LOOKING BACK, MOVING FORWARD
By Kathleen Furore
“The Best of Modern Deli”
In October 2006, Weber, Inc. debuted Modern Deli, a magazine created for companies involved in meat and cheese processing and the food service clients they serve.
In that inaugural issue, Guenther Weber, founder and then-CEO of Weber Maschinenbau in Germany, called Modern Deli “an international publication uniquely designed to help processors, retailers and food service operators maximize their value-added operations.”
Over more than a decade, the publication presented stories that went to the heart of the industry’s opportunities and challenges as technology and consumers’ tastes evolved at what seemed like lightning speed.
Publishing evolved with the times, too. Modern Deli, originally a glossy, four-color magazine, gave way to a digital-only format dubbed Modern Deli Mobile in September 2014. But only the format changed; the stories continued providing expert insight and up-to-date information about processing technology, culinary trends and profiles of key industry players.
As the industry embarks on an exciting new decade, Weber presents “The Best of Modern Deli,” a look back at stories that have offered inspiration, as well as ideas that could be replicated and also improved upon by creative purveyors of deli meats and cheeses.
Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting and valuable information presented over the past 14 years. We hope, at the end of this retrospective, that you will click the link and drop us a note listing some of your favorite stories and express your ideas of the value you see in Modern Deli Mobile, moving forward. As always, thanks for your readership.
Sandwiches. They’re practically synonymous with the deli! And Modern Deli followed trends in the category starting with the very first issue. In the inaugural 2006 Volume I, Modern Deli featured “The Great Sandwich Story: How Subway Keeps Reinventing its Primary Products” on the cover.
We later revisited sandwiches in 2009 with “QSR Sandwiches: Hot Category, Cool Economy”—a story that explained how and why the Top 10 sandwich chains were thriving in spite of (or possibly because of) the sputtering economy.
The sandwich channel also took top billing in 2012 in “Chasing the Leaders: Up-and-Coming Sandwich Chains Expand,” providing insights into the characteristics that were making that era’s top chains successful.
More recently, in 2017, Modern Deli Mobile’s “The State of the Sandwich” presented an exclusive look at how high-quality, preservative-free deli meats were fast-becoming customers’ favored sandwich fillings.
From The State of the Sandwich Story: 58 percent of adults pack a sandwich for lunch at least once a week, and 68 percent pack a sandwich for their kids. In addition, 69 percent of restaurants across the country offer sandwiches on their menus, and an impressive 71 percent of foodservice operators say they would pay more for premium deli meats.
—Datassential’s 2017 Sandwich Trends Keynote Report
Alternative Markets. Retail, foodservice and c-store delis might dominate the deli category‚ but they aren’t the only players in the game. Modern Deli turned a spotlight on how meat and cheese processors are tapping non-traditional channels, too. In 2010, Modern Deli schooled readers about the campus culinary landscape in “College Foodservice: Campus Culinary Options Abound.”
The following year, the focus turned to our men and women in uniform in “Feeding Our Troops”—an in-depth look at how food companies were creating new products and services that complied with military standards while appealing to the tastes of Gen Y enlistees.
From Feeding Our Troops story: “On average, we will do in the range of 100,000 sandwiches a month with the U.S. military. These sandwiches are served in a variety of dining facilities overseas in support of America’s ongoing operations abroad.”
—Justin Wolf, RCFS
The Best of Bacon. It’s no secret there’s been an apparently unending, decade-long explosion of bacon in the marketplace—and Modern Deli has keenly followed and reported on bacon trends. In 2008, “Selling the Sizzle” explained how bacon in the United Kingdom differs from its U.S. counterpart and offered predictions on the coming market expansion.
In 2011, “Takin’ Bacon to the Next Level” documented how processors turn traditions, family recipes and proprietary smoking processes into unique flavors that enhance the reputation of their brands.
