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Grazing Expectations: Spreading Holiday Cheer With DIY Charcuterie

Barons Market moves to lead in build-your-own charcuterie
Photograph: Shutterstock

This holiday season, the craze is to graze. Charcuterie boards brimming with cured meats, cheeses, fruits, nuts and more have become a focal point of festivities. But during the gathering gantlet from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, who has time to create an Instagram-worthy spread from scratch?

Shoppers at Barons Market will, thanks to the Poway, Calif.-based grocer’s multidepartment, bold DIY charcuterie promotion that offers all the ingredients to make a gorgeous grazing board, along with beverage pairings, in a destination seasonal display.

“We noticed a social media trend in grazing boards, so we decided to become the go-to stop for shoppers to make their own grazing or charcuterie boards,” says Rachel Shemirani, SVP of Barons Market. “We’re creating big-impact displays in all eight stores with signage that shows How to Build the Perfect Barons Board.”

As a springboard for the display, Barons Market is showcasing a different specialty cheese each week from Nov. 15 through Dec. 31. The featured cheese is cross-merchandised with charcuterie meats from the deli; antipasto from Barons’ olive bar; fresh and dried fruit and nuts from the produce department; unique crackers; freshly baked local baguettes from the bakery; and wine and craft beers.

Baron Market Antipasto Deli

Photograph courtesy of Barons Market

“The grazing board promotion is a great way to incorporate all of the different departments in one place. We’re a one-stop shop for charcuterie, and that’s really about shopper convenience,” she says. “You have to value the customers’ dollar, but you also have to value their time.”

At the heart of the display is what sounds like Santa’s sleigh of charcuterie: an ice-filled galvanized metal trough on wheels. Packaged sliced salami, prepackaged prosciutto and other Italian meats, as well as cheese and olives, are merchandised in the waist-level trough. Posters illustrating the build-your-own-board concept sit above the trough at eye level, while complementary items such as floor stacks of wine and beer, barrels of dried fruit and floor stacks of crackers round out the display.

Curating a Weekly Wow Factor 

“We want customers to be inspired by this living and moving display,” says Shemirani. “We’re constantly updating the items in the display to go with the week’s highlighted cheese.” If the cheese of the week is a blue, for example, it’s paired with a California cabernet or zinfandel. If the featured cheese is pub-style or cheddar, it’s paired with craft beers, stouts and porters. As Christmas and New Year’s approach, the featured cheese will become decidedly decadent, and the wines will be Champagne and sparkling.

Driving the evolution of this “living display” is a collaborative team of department managers and supervisors from deli, produce and beverage. The nimble team is constantly evaluating what’s working and selling, as well as what isn’t. Products are swapped out in response to the sales data.

But before Barons Market brings any product in-store, it has already been vetted by its Tasting Panel of 35 executives and store managers, which meet three times a month, sampling 80 to 120 items each time. The Tasting Panel chooses five to eight items to bring in and 10 current products to discontinue.

“Keeping selection limited is very important to us,” says Shemirani. “We’re right around 10,000 SKUS, and we’ve found that’s a sweet spot for making customers happy with an amazing selection but not overwhelming them.”

Try and Buy 

Because high-quality charcuterie and cheeses are more expensive, the best way to sell the customer is always sampling, Shemirani says. For the past three years, Barons Market has offered passive sampling of its cheese of the week during November and December. It’s using this same technique to promote the DIY grazing boards this year.

“Passive demos are so successful for us,” she says. “When we first brought in high-end cheeses, some said they wouldn’t sell. But because of sampling, they’ve done exceptionally well.”

Additionally, Barons Market hosts a demo station for a variety of products eight hours a day, seven days a week, which gives staff the opportunity to introduce the Tasting Panel’s newest finds with shoppers. The demo staff is also on deck during the grazing/charcuterie board promotion to answer questions and suggest ways to mix and match items in the display.

Grab-and-Go Snack Packs 

According to data from Chicago-based IRI, charcuterie-type packaged meat snacks/meals represent the strongest area for growth within charcuterie, with category sales up 10.1% for the 52 weeks ending October 2019 vs. one year ago.

At Barons Market, Shemirani sees convenience and the keto diet driving growth in charcuterie snack/meal packs. “The keto diet is such a big trend with our customers, and they’re looking for meat, cheese and nuts,” she says. “People also want grab-and-go, but we find that customers sometimes still want to do their own thing, so we’re always straddling that line.”

While Barons Market offers everyday and seasonal prepackaged charcuterie snacks and party platters, the idea behind its holiday grazing board campaign is to show shoppers that it can also be just as easy to pick up the individual items from a one-stop destination display.

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