Grab-and-go is the big story in deli meats and cheese. Demand for packaged meats and cheeses soared during the pandemic as many shoppers sought to avoid the service counter. Sales of grab-and-go lunchmeat are up 34.5% for the 52 weeks ending July 11, 2021, and up a remarkable 135.4% compared with three years ago. Grab-and-go cheese sales are up 13.4% versus a year ago and 45.3% compared with three years ago.

In studying dollar sales and pounds as well as reach and frequency of purchases, IRI finds that grab-and-go is likely not going anywhere anytime soon.

“We saw those [grab-and-go] purchases sustain even when delis reopened their service cases because what we gained from deli grab and go is a different trip,” says Parker. “People might wait in line at the service deli on a big shopping trip, but when they’re running in and out of the store on a quick trip, they love the convenience of grab-and-go. In that case, it takes volume from the counter, but it’s an incremental trip and they’re an incremental shopper.”

IRI’s data for the year ending July 11, 2021, further reveals that there are shoppers who are now engaging with grab-and-go from the deli who were previously buying packaged meats and never visited the service counter in that year.

“All the data is pointing to grab-and-go as an incremental space, and therefore I think we’ll see it plateau in two to four years. I don’t think it will ever fully replace the service engagement, but I think it’s shown us it has a place to continue post-COVID in its current state and even grow a little bit.”