In 2014, in our final print issue, “Bring on the Bacon” served up data showing how customers’ cravings were fueling a “bacon mania” that included everything from chocolate-covered bacon strips and bacon soda to Camp Bacon, a four-day event from Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan, that celebrated “all things bacon.”
From Takin’ Bacon to the Next Level story: “We use natural hickory, apple and maple woods, fired to higher temperatures than others might use This process allows us to capture the fragrance and flavor of the hardwood smoke, but reduce the preparation time for the chef or cook. Combined with our traditionally leaner meats and low pump rates, this faster, higher-temperature preparation also reduces shrinkage.”
—Kelly Ediger, Drake Meats
Artisanal Meats & Cheese. Specialty meats and cheeses are essential to every deli and food service provider—and Modern Deli reported on those categories in myriad ways. In 2013, for instance, a beauty shot of Salumi Artisan Cured Meats graced our Modern Deli cover that featured the story “Artisanal Meats.” This mouth-watering article described how salumerias were crafting quality salami, prosciutto, pancetta and other cured meats, specifically targeting consumers who were then equating ‘artisanal’ with ‘high-quality’ in the deli.
In 2019’s “The Whey to Profit,” Modern Deli Mobile looked at the growth of higher priced natural, specialty and ethnic cheeses—aged and artisanal products with robust flavor profiles and textures.
Dietary Concerns. You can’t succeed in the deli without knowing the diets and fads that contemporary consumers are embracing—so Modern Deli made sure readers understood how dietary trends were impacting sales.
In 2012, “Special Menus: Delis go Gluten- and Lactose-free” reported on why and how savvy delis were offering more items that appealed to customers with special dietary needs. In 2018, “Diet Plans and the Deli” explored how delis could incorporate then-popular Paleo, Keto and Whole30 diets into their menus.
And, just recently, in 2019, “Growing the Market for Plant-based Meat Substitutes” shone a spotlight on companies like Beyond Meat and Tofurky and described the role slicing plays in the quality of meatless proteins.
Ethnic Cuisines. Global cuisines have been heating up the retail and food service dining scenes for more than a decade—and Modern Deli covered many of the hot ethnic trends.
In 2008, “That’s Italian!” presented interesting menu ideas featuring Italian food products. In 2009, the “Foods of Spain” described authentic Spanish hams and cheeses that delis could inventory and use to entice customers into their delis.
And in 2013, “Latin Unleashed” offered an updated look at how consumers’ tastes had expanded beyond Mexican fare to include cuisine from Cuba, Brazil, Argentina and Peru, plus ideas for incorporating those cuisines in sandwiches and prepared foods.
Consumption Trends. In 2018, “Meal Kits on the Move” explored and categorized the consumers who are buying meal kits and examined what they expect from the experience—all in an effort to help readers understand how they could become successful players in the meal kit marketplace.
And, in our final issue of 2019, “Up for Grabs” tackled the topic of why Grab ‘N Go presents processors an opportunity to capture a profitable slice of sales in supermarket delis.
From Latin Unleashed story: “Just as diners who love Asian fare have explored beyond Chinese to develop a taste for Thai and Vietnamese, those who favor Mexican are now looking south—all the way to Brazil, Argentina and Peru. We’ll see mainstreaming of South American-style grilled meats, chimichurri sauce, ceviche, and South American-Asian fusion seafood dishes.”
—Technomic’s 2013 Trend Report
From Growing the Market for Plant-based Meat Substitutes: 78 percent of households prepare meat alternatives for dinner at least once a week – a fact that helped Refrigerated Meat Alternatives (including deli favorites such as meatless deli slices and meatless bacon) reach $595.6 million in total U.S. retail sales in 2016.
—Sloan Trends Inc. and the Soyfoods Council
From Meal Kits on the Move story: “Any effort grocery retailers make towards providing meal kit-esque offerings is going to be a win for both retailers and their consumers. Consumers are searching for convenience but aren't entirely ready to let go of the process of putting a meal together. Meal kits make dinner easy for busy parents, and they can also be ‘experimental’ enough to entice the Millennial consumer who is always wanting to try something new and different.”
