Deli sales in supermarkets will probably not be drastically affected by a prominent consumer group's report tagging deli sandwiches as bad for your health, said retailers interviewed by SN.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest issued the report, which said the fat and sodium content of deli sandwiches rival Mexican dishes, theater popcorn and Big Macs for poor nutrition value.
"Add chips [extra fat] and a pickle [extra salt] to a typical tuna salad sandwich and you've got almost as much fat as a Kung Pao Chicken dinner," stated the report, which was issued last in mid-March.
Supermarket deli executives told SN that the report may have some slight short-term effect, but won't change most consumers' buying habits in the deli.
"The effect of this report will be short-lived," predicted Ron Hirt, director of appetizing at Inserra ShopRite, Mahwah, N.J. "Like all of these studies, the category may have a hit for a couple of weeks, then it will be back to normal."
"There is a group of people who pay a lot of attention to fads," said an East Coast deli director. "There is another group that pays attention to these reports because of dietary needs. After the CSPI report about fettuccine alfredo, we did not see a decline in sales of that meal item. I don't expect to see anything more than a small blip in sales."
"Consumers are desensitized to these type of reports," said a West Coast retailer. "People are taking a more common sense approach to their eating habits. They are not eliminating 'bad' foods, they are just eating them in moderation."
Most operators reported that made-to-order sandwiches, and the availability of low-fat, low-sodium meat and cheese selections, keep sandwiches viable as an option for their health-conscious customers.
"Turkey is a huge seller," said Hirt. "All the low-fat deli items continue to grow in popularity."
"The new breed of low-fat cheeses and slicing meats are palatable alternatives," said a New England retailer. "For those customers who want or need to watch their fat and sodium intake, we want to offer them a good-tasting, high-quality product."
Low-fat and sodium deli meats and cheeses are robust and growing categories, according to the East Coast deli director. Particular consumer attention is being given to those items in the 95% to 97% fat-free classification.
"Supermarket delis have seized the opportunity of capturing additional sales that would have been lost, if these low-fat and low-sodium products were not available in the case," the West Coast retailer said.