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It’s getting to that time of year where our customers are starting to think about their antipasti product mix and developing recipes and ingredients according to emerging trends in the market. With several antipasti development sessions booked in at Leathams HQ over the coming months, I took the opportunity during a recent visit to New York to look around the big style delicatessens to see what was going on across the pond. With the recent American food invasion influencing how we eat hot dogs, burgers, BBQ and condiments in the UK; it would be foolish to think that antipasti is unscathed by this trend. However, what surprised me were the subtle differences I found between the US and UK style antipasti products, some for the better and some not so much.

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My Deli tour took me around Katz, Reading Terminal Market, Zabars and Grand Central Market. Of course, as expected walking into a New York deli, everything is done on a grander scale, with slabs full of meats, cheese, veg, bread and other colourful ingredients piled up high around you, you get the feeling you’re walking slap bang into the centre of an antipasti platter! This is an ideal set up for shoppers to pull together their favourite selection and perhaps get introduced to something new.  The un-prescriptive presentation for me was key, totally inspiring, with colours, aromas and textures in abundance.  Also the attention to personalisation that allowed the shopper to ‘build their own’ or take away a pre-packed meal, seems a perfect solution for the time-poor, busy New York commuters.

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Katz’s reputation had preceded itself, making it number one on my list of places to see, and it didn’t disappoint. A meat lovers haven with portions the size of a Man Vs. Food contest, healthy alternatives were not on the forefront of the menu, but mammoth sized cuts of mouth-watering quality pastrami, brisket, salamis and sausages were plenty.

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In the other deli’s olives dominated the antipasti fixtures with surprisingly little focus on peppers and with little innovation that you would expect to find here in the UK in terms of ingredient mixes and flavours. However, being a spice fan I was pleased to see chilli peppers given lots of featured space in many varieties including pickled. I was particularly encouraged to see quinoa featuring in most places in various different forms, using different flavour combinations side by side to the antipasti. Although this isn’t an uncommon occurrence in the UK, its sure proof that there’s room for heritage grains to feature much more on deli counters and in pre-pack fixtures.

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All in all I believe there are lessons to be learned from our American friend’s deli and antipasti offerings. The grand presentation, consumer choice and added value offering that give customers the freedom to create their own personalised product, bespoke and catered to their own needs in a convenient package, is a slick and impressive operation that gives the vendor ample opportunity to gain competitive advantage in different ways.  However, here in the UK I believe we might just be piping them to the post in terms flavour profile, variety and innovation.

By Sanjay Davda, Head of Retail

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