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39 Cold Meat Industry Statistics, Trends & Analysis

Consumers are demanding fresh products from grocery stores and supermarkets more than ever before. This shift in preferences has caused numerous retail outlets to add a deli department as one of their services. It is one of the most significant changes that the cold meat industry has experienced in recent years.

The importance of deli foods for this industry continues to grow. It covers multiple categories, including meat, cheese, prepared foods, and beverages. Some stores even include a fresh bakery section that works with this market segment.

The combination of packaged meat and self-service deli refrigerated products captured a total market share of 14.1% in all retail sales for 2016. As a single category, sushi had the highest level of growth, while the most significant subcategory involved prepared chicken. Stores earned an average of over $4,000 in sales per day with this meat product in 2015.

Essential Cold Meat Industry Statistics

#1. Deli department sales in the United States totaled more than $27 billion in 2016. It was responsible for 28% of the food retail sales that occurred in the country for the year. (Statista)

#2. 28% of the retail food sales that occur in a deli department involved prepared chicken products. That’s higher than the 19% share for packaged salads, the 14% share of pasta items, and the 2% share of deli entrées. (Statista)

#3. Over 171 million people in the United States say that they eat freshly cut or cold meat products that they obtain from their local deli at least once in the past year. (Statista)

#4. Pre-sliced cold meat products dominate the deli industry in the United States, showing a 7.5% growth in sales for 2018. Bulk meats and service meats from the deli counter had a 0.1% decline in total sales over the same period. (Statista)

#5. 83% of consumers who shop for deli products today say that they are snacking at least once daily. That figure was only 76% in 2014. That shows consumers are switching to cold meat products as a way to satisfy that hunger cravings before meals. (Nation’s Best Deli Meats)

#6. The total value of the lunchmeat segment in the United States is $9 billion per year. The demand for fresh foods has driven almost $1.5 billion in sales gains from 2017. (Nielsen)

#7. Packaged lunchmeat saw a 12.8% increase in volume for sales in 2018, with the corresponding 2.1% increase in total value when looking at organic products. (Nielsen)

#8. The grab-and-go category for deli meats in stores is responsible for 11% of the total meat dollar sales that the industry currently experiences in the United States. 88% of the dollars in this segment come from the five largest brands in the segment. (Nielsen)

#9. 52% of cold meat shoppers are classified by the industry as being a package-heavy user, which means that spend at least 70% of their money on cold meat products that are packaged. 29% are deli-heavy consumers that spend the same share at the counter. (Nielsen)

#10. The preference of consumers to purchase products that contain five ingredients or less has risen by 9% since 2017. The top trends in this segment for the cold meat industry include items that are free from artificial ingredients, organic, sustainable, and come from a clean label. (Winsight Grocery Business)

#11. Although 64% of Americans say that they are confident the lunches that their kids eat at school are healthy, retailers and manufacturers in the cold meat industry also have an opportunity to help parents encourage healthier eating habits. Deli turkey is following a different trend, seeing a 5% volume growth and 1.7% dollar increase at a time with other products are seeing declines behind the counter. (Nielsen)

#12. When considering deli meat as an industry segment, products that have an organic label have seen a 13.8% growth in dollars and an 18.5% increase in volume since 2016. (Nielsen)

#13. 96% of Americans say that they make poultry and meat products a regular part of their diet. (North American Meat Institute)

#14. Data released by the U.S. government shows that men are consumed 6.9 ounces of meat each day on average, while women consume about 4.4 ounces daily. (North American Meat Institute)

#15. The global market for the cold meat industry was $112.78 billion in 2016. This figure includes deli cold cuts, organic-label products, hypermarkets, and supermarkets. (Technavio)

#16. Ham cold cuts are the product that consumers in the United States eat most often, with 172.13 million Americans saying that they had this deli item at least once in the past year. (Statista)

#17. Over 16 million Americans report eating more than 8 pounds of cold meat products over the past 12 months. (Statista)

#18. Oscar Mayer is the most popular brand for cold meat items in the United States, with over 72.3 million Americans saying that they purchased at least one item from the food producer in the past 12 months. (Statista)

#19. The sales of cold-cut sandwiches purchased at deli counters in the United States grew by 22% in 2017. (Statista)

#20. Cold meat products also contribute to the quick-service restaurant industry in the form of sandwiches, which saw revenues reach $19.6 billion in 2018. (IBIS World)

#21. Sandwich providers in the quick-service restaurant industry experienced $1.3 billion in profit during 2019 while providing $4.8 billion in wages. There are currently about 25,000 firms that are active in this space. (IBIS World)

