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2023 SN Category Guide
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Why it matters to be ‘well prepared’ in deli

Deli-prepared foods continue to lead the category

Deli-prepared foods have been one of the few bright spots in terms of units sold for the deli category over the last year, indicating that shoppers still gravitate towards convenience and ease in grocery items. 

Deli-prepared foods were up 0.3% in units sold year-over-year, according to data from NIQ, just a tad under deli cheese (0.8% in pounds sold), which has been leading the category over the past 52 weeks. Overall, the deli department was down 1.1% year-over-year in unit volume, with deli lunchmeat dropping 7.2%. Deli dips and spreads were down 1.9%.

According to the May marketplace report from Circana and the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA), pizza has been the heavyweight, up 8.9% year-over-year in unit volume. Entrees (+1.5%) and soups and chili (+0.8%) were the only other categories showing a rise in unit sales. 

Deli-prepared breakfasts and desserts, on the other hand, registered the biggest drop at 15.8% and 15.6% in unit sales, respectively, and combo meals were down 7.8%.

“The piece that has really helped especially with deli is this kind of just-in-time mentality,” said Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive VP and practice leader at Circana. 

“Deli specifically has had great influx because of those specialty packs,” added Lyons Wyatt, referring to shopper’s desire to buy items they can finish in a day or a week. “The entry price point is affordable, and deli has done really well with the packaging.”


Lyons Wyatt said grocers are capitalizing by making deli a destination point in the store. Bundling also has been successful.

“[Grocers] are really getting creative,” Lyons Wyatt said. “Deli-prepared food is more than just rotisserie chicken.”

One of the top performers out of all grocery categories over the last year has been the lunch meat party platter, which saw a 38.1% increase in units sold over the 52-week stretch, according to NIQ.

Those gains came to a halt though in May, with just about every deli category continuing to be down in terms of units and pounds sold.

Deli entertaining (including those lunch meat party platters) performed the best but was still down 0.7% compared to May 2022, according to Circana’s marketplace report. Deli meat showed the biggest drop (-5.4% in pounds sold) while deli cheese (-2.5% in pounds sold) and deli-prepared meals (-1.1% in units sold) also struggled.

But there are some strong spots. Deli cheese grab-and-go was up 2.9% in pound sales in May 2023 vs. May 2022, and deli-prepared pizza continued to surge (+11.1% in units sold). 

Deli entertaining spreads showed a 26.7% increase in pounds sold compared to a year ago.

“Experience, variety, and convenience in combination with affordability are the big drivers for deli-prepared foods,” said Jonna Parker, principal, Fresh Foods Team Lead at Circana.

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