DAYTON, Ohio -- Following this year's successful rollout of its "DLM Herb Roasted Turkey Breast," Dorothy Lane Market here has launched another private-label deli meat. Made from all-natural, hormone- and antibiotic-free top round, "DLM Roast Beef" is seasoned with kosher salt, black pepper and minced garlic, then roasted to medium rare in standard combi ovens at each of the chain's three locations.
"We've been wanting to do our own roast beef and turkey for years," said Donna Howell, foodservice director for the chain, adding that the growing consumer interest in organic and natural foods partly motivated her decision to choose an all-natural product.
Not yet offered on the chain's sandwich menu, the brand is sold primarily as a take-home item, retailing for almost $2 more per pound than the deli's conventional roast beef. Despite the steep premium, however, Howell said health concerns are driving more customers to request additive-free products, even in the deli.
"People paying more attention to what they eat," she said. "You'd be surprised how many people are concerned and asking questions about nitrites, nitrates and sodium. Customers seem to be asking more questions about that than about things like calorie content [of deli meats]."
Nitrates and nitrites are curing agents often used as part of a broader curing regimen to help enhance and hold meat's color. Yet during cooking, particularly at high temperatures, these salts can react with other chemicals and form nitrosamines, carcinogenic compounds that have drawn increasing attention from doctors and scientists since being linked to the formation of gastric and colon cancers in animals.
While Dorothy Lane's extensive deli and prepared-meals operations saw little impact -- positive or negative -- from the low-carb craze, Howell said she viewed the growth of organic and natural foods as a broader trend that would continue to expand throughout traditional grocery stores and their service departments.
Customers who already prefer organic produce, dairy and natural products offered in other parts of the store may be the most likely buyers of an all-natural deli meat, but Howell said she believes other customers are responding to the simple point-of-sale scheme used to market the roast beef.
"The people who shop at Dorothy Lane are already familiar with the Coleman natural beef brand," she said. "In terms of the benefits, the hormone- and antibiotic-free qualities are advertised on the signage, and our deli employees are all fully aware of the product and able to answer any questions."
The product has been selling well since its launch one month ago, according to Howell, who said she was expanding her search for other natural meats to add to the store's offering.
"I've been trying to find a nitrate- and nitrite-free ham, but apparently, ham always contains one or the other," she said. "It's been a learning process."