable operation,” he concludes.
Freybe Honey Ham
The Canadian Deli Meat Market: Key Takeaways
The Alberta Agriculture and Forestry Ministry’s report “Consumer Corner: Demand for Processed Meat” (found at agric.gov.ab.ca) highlights several trends impacting the country’s meat market today. Among the takeaways most relevant to the deli category:
• Driven by Canadian consumers’ demand for convenience and snack food trends, demand for processed and ready to eat meat products is expected to grow in the future.
• Value-added categories such as deli, bacon and sausages made out of poultry also are driving growth as Canadians perceive poultry products to be healthier than their non-poultry counterparts.
• Canada’s growing immigrant population will continue to spark interest in exciting new flavors and therefore, demand for new and unique flavors will continue to grow.