Sliced cured meats on the move
Now that’s Italian!
By Kathleen Furore
An uptick in charcuterie, a desire for convenience, a penchant for snacking and an overall embrace of Italian cuisine are elevating the demand for cured meats like prosciutto, salame, pepperoni and pancetta in retail delis and restaurants alike.
And that’s all keeping Italian meat manufacturers busy as they fine-tune traditional favorites and develop innovative new products to meet consumer demand.
“Charcuterie has really exploded in popularity over the last few years. Consumers are integrating cured meats into their everyday diets, treating themselves to high-protein snacks and opting for no-cook meals like charcuterie boards,” reports Deanna Depke, marketing manager at St. Louis-based Volpi Foods—a company that has been hand-crafting Italian cured meats since 1902 (and for generations before, in founder John Volpi’s home in Milan). “Consumers are looking for easy ways to integrate great-tasting cured meats into their meals, putting a large emphasis on pre-sliced and pre-chopped formats.”
American consumers’ love affair with Italian food started decades ago and shows no signs of waning.
Datassential’s June 2018 World Bites Menu Trends report calls Italian food “a perennial consumer favorite,” noting that regional Italian fare can be found on over 40 percent of restaurant menus. In fact, 64 percent of consumers are interested in regional Italian cuisine, which is considered one of the three mainstream global cuisines, Datassential research shows.
Cured meats are among the categories benefitting from continued interest in all things Italian.
According to Italianfood.net, a web site devoted to Italian food & beverage sector,“…pre-sliced cured meat is gaining shelf space in the United States as demand for snacks and quick meals grows.”
As Supermarket News reported in May 2018, “Meat snacks fit neatly into two growing consumer trends — salty, snackable meals and protein-packed products. According to market research firm Mintel, the nearly $12 billion salty snacks market is growing strong, driven by increasing snacking. And meat is one of the three largest segments.”
– Deanna Depke, Volpi Foods
"Consumers are looking for easy ways to integrate great-tasting cured meats into their meals, putting a large emphasis on pre-sliced and pre-chopped formats.”
In fact, the meat snack category (which includes jerky and sticks) has been on a growth trajectory for more than a year: It posted compound annual sales growth of more than 7 percent between March 2, 2013 and Feb. 25, 2017, Mintel data show.
So how can manufacturers not only maintain this momentum, but build on it, as well?
They can start by understanding current consumption trends, and then develop new products that meet consumers’ evolving taste and dining preferences—both steps Volpi has taken in its quest to improve on long-standing traditions while keeping pace with what today’s customers crave.
Roltini Singles (meat-wrapped cheese snacks that come in Mozzarella & Pepperoni, Mozzarella & Prosciutto and Mozzarella & Spicy Salame varieties) and single-serve Salame Stix (available in Original Salame, Chorizo Salame and Pepperoni Salame options) are two products Volpi has introduced in response to consumers’ demands.
“The rising demand for convenience has pushed forward our pre-sliced and snack formats,” says Depke. “Volpi has also developed pre-sliced variety packs that provide consumers with an easy solution to holiday entertaining,” she adds.
Slicing – No Shortcuts Allowed
One of Volpi’s operating tenets is simply stated—and it is essential to the company’s success: “There are no shortcuts, no cheating the process.”
That attitude extends to the slicing operation, where Weber equipment helps the company meet the challenges of slicing Italian cured meats and ensures that only the highest-quality, most beautifully packaged meats end up in customers’ hands. Meats like prosciutto, for example, are best sliced paper-thin for wrapping around cheese, serving on charcuterie boards, and layering atop crusty, wood-fired pizzas.
“Slicing our meats is a challenge and we need to be able to have them sliced very thin and packaged nicely for our customers,” Depke explains. “Weber understands this and has helped us ensure the slice thickness and presentation is what we are looking for.”
More Growth Ahead
While nothing lasts forever, it appears there is no end in sight where the popularity of Italian cured meats is concerned—as long as companies continue innovating in the category, that is.
“Consumers continue to adopt fermented and cured foods into their diets more and more so, we believe there is a lot of room for growth,” Volpi’s Depke concludes.
”The versatility of the products and manner they are presented at retail are well accepted by the novice customer and more traction in the market will take place over the upcoming years.”