#22. Subway is the primary provider of cold-cut sandwiches in a QSR environment with a 62% share of the industry. Jimmy John’s comes in a distant second with a 6.8% market share. (IBIS World)

#23. Since 2013, the sub store and sandwich franchise industries that support the cold meat industry have grown at a 2.7% annual rate. (IBIS World)

#24. Natural deli meat dollar sales grew by 2.3% in 2017 compared to the previous year. (Nielsen)

#25. The most popular deli meat in the United States is turkey, with 34% of consumers stating this as their top preference. Ham came in second (but leads in total sales) with a 31% preference. Beef cold meats were third at 11.7%, followed by chicken (8%), salami (6%), and bologna (4%). (Statista)

#26. Although the United States has a preference for red meat products, it places fourth on the list of beef and veal consumption in the world at 24.5kg per person. Argentina leads the way with 41.6kg, followed by Uruguay (37.9kg), and then Brazil (27kg). (Statista)

#27. When looking at the $40 billion fresh food market, meat products represent 33.7% if the revenues earned by the industry. Only fresh fruits and vegetables (45.6%) have a larger share. (Roy Morgan Research)

#28. Consumers in the cold meat industry want to like the brand as much as they like the food choices they are given. 35% of shoppers say that they try to purchase brands that are socially responsible. That figure jumps to 47% for Millennials. (IDDBA)

#29. 30% of shoppers say that they make an effort to support a cold meat brand that works with charitable organizations. That figure jumps to 44% for Millennials. (IDDBA)

#30. 27% of U.S. consumers say that they purchase brands that stay authentic to their ethnic heritage, which is a figure that rises to 40% when speaking with Millennials and shoppers with children at home. (IDDBA)

#31. Roughly 39% of the items that you will find in the shopping cart of a Millennial represent organic products – not including items that are “natural” in the United States. That’s 14 percentage points higher than the median for all U.S. shoppers. (IDDBA)

#32 26% of Millennials say that they prefer to shop the perimeter of their local grocery store, and then shop select aisles to ensure that they stock up on items that they need. (IDDBA)

#33. 60% of shoppers who prefer to eat fresh cold meat products expect to be spending at least 25% of their grocery budget through online channels by 2026. (IDDBA)

#34. 36% of consumers say that the primary reason why they purchase more prepared items than they did a year ago is that the variety of items has improved. 35% say that there has been an improvement in the overall quality of the products as well. Having less time (32%), convenient locations (32%), and service improvements (31%) were other top reasons. (IDDBA)

#35. Only 12% of shoppers say that they think about visiting their local deli counter as an alternative to cooking dinner when they don’t feel like working in their kitchen. (Food Business News)

#36. Canadians have seen an increase in the consumption of chicken, rising from roughly 15kg per person in the 1980s to over 30kg in 2014. Pork, turkey, and beef all saw declines in consumption over the same period. (Alberta Agriculture and Forestry)

#37. The average price per kilogram continues to rise in the United States and Canada as demand levels increase. In 2010, the price of lunchmeat at this measurement level was $13, but it was $15 in 2015. Sausage and bacon products saw similar increases. (Alberta Agriculture and Forestry)

#38. Beef and pork wholesaling in the United States brings another $54 billion in revenues, with a portion of that going to the cold meat industry. This segment has seen an average annual decline of 0.9% since 2013, although employment growth has risen by 0.4%. (IBIS World)

#39. People who consume lunchmeat products, both children and adults, have higher intakes of protein, calcium, potassium, saturated fat, sodium, and calories when compared to non-consumers. (National Institutes of Health)

Cold Meat Industry Trends and Analysis

The cold meat industry is seeing a surge in value for American companies because consumers are finding a taste for meat and cheese as a snack instead of candies or other sweets. One of the reasons for this shift in preference may be a desire to have fresher foods in the house, but there is also an aspect of sharing that must be considered. A spike in the interest on Instagram of food-related posts that show various spreads and boards that feature deli products is a trend that isn’t slowing down any.

45% of Millennials also identify as being multicultural or ethnic in some way, which is driving up demands for the cold meat industry to produce products that feature unique, bold flavors. The most popular items found at the deli counter in 2017 were Buffalo, chorizo, Cajun, and teriyaki items.

Households are busier now than ever before while trying to make up for 30 years of income regression. Millennials are just now starting to make as much as previous generations did. They want fresh foods that can help them be healthy and feel satisfied while they are on-the-go. 62% of this generational demographic said that they purchased at least one prepared deli food item in the past week.

The cold meat industry will continue to see rapid growth as more people discover the value of eating healthier snacks and fresher foods for their meals. With innovative packaging options, portion controls, and fair pricing, this industry is forecast to continue rising by an average of 4% each year through 2029 if economic conditions remain similar.

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