Growth Through Online Sales: a Guide for Delis

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Before the pandemic, the deli and prepared food section of grocery stores was a steady-growth cash cow. 68.6% of grocery store owner respondents reported they had dedicated more space to selling fresh and prepared foods in 2018 than they had in the previous year. 

The same industry survey reports that 80% of grocery store respondents forecast incremental growth in their deli and prepared food section in 2018 – up from the previous year. Meal Deals, rotisserie, lunch, and deli sandwiches topped the concerns operations managers at grocery stores were focused on enhancing when queried during this period.

2020 proved challenging for grocery stores large and small alike, and specialty delis with limited staff might feel it’s tough to compete with the bigger players.  But that doesn’t mean they should miss out on the opportunity to grow their business while getting online at the same time.

Deli sales online are growing, proving to be more than just sandwich delivery – specialty deli items, hot food options, and deli catering are all options that business owners need to consider when planning their online deli delivery strategy.

The Unstoppable Deli Counter

The United Nations report on employees who work from home says 61% of employees who work remotely tend to work longer hours and are more productive, yet are also at higher risk for burnout. Also, remote workers are by and large healthier than their office-working counterparts in terms of the number of minutes of exercise they commit to each day, but more of them report feeling stressed out by balancing the duties of their jobs with the longer hours they commit to in lieu of a commute. That means remote workers want to live healthier lives but manage very busy schedules.

Research conducted by industry publication states that 59% of those surveyed during the pandemic agree that they have gained a new appreciation for the supermarket deli as a source of meals. The same research suggests that remote workers crave interaction but are still as of yet hesitant about eating in a public space at this stage in the pandemic. 

Remote workers tend to be healthier and busier than their office-working counterparts, and since they spend approximately $4,200 less on commuting to and from work (according to the U.N. survey listed above), deli owners should view this as an opportunity to sell healthy prepared meals for delivery or pick up to remote workers.

Pairing Premade with Fresh-Frozen

During the pandemic, consumers were drawn to categories such as frozen fresh meat and seafood, as well as ready-made pasta for their convenience. 

Although prepared meal sales struggled during the pandemic, the demand for deli meat and cheeses by sandwich-munching remote workers remained strong. Now, as things begin to return to normal, delis should focus on boosting their hot/prepared food for pickup and delivery options while finding an outlet to drive meat and cheese sales online

Consumers chose to buy both traditional deli meats (turkey topped the list) and more gourmet flavors last year as they opted to make sandwiches from home. In both cases, consumers tended to buy premium quality products from their deli counter instead of going with pre-packaged brands. 

Go ‘All in’ on High-End Stock, Bulk Orders, and Vegan Options

In 2020, consumers not only switched to cooking from home, but they chose to do so using premium ingredients, and with a focus on health and speed. 

As mentioned above, with workers no longer having to pay the costs associated with commuting to work, that extra money has been spread across household budgets. Premium products like Kober roast beef – which may have been a splurge purchase before the pandemic – are now within the range of consumers as they plan their next shopping trip.

Savvy grocers have capitalized on this trend by selling deli items on eCommerce sites tailor-made to accommodate all of their specialty items. 

One emergent trend that deli owners cannot ignore is the rise in consumers seeking deli-style sandwiches made from meat-free or meat-alternative products. The trend is growing nationwide across demographics as curious consumers line up to try deli staples in a plant-based format.


There are many ways to retain customers and grow your business as you shift your deli sales online. You need to take advantage of these trends in order to take your online presence to the next level in 2021.

Speak to us today, request a demo, and see how we can help you get your gourmet deli meats online! 

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