Deli in Demand

by Bernard Shire
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Supermarket delis can  bridge food-safety knowledge gaps that consumers have.
Supermarkets can build their food safety authority with educational programs, signs and consistency in what customers see in the deli department.

Food safety and cleanliness are important to consumers in supermarkets, especially in-store service deli departments. And if customers perceive food safety and cleanliness by employees are lacking in delis preparing fresh foods, they will likely walk out of the store and probably never return.

Those are the high stakes for food safety, especially among in-store delicatessen departments, highlighted in a new exclusive consumer research report recently released by the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association (IDDBA) called “The High Stakes of Food Safety in Dairy-Deli-Bakery and Prepared Foods.” The report was prepared for IDDBA by Phil Lempert, also known as the SupermarketGuru. The idea was to survey American consumers about their confidence in food safety in supermarkets, particularly within the deli, prepared food, dairy and bakery areas of the store.

Americans crave convenient meals today, made from prepared foods, easy-to-heat and ready-to-heat takeout, conveniences that play to the strengths of in-store delis. To stand out as primary destinations, supermarket delis must be impeccably clean and safe, because that continues to be a top concern for consumers.

People have time to observe a lot while waiting in lines in delis, dairy and bakery departments. They see everything from food servers’ grooming to the state of the physical setting; from workers’ hygiene habits to cleaning methods for slicers, counters, showcases and trays; from food handling to temperature integrity – and a lot more. The report underscores how food safety practices in deli-dairy-bakeries impact a store’s total performance and its credibility with shoppers as a primary resource of health and wellness foods and beverages.

The report shows one-third of US adults have ended a supermarket visit due to store messiness. And those shoppers are pickier about food safety within the deli-dairy-bakery than in the store as a whole. Eighty-five percent of shoppers need to feel confident about food safety in the deli and the dairy-bakery service areas before buying food there.

There are five areas of supermarket food safety leadership that stem directly from deli-dairy-bakery departments:

1. Food must be handled in pristinely clean areas;
2. Food handlers must wash hands and change gloves often, in full view of customers;
3. The department must receive the highest grade from a food safety inspector, and this rating should be posted for customers to see;
4. Food handlers must wear hair restraints;
5. Food handlers must wear clean jackets, aprons or uniforms.

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