Cooked Meats & Deli: Meat with a view

Before you ask, salumi is not a misspelling of salami. The cured sausage is, in fact, part of a family of Italian cured meats called salumi, which are predominantly made from pork and are now aiming to take the UK by storm.

The Italian Trade Commission and the Institute for the Promotion of Italian Deli Meats are working together to launch the 'SalumiAmo' (I love salumi) campaign in the UK for the first time. This will initially consist of tasting sessions for buyers and consumers in a number of London restaurants and bars this month, but it could be of interest to butchers and farm shops nationwide if momentum for Italian deli meats builds among the public.

SalumiAmo UK follows on from the success of similar campaigns in Belgium, France where 10,000 people attended tastings and Germany, where the attendance was double that of France. SalumiAmo is all about promoting deli meats made in Italy and although you can get Italian-styled cured meats in this country, there is nothing like the real thing.

According to Institute president Dr Nicola Levoni, retailers are in a much better position if they buy from suppliers importing the products directly from the mother country. "Our salumi products in Italy have a long tradition. We know that, in many countries overseas, we find people who try to copy our production, which is important to development abroad. But on the other hand, it is very difficult to pass this tradition on and to have the same values that real Italian meat products can give when they are exported."

Broad choice

There are estimated to be 3,500 salumi producers in Italy, so there is a great deal of choice and a whopping 32 Italian deli meats have European protected status. Each different region of Italy also has its own individual meat product with characteristics unique to the area. Parma could be where you go for prosciutto, Bologna for mortadella and Calabria for pancetta. "It is very important to promote this produce and involve as many people in the promotions as possible, so they can really taste what Italian products are and how to present them," adds Dr Levoni. "Italian produce is also like no other, as not only is it nutritious and tastes great, but it also gives you 'emotional support' the people who make it have a passion."

Speaking at the launch of SalumiAmo, famed chef Giorgio Locatelli explains, "When it comes to Italian food, the attachment to the land is what it is all about the fact that we are so intrinsically attached to the land that surrounds us. At the moment in Italy, people won't cook anything that comes from more than a 50km (31-mile) radius of where they live. That is incredible."

British consumers have certainly become more adventurous in their food choices, reckons delicatessen product supplier DBC Foodservice. The firm's cooked meats category manager Ian Phillips says that foreign travel and an increasingly diverse population have broadened the national palate. There is a greater willingness by consumers to try dishes that they may have eaten while on holiday, he says, adding that this has not been to the detriment of traditional British favourites. "DBC doesn't believe the charcuterie market has peaked. Even in the current economic climate, consumers are willing to pay extra for quality deli meats, such as Parma ham, prosciutto and salami. And, as we know, there is room for significant growth in premium, farm-assured products that are locally produced in the UK.

"What we have noticed, in the difficult economic climate, is that consumers are increasingly looking to make savings, while the demands of work mean eating at the desk is more prevalent. A wide range of deli products, available at different price points, offers the convenience of making quick, nutritious lunches."

As the marketplace matures and is more willing to experiment, DBC says it continues to offer regional variations to its ranges, such as salamis from Denmark and Italy, Polish meats, and further Continental delicacies, as the market dictates.

Phillips believes that deli counters are the ideal way for butchers and farm shops to increase product offering and profitability. "Pre-packed options are frequently seen to offer better value and, with rising food bills, consumers will look to save money wherever possible. However, our experience suggests that consumers are willing to pay a premium for products that are local and additive- and preservative-free."

The best way to go, then, if you want to be patriotic, but would like to offer customers the chance to go Italian, Spanish or even Polish, is simply to get the balance right. Not all areas of the country are crying out for bresaola, but offering your customers the chance to sometimes taste these Continental meats just might create an unexpected demand.


British defence

"Our butcher and farm shop customers now offer premium farm-assured products that are locally produced and have recognised provenance, while offering the consumer a greater choice and availability," says DBC's Ian Phillips. His message is clear: today's consumer is looking for quality products, not just from abroad, but also from the UK's own shores so not everything is lost for Wiltshire ham or Norfolk turkey, for example.

"Deli meats offer the convenience of requiring no preparation, meeting the needs of time-pressed consumers. Providing the consumer with more cooked and deli meats enables our customers to offer more variety, encourage experimentation and cater to different tastes. The deli counter also allows consumers to try a product before they purchase, and then buy the amount they need, reducing waste. There is also the added attraction of trained staff to assist in their choice. The option of personal shopping in the modern marketplace should not be underestimated."

Phillips adds that although he sees no fixed sales patterns, there are obvious peaks at Christmas, Easter and the summer picnic period, so a deli meat really is a product for all seasons.

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