Deli Brands of America
Leading the way with a
By Kathleen Furore
Eighty-five years is a long time to be in business – especially in an industry that has witnessed monumental changes along the way. But Baltimore, Maryland-based Deli Brands of America has not only survived, but thrived for more than eight decades – never forgetting the slogan on which the company was founded in 1932.
Modern Deli Mobile reached out to Jeffrey Saval, president of Deli Brands of America, to find out how the company continues to live up to its “Deli With a Difference” philosophy while adapting to the challenges today’s evolving retail and foodservice landscape brings.
President of Deli Brands of America
Modern Deli Mobile: Your company's slogan is "Deli With a Difference." What does that mean to you and your customers? What is the difference you deliver?
Jeffrey Saval: “Deli with a Difference” relates to our philosophy of learning what our customers’ needs are and providing the quality product to meet their expectations at every price point. Many feel our type of deli offerings are a commodity and every deli manufacturer is the same. So we begin with the basic premise that every deli customer should expect that their product is going to be high quality and produced in a state-of-the-art facility with food safety as the number one priority.
Once we raise the food safety bar, we give customers the comfort of knowing we can satisfy their proprietary formulations and private brand specifications – we let them know we have the research and development (R&D) capabilities and the flexibility to produce products that meet their specific requirements. Because our customer base is broad and diversified, we have the experience of working with foodservice distributers, retail markets, chain restaurants and institutional customers alike. We also co-pack and provide industrial services for those requiring curing, cooking and slicing.
MDM: Deli Brands of America was established in 1932...so the company certainly has seen a lot of changes in the marketplace! What are a few of the major shifts in the way business is done that have impacted you the most?
Saval: Over the years, we have expanded our product line in ways that allow us to produce high-quality product at every price point. We recognize customers have needs for products that meet their market requirements. We follow market trends and provide products to support those trends. One example is the development of our robust sliced-deli program. We have invested in the newest technology to provide high-quality, whole muscle-sliced deli meat.
Another example is the development of a line of all-natural roast beef, corned beef and pastrami – products that meet the needs of customers who want high-quality, clean-labeled products.
Equipment technology is constantly improving. We continually invest in equipment and facilities to increase our throughput efficiencies in injection, tumbling, cooking and chilling, slicing and packaging. Over the years we have maintained a philosophy of investing in equipment that not only provides a return on investment but also a value to our customers in superior product.
Food safety has become more than a necessary evil – it is the price of admission! We have been BRC-certified for five years. The BRC (British Retail Consortium) program was quite intimidating to implement when we took on the challenge of preparing our associates as well as our facility. Fortunately, our entire team rose to the occasion, and we are proud of the fact that, as a team, we earned an A-rating year after year. We are a better company that is continuously improving.
MDM: Those are pretty monumental changes…has anything stayed pretty much the same over the past eight decades?
Saval: What has remained the same is that we continue to operate a family business, making pretty much the same core products with recipes that have been in place for 85 years. As the industry continues to consolidate and the competition becomes more powerful, opportunities for independent processors have increased. We believe we are the “flexible” alternative to an industry filled with processors requiring large minimum orders with little product differentiation.
MDM: Tell me a little bit about the products and services Deli Brands of America offers. Are there any trends you've identified that are impacting the retail and foodservice markets?
Saval: Roast beef, corned beef (cooked and raw) and pastrami are our core items. We process these items utilizing briskets, navels, inside rounds, bottom rounds and eye rounds covering the spectrum of added ingredients. We recently introduced a line of all-natural roast beef, corned beef and pastrami under the brand Honest to Goodness Natural Deli. It is clean label, ABF (AntiBiotic Free) beef. We feel this product line represents a long-term trend, not just a fad, and that it will grow into a leading seller.
We also slice whole-muscle roast beef, corned beef and pastrami, as well as turkey and ham. And we are in the midst of building a third facility specifically designed for slicing. We expect to be in operation in December of 2017. We have purchased the most advanced slicing equipment available for whole muscle slicing with several packaging options. Slicing has been a growth area for Deli Brands the last few years. We feel this trend will continue and become a significant portion of our overall growth.
Our line of specialty items includes corned beef hash, pastrami hash, prime rib, cooked short ribs, pot roast, pork roasts, meat loaf. We perform steak cutting for our own distribution company located in Maryland, and also offer just-in-time portioned beef, pork, veal and lamb.
MDM: What are the biggest challenges you face in supplying deli products today? Any challenges specifically related to slicing?
Saval: Changes in the consumers’ food choices are the biggest hurdles. Millennials' lifestyles are challenging processed meat companies to develop products that are healthier, with clean labels.
The traditional New York-style deli is struggling to stay alive. We have seen a decline in this segment of foodservice. We need to find alternative opportunities to sell our products as well as to diversify our product offerings.
As we’ve grown in slicing whole-muscle deli meats, we have been challenged to improve efficiency and yield as well as capacity. We spent over two years investigating slicer options to provide the most efficient, safe and hygienic solution. We have partnered with Textor/Weber to provide the technology to reach our goals. We will gain capacity with less labor, improve yield with scanning technology, and handle product more effectively to assure safe and wholesome processes.
Shelf life is also a challenge, and we want to provide as little shrink for our customers as possible. We offer High Pressure Pasteurization as an option to reduce bacteria growth and to extend shelf life.
MDM: How has Weber helped you meet those challenges?
Saval: I have used a Weber 402 for the last eight years. It has been a work horse and has provided the opportunity to grow. We now work two, 10-hour shifts, five days a week with very little down time and good support from the service department.
As I saw our business with slicing grow, I started my search for our next slicer in 2013 at IFFA by interviewing as many companies that sold slicers as I could find. At IFFA in 2016, I narrowed the options to three companies.
Ultimately I chose Textor as our next slicer with scanning technology. Our sales representative, Russ Stroner, provided strong support with a solid understanding of my business and my needs to move to the next level of slicing. Whole-muscle slicing, especially briskets, is very challenging. We did numerous tests at Weber’s test facility to determine the best fit for our operation. Weber will provide the support and partnership we need to assure our slice facility will provide the highest quality sliced products available to our industry.