To see sales increase in 2017,
I hereby resolve:

Create the most exciting cross-merchandising ever in the cheese and specialty food case!

The build up to the December holidays offers almost unlimited merchandising opportunities for the cheese and specialty food case. But now that the tree is on the curb and the ornaments put away, is winter merchandising over and done?

Not hardly. In fact, with the coldest months still to come and consumers less stressed, offering new ideas for January and February can drive sales upward. So put away the red and green gift baskets and make your own New Year’s Deli Resolutions:

Deli resolution #1: Keep up the cross-merchandising with new displays and signage to show how the parts go together

Cross merchandising works all year round, not just at Christmas. “Getting customers to leave the shop with more than just cheese can mean the difference between red ink and black,” says Janet Fletcher, of Specialty Food Craft. She suggests a pint of olives, some premium crackers and a slice of quince paste to go with Manchego for a Spanish theme.

And for Italian? Display fresh mozzarella next to fresh tomatoes, along with bottles of extra virgin olive oil and bunches of fresh basil. Italy’s insalata caprese, says Fletcher, is now as familiar to most Americans as tuna salad yet maintains enough cachet to serve to dinner guests. Use photos and demos to underscore the easy assembly instructions. “We see huge jumps in sales when we put cheese in produce,” says Debbie Harris, cheese merchandiser for Portland’s New Seasons Markets.

It creates repeat customers, too, says Mark Trumble, manager of the cheese and deli departments for Russo’s market in Massachusetts. “If people are exposed to a new combination, they bring it home and it gets into their routine. So it’s not just a one-time jump in sales.” Trumble sells a lot of Robiola in fig season by promoting them as a pairing, although he prefers a hands-on demo rather than passive sampling.

Deli resolution #2: Tap in to your customer’s New Year’s resolutions

So what are consumers resolving to do in the New Year? The overarching theme in Innova Market Insights’ “Top Ten Trends” list for 2017 is “clean eating.” Their top five trends are:

1. Organic growth, simpler products, fewer artificial additives

2. Gluten-, dairy- and whey-free food items

3. “The ‘flexitarian’ effect,” or the rise of part-time vegetarians who look for meat and protein alternatives

4. The processing of foods in natural, old-fashioned ways

5. More innovative ways to consume vegetables

That “flexitarian effect” was apparent in one of the nation’s top foodie publications: Bon Appétit magazine’s “Restaurant of the Year” title went to Al’s Place in San Francisco, where meat dishes are served as sides.

In announcing the award, Nation’s Restaurant News writer Bret Thorn says “Go veg or go home.”
“Vegetables are the hero this year,” Freeman tells readers. “Vegetable portions are rising and meat portions are shrinking — something many Millennials see as being gentler on the planet. People want less animal protein and veggies ramped up to their fullest creative potential,” Freeman said.”

Cheeses served at Al’s include feta, burrata and goats milk Gouda.

To quantify the rise in popularity of clean foods, Innova compared F&B launches in the first half of 2015 to the first half of 2013. Organic rose 9.3 percent, vegetarian products 10.5 percent and gluten-free items 11.8 percent.

Deli resolution #3: Be ready with new ideas for winter-time events. Can you fondue?

What comes after December? January and February, of course – and opportunities to introduce consumers to easy, convenient menu ideas that feature cross-merchandised deli items – such as a simple yet fun fondue.

• What’s new for Super Bowl Sunday? Make it fondue.

This communal pot of melted cheese has been enjoyed at fondue parties and get-togethers since the 1960s, and is now experiencing a resurgence in popularity.

The cheeses that give a fondue that traditional Swiss taste are Emmental and Gruyere. The website tried a number of different recipes and a mix of gruyere, cheddar and Emmentaler – along with a dribble of kirsch (a clear, colorless fruit brandy traditionally made from cherries) – was the favorite among readers.

Fondue makes the perfect menu item to cross-merchandise across all areas of the store. Encourage your customers to try seasonings like Sriracha, nutmeg and paprika in their fondue. Crusty loaves of bread, cut into cubes, as well as fruits and vegetables can be dipped in fondue. Dry spices, wine, bakery and produce all carry products that relate to fondue. Post recipe cards at the cheese case along with merchandise such as fondue pots and fork.

• A romantic meal for Valentine’s Day? Make it fondue again.

There’s no more romantic way to celebrate a holiday dedicated to romance than by cooking a romantic meal at home. Make sure your merchandise display includes a nice bottle of wine, bread and something chocolate from the bakery.

The wine for the fondue need not be expensive; suggest something in the $10-15 range that is dry or semi-dry. They’ll also need to add lemon juice to the fondue as it is melting to help break down the cheese, a necessity for Swiss, which tends to be stringy when melted. The fondue is melted to perfection when it forms a film across the hole in the center of the spoon (ever wonder why some spoons have holes in the center?).

Another season, another exciting opportunity for merchandising the cheese case!

Stay on top this winter by watching consumers and keeping up on your market research. Innova Market Insights recently offered a number of global trends for 2017, including:
• snacks, fresh-frozen, and foodie convenience
• clear labels
• the rise of private-label products
One last trend: marketing to millennials, a must-do. This large consumer group is socially engaged, accustomed to 24/7 internet access, and influenced by effective storytelling.

Happy New Year!
Here’s to good luck and great sales in 2017.