—Erin Ronzheimer, director of marketing, West Liberty Foods
Slicing and Packaging. In 2008, we were among the first to report about how robotic technology was primed to create the Deli of the Future—today! “The Robot Revolution” explained potential applications for robotics in the food and beverage industry and described how food companies were using robots to pick, slice, pack and palletize products.
The environment was on our minds in 2009, when we researched sustainability. “Sustainable Packaging” delved into the world of green manufacturing and discussed how new technologies were delivering environmentally safe packaging that offered a competitive plus.
From The Robot Revolution story: “The potential for robotics in the food and beverage industry is immense, for both traditional applications such as picking, packing and palletizing, as well as for cutting-edge applications such as meat cutting and beverage dispensing.”
—Bennett Brumson, Robotic Industry Association’s Robotics Online
Food Safety. Ultimately, long-term success in the deli demands strict assurance that the food you sell is always safe for consumption. That’s why Modern Deli often focused on food safety issues in stories such as 2007’s “HPP Goes Mainstream”—a look at how meat processors were scrambling to install high-pressure pasteurization systems that would kill pathogens and improve food safety.
Other offerings included “Know your SSOPs,” a 2011 piece that detailed important sanitation standards; 2013’s “Combatting Listeria in the Deli”; and most recently, “Blockchain: Building a Bridge to Improved Food Safety,” a 2019 report that took an in-depth look at the latest developments in this revolutionary new method of tracking products and strengthening consumer confidence in the global food system.
From Blockchain story: “Traceability to enhance food safety is one of the key reasons why deli meat processors should be interested in learning more about blockchain. Blockchain offers the opportunity to access supply chain and production data very quickly to identify the sources of potential contamination at any link in distribution. The ability to catch food safety issues helps inform preventive interventions and troubleshooting in near real time, which translates to reducing the risk of costly recalls, damage to the brand reputation and foodborne illness outbreaks.”
— Julie Larson Bricher, science and technical editor, Meatingplace magazine
Social Media. The world is online and that trend has expanded remarkably during Modern Deli's 14-year run. Today, more than ever, anyone in the deli industry has to be social media-savvy to succeed.
In 2012, “The Digital Deli” explained how companies could tap social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Yelp, along with QR codes and smartphone apps, to connect with customers.
And, in 2018, Modern Deli Mobile offered an updated look at the social media scene in “Social Media Update,” which offered a glimpse at how brands like Boar’s Head utilize social media to build brand awareness.
From Social Media Update story (labeled "Food’s Digital Landscape" on MDM website): Dietz & Watson teamed with Philadelphia area ShopRite and Fresh Grocer supermarkets to collect money in support of Susan G. Komen’s fight against breast cancer. Each participating store displayed a giant Dietz & Watson pink piggy bank in its deli department to collect spare change. The campaign was touted on ShopRite’s social media platforms.
There’s a lot to learn from leaders in the industry…and Modern Deli writers interviewed some of the best in the meat and cheese processing arena for insight! They included executives from companies including Biery Cheese and Nueske’s, Turtle Island/Tufurky, Deli Brands of America, Volpi, Bimmy's, West Liberty Foods and more. Throughout this story we have highlighted a few of their insightful quotations that we hope you have enjoyed and learned from, too.
Thanks for your decade+ support of and interest in Modern Deli. We appreciate your readership.
President and founder of Bimmy's
Deli Brands of America
West Liberty Foods
Your Opinion Matters!
Now, we want to learn how you use, learn from and enjoy Modern Deli Mobile. As you can imagine, the production of Modern Deli Mobile represents a significant investment of time and resources for Weber, Inc, publishers of this free content for more than a decade.
Please provide us your feedback by sharing your thoughts below.