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If you haven’t heard people toss around terms like Paleo, Keto and Whole30 when they’re discussing their diets lately, you likely haven’t been listening.


Those three diet plans are among the most popular trends that today’s health-conscious consumers are embracing as they look for the healthiest way to dine.


But the latest word on what’s healthy for dieters might not appear healthy for deli meat companies—especially because consumers are conflicted about how to incorporate products like lunch meats and bacon into their better-for-you meal plans.

By Kathleen Furore

Are cold cuts even allowed? What about bacon? And do plant-based offerings fit into popular diet plans?

Luckily for meat companies, the answer to all of those questions is “Yes” (albeit a qualified one). That means manufacturers who let shoppers know their deli products mesh with most healthy eating plans can benefit.

Touting Diet-Approved Products

There’s no doubt that today’s shoppers are concerned about the ingredients in the products they purchase —no matter the diet they’re currently following.


An impressive 94% of respondents in the Food Revolution Study from Chicago-based Label Insight said it is important to them that the brands and manufacturers they purchase products from are transparent about what is in their food and how it is made. That desire for transparency goes hand-in-hand with the desire to eat the kind of better-for-you foods allowed on most of today’s popular diets. And it is something companies like Jones Dairy Farm and Applegate have tapped into.


In response to data showing that health-conscious consumers are basing purchasing decisions on ingredient and nutritional labels, Jones Dairy Farm decided it needed something new to appeal to those shoppers—and a new line of products was born.

Not only do the new Antibiotic Free, No Sugar All Natural Breakfast Sausage and Uncured Smoked Meats remain true to original Jones family recipes; they also earned the certification of the Paleo Foundation.

A similar story is playing out at Applegate, where a new partnership with Whole30 is extending the company’s mission—to bring consumers food products with clean label ingredients.

This fact is touted on new packaging that includes the wording “No Antibiotics, Ever,” along with the Certified Paleo and Certified Gluten Free logos. The company also received the Certified Paleo designation for four existing breakfast sausage products made from the original Jones family recipe. And Jones is currently working on obtaining the Paleo Certification for its Antibiotic Free, No Sugar, All Natural, Cherrywood Smoked Uncured Canadian Bacon Slices.

“Since my great, great grandfather founded the company in 1889, Jones Dairy Farm has produced high quality products made from simple ingredients that meet the preferences, tastes and dietary needs of our customers,” Philip Jones, sixth generation President of Jones Dairy Farm, explained. “These new products are not about diet or weight loss, but elevating the overall sausage and smoked meats product category. We saw the need to not only upgrade ingredients, but also provide superior nutritionals so consumers look better and feel healthier.”

"At Applegate, we are motivated to continuously offer delicious food choices that fit in with a diverse range of eating habits and lifestyles. We are delighted to be working alongside Whole30 to deliver Whole30 compliant options to consumers," Nicole Glenn, Applegate vice president of marketing, explained in an announcement about the Applegate-Whole30 partnership.

All Applegate Whole30-approved products contain no added sugar, no grains, no dairy, no legumes, no alcohol (with the exception of wine vinegars) and high-quality protein with meat sourced from humanely raised animals that were never administered antibiotics or growth promotants. Products in Applegate’s Whole30-approved lineup include Applegate Naturals Prosciutto, Applegate Naturals Roast Beef, Applegate Organics Roast Beef, Natural No Sugar Bacon, plus Organic Turkey Burgers, Natural Grilled Chicken Breast Strips, Organic Dinner Sausages and Natural Beef Hot Dogs.

Not all dieters are going to embrace lunch meat, no matter how healthy the ingredients may be. In fact, almost one-third of consumers are “flexitarians,” which means they’re limiting meat substantially, or they’re vegetarians or vegans, “…leading to a rise in plant-based eating and alternatives to animal proteins,” Datassential’s March 2018 Foodbytes report “Inspirations from the Garden” reveals.


That has given rise to an increase in offerings of what Datassential calls “next-level plant-based ‘meats’” at retail and on restaurant menus. Beyond Meat’s meatless Beyond Burger served at TGI Fridays, and plant-based deli slices from companies such as Tofurky and Lightlife that are sold in major grocery stores are a few examples.


As in the case of deli meat, what’s in the product and on the label are important for plant protein deli slices, too.


“Regardless of the format, consumers also have high expectations when it comes to plant-based alternatives,” Datassential reports. “Providing call-outs of functional benefits along with what they mean in relation to health can help increase consumers’ awareness and interest in

plant-based eating.”

Plant-Based Appeal

Datassential, March 2018 Foodbytes report “Inspirations from the Garden.”

