The 2023 installment of the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association show kicked off Sunday in Anaheim, California, drawing thousands of grocers, suppliers, distributors and others who strolled the seemingly endless aisles of neon-hued doughnuts and artistically arranged charcuterie boards looking for ways to boost their businesses.
Grocers said they were on the hunt for convenient options for both their shoppers and their workers, as well as mini-sized indulgent items and prepared food options that could steal some thunder from restaurants.
“The hybrid meal has taken over America’s kitchen,” Heather Prach, IDDBA’s VP of education, said in an opening address, noting that today’s consumers are looking for a mix of from-scratch cooking and fully prepared items.
Out on the show floor, Norman Mayne, CEO of three-unit, Ohio-based Dorothy Lane Market, said he had his eye on fresh, convenient items for his gourmet grocery stores.
“Our customers have said to us, ‘Dorothy Lane, don’t be our pantry anymore. Be our kitchen,’” Mayne said.
“Easy to execute” was the quest for a group of conference attendees from SpartanNash’s retail segment. They said they were looking for bakery and deli items that are either very low labor or are retail ready—with an added gold star for products the retailer could put its own label on.
Private-label sales have exploded in the last year as food prices have climbed. Katie Swenson, director of deli for Minneapolis-based Lunds & Byerlys, said she was searching for potential own brands for her banners in cheese and imported meats.
Consumers are increasingly looking for products that align with their health-and-wellness goals, with 65% of shoppers saying they’re following some sort of focused approach to eating, according to IDDBA data.
Amy Loss, category merchant for deli at Rochester, New York-based Wegmans, said her shoppers are seeking health-focused messaging and products in deli.
“Deli meats without nitrates,” Loss said was top of her scavenger hunt list for IDDBA 2023. “The industry is moving towards that.”
Loss also said she was scoping out the booths for merchandising ideas.
"Our customers have said to us, ‘Dorothy Lane, don’t be our pantry anymore. Be our kitchen.'" -- Norman Mayne, CEO of Dorothy Lane Markets
One trend that was hard to miss on the trade show floor was the abundance of grab-and-go bakery items geared toward small portions.
Small treats can be billed as a mental-health boost that shoppers deserve, Rick Stein, vice president at FMI – the Food Industry Association, said in an address on how to drive bakery sales.
“Now is a time where you can lean in on health and well-being,” Stein said. “I would even say indulgent is a health and well-being (attribute). You can talk about portion size. You can talk about mental health.”
Springfield, Illinois-based Mel-O-Cream Donuts has been in business since 1932. The company operates several doughnut shops, but also sells frozen dough and ready-to-ice doughnuts to retailers.
Sales of Mel-O-Cream’s mini doughnuts have exploded in the six years since they were introduced, and the company now offers 17 different flavors, Sales Director Jennifer Flores said.
“Variety is what everybody is looking for, especially post-COVID,” Flores said.
In recent years, the doughnut-maker has seen a 360% increase in sales of its grab-and-go cups of its doughnut holes.
The only complaint Flores said she hears from retailers about the doughnut cups is that they sell out so fast, grocers don’t have time to keep re-stocking them.
“The demand continues to grow for it,” she said.
Reser’s Fine Foods, the Beaverton, Oregon-based prepared foods manufacturer that got its start with deli containers of potato salad, is now looking to go head-to-head with restaurants by offering inventive international flavors and high-end side dishes.
Reser’s new products are focused on versatility—noodle salads that can be served hot or cold, with or without animal protein. And the manufacturer is branching out from more-familiar Asian and Hispanic flavor profiles to Middle Eastern dishes with items like soon-to-debut shawarma, gyro and kofta meal kits.
The company said it’s particularly excited about new refrigerated potato rosettes (“borrowing from fine dining”) that are set to launch next year.
The delicately piped potatoes can be served as a side dish with a grilled steak or as a topper for dishes like stuffed mushroom caps or roasted bell peppers, to create restaurant-quality meals at home, Reser’s representatives said.
The offerings are geared toward shoppers who became accustomed to preparing meals at home during the pandemic and are now limiting restaurant visits due to high prices, the company said.