Tofurky Pita

A Snapshot of Trending Diet Plans

Dieting, of course, is nothing new. And it’s challenging to keep up with the ever-evolving diet landscape.


One thing to think about: It might not be necessary to reformulate your product line to be in lock-step with some of the popular diet trends. For example, many companies’ products were gluten-free before gluten-free became ‘a thing’—so companies just capitalized on what they already had by becoming GF certified. Similar opportunities might exist within the newer diet categories.


The following snapshop of some popular diet plans can help you keep up-to-date on what’s trending today. If, after researching ingredient restrictions, you discover your deli meats might comply with a diet’s demands, why not reach out to those organizations to find out what steps to take to start the process?


As information from the Paleo Foundation notes, “At its most basic level, the logo itself serves to help consumers easily and readily identify products that fit into their lifestyle, and help companies formally identify themselves as being aligned with the Paleo, Keto, or Grain-Free Food Tribes.

The Paleo Diet.

This diet hails back to our caveman days and includes grass-fed meats, fish/seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds and healthy oils. To be Paleo-approved, meats must not contain gluten, processed sugar, artificial flavors, and other additives.

Want to get started on the road to certification?

You can begin the process by working with the Paleo Foundation, the world’s first, largest, and most established third-party Paleo, Keto, and Grain-Free Certification Organization.  Visit them at

The Ketogenic (Keto) Diet.

A diet very low in carbohydrates is needed to attain ketosis—so dieters following this plan eat mostly fat, protein, and green vegetables. It is an eating plan that consists of 80 percent fat and little to no carbohydrates. Staples of the keto diet are fish, meat, eggs, dairy, oils, and green vegetables. Pasta, rice and other grains, potatoes, and fruits are strictly prohibited.

The Whole30 Diet.

The diet calls for moderate portions of meat, seafood, and eggs; lots of vegetables; some fruit; plenty of natural fats; and herbs, spices, and seasonings. In general, the diet calls for “eating foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re whole and unprocessed.” Banned ingredients include carrageenan, MSG, and sulfites. Deli meats that comply will include only meat (pork, beef, chicken, etc); nitrates; salt; seasoning and spices.

Modern Deli Mobile asked the team at Tofurky about the company’s approach to diet plans. Does Tofurky concern itself with specific diets consumers are following? Erin Ransom, Tofurky’s director of marketing, shares her thoughts below.

Modern Deli Mobile: There are several diet plans making news these days. Some rely very little on meat, and many shy away from processed foods. Has the Tofurky team gotten into the "diet business" at all? Have you ever explored the ins and outs of any of these diets to determine how Tofurky products can become part of a specific diet plan?


Erin Ransom: First and foremost we create our products to be tasty and filling, so that they’re a delicious part of anyone’s weeknight meal. A secondary benefit of plant-based products is that they nourish a lifestyle that is constructed of personal ethics, meaning that if someone is looking to reduce animal protein for the sake of personal health, the environment or animal welfare we fit into their lives seamlessly. Diet trends come and go and they’re often structured toward what one must do “without.” We don’t see Tofurky as a solution to sporadic diet adoption, but rather a staple in a delicious and intentional way of consumption.

MDM: Have any Tofurky products ever been certified by any organizations that are behind specific diet plans? For example, the Paleo foundation has certified some of Jones Dairy Farm's meat products. Is there anything like that for the plant-based category?


ER: We have many certifications varying across our range of nearly 40 products: Kosher, Organic, Non-GMO, Gluten-Free. And internationally-speaking we’re certified by the Vegan Society. These certifications represent a small fraction of our brand intention. If a certification invites someone to try a Tofurky product, that’s great. Our larger goal resides in an adoption of wide-spread plant-based dining trends, to improve the overall health of our planet’s ecosystem.


MDM: Has the company ever worked with retailers or retail dietitians to promote your products as being good for  particular diet plan?


ER: We have engaged with retail dietitians to promote our products as options for those looking to improve their personal health. Dietitians often like our products for these attributes: 0% cholesterol, good source of protein and fiber, low saturated fat.                                   

Tofurky Weighs in on Dieting

A Modern Deli Mobile Extra with Erin Ransom, Tofurky’s director of marketing

MDM:  Is there anything about the way Tofurky products are produced and sliced that make them ideal components of some of these popular diet plans?


ER: We really strive to make our products accessible to everyone. This means that they’re not fancy or complicated. They’re not expensive or exclusive. They’re tasty complements to most weeknight meals or backyard barbecues. Their flavor, texture and format allow them to be included without exception into most any recipe.

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