Parking It for Profits

A look at the best deli foods for an ideal tailgating experience.

Series with college football fans tailgating and having fun before the game.
Keith Loria

It’s almost football season, and that means people are gearing up for a fall of tailgating with friends and family, be it for a pro, college or even high school game. And coming off a year where tailgating and meeting up was off the table because of the pandemic, this year’s tailgating season is primed to be one of the biggest ever now that people are vaccinated and eager to share some in-person connections again.

The mark of any good tailgate is the food of course, and supermarket delis have plenty of the items needed to make a tailgate event memorable.

“The perfect items for tailgating are food that consumers know and love, the ‘fan favorites,’” says Andrew Quinn, senior brand manager for Hormel Deli Solutions, based in Austin, MN. “To be a great tailgate item, it needs to be something that can be consumed either at a party with friends or family as well as in the parking lot at your favorite team’s stadium. The great part about tailgating is the food becomes part of the memories.”

Placon’s multitude of grab-and-go containers, dessert trays, catering trays, deli containers and hot entrée packaging offer endless ways to bring people together through food and have the ultimate tailgating experience.

Placon is consistently growing its grab-and-go offerings, including adding tamper-evident features to ensure food safety for consumers,” says Kali Kinziger, assistant product manager of the Madison, WI-based company. “Consumers are grabbing pre-packaged meals more than ever in the supermarket deli and convenience stores for quick, safe and fresh meal options. The pandemic did not limit this growth and caused a surge in grab-and-go packaged items since the hot and cold buffets shut down and everything moved to online ordering, curbside service and delivery. With pre-pandemic activities opening up more, the summer brings back exciting opportunities to gather with friends and bond again—especially at tailgates.”


New Ways to Beef Up the Game

Carl H. Cappelli, senior vice president of sales and business development for Don’s Prepared Foods in Schwenksville, PA, notes, “Americans are taking off masks, celebrating, gathering and munching” so tailgating will be back in record numbers this year.

“People are ready to party while watching football, baseball, basketball…and we at Don’s Prepared Foods have the answers to help them create the perfect tailgating experience,” he says.

The company has launched a new line of pre-packed 8- and 10-ounce cups in the deli that are ideal for tailgating, including tuna salad, deluxe seafood salad, pasta Parmesan salad, ham salad, seafood pasta salad and several others.

“Consumers want to create special eating experiences while tailgating, and these are perfect items to bring great taste to the game,” Cappelli says.


Through Hormel Foods’ Hormel Deli Solutions group, the company offers numerous items that are a great fit for tailgating, especially the Hormel Gatherings Party Trays.

“These trays offer consumers convenient solutions that the entire family will enjoy and make it easy to serve a tasty meat, cheese and cracker tray, including the tray to serve the items on,” Quinn says.

In 2021, it launched its Hormel Pretzel Bites and Cheese Tray.

“We know that snacking continues to be a fast-growing category, and pretzels specifically are increasing at a 7% growth rate across the grocery store, and this a great way to capitalize on the trend,” Quinn says. “It has soft pretzels and cheddar cheese sauce, and all consumers need to do is heat and serve.”

The company also offers a Columbus Charcuterie Tasting Board that helps tailgaters take entertaining to a whole new level with upscale, artisan meats and cheese as well as other sides that perfectly pair with one another.

“Plus, Hormel Deli Solutions offers numerous prepared food items that are sure to be a hit at any tailgate,” Quinn says. “Items like Austin Blues rib tips and Fontanini meatballs are great solutions and can also be customized with a sauce based on the end consumers’ preferences.”

Fresh from the deli, Placon offers its popular line of HomeFresh deli containers for hot and cold items, which are great for serving cole slaw, potato salad and pasta salad.

“If you want to step up your tailgate game, our HomeFresh Entrée line can withstand the heat and cater hot food items like mac ‘n cheese, wings, potatoes and more,” Kinziger says. “Convenience is essential for tailgating; thus, any package that removes a step is perfect. The best containers make it easy to bring prepared food to an event and serve it inside the same box.”

With Placon’s multi-compartment containers, grocery stores can customize their pre-packaged product to offer a unique selection. That means instead of buying multiple separate containers and mixing things, a multi-compartment container makes the buying decision simple.

An Evolution

There was a time when eating at tailgates involved nothing more than a grill and some meat, but people want so much more these days, especially foodies and Millennials who are looking for a memorable eating experience.

“Tailgating and game day favorites still exist, but a lot of consumers are pushing the limits to enhance the experience for their guests,” Quinn says. “We’re trying to offer new and unique solutions to raise the bar for consumers.”

Remember the Condiments

Although they may not be the first thing you think of when planning a tailgating menu, no collection of food can be complete without an assortment of favorite condiments.

Beaverton Foods, based in Hillsboro, OR, offers a selection of gourmet condiments including dozens of flavors of mustard and horseradish.

“Tailgating isn’t just about throwing burgers and sausages on; you need the items we are known for, because we are known for our flavors,” says Domonic Biggi, CEO of Beaverton Foods. “We have such a variety so you can make a tailgate interesting by having a cranberry mustard with your sausage or a Sriracha horseradish with your hot dog. People no longer just want the plain mustard; they want choices, and you can create a whole tailgating bar.”

Dustin Bridgewater, marketing manager for Curation Foods, based in Santa Maria, CA, notes the company’s Cabo Fresh and Yucatan branded guacamole, available in traditional tubs and extended shelf-life squeeze bottles, are also must-haves for a good tailgate.

“Nowadays, no one really wants to open up a tub of guacamole, because it usually doesn’t last, but what we have is super convenient,” he says. “We offer single-serve items that are very easy; you can just throw them in the ice chest, and they’re ready to go for anyone at the tailgate who needs one. There’s also a guacamole squeeze pouch, which is resealable and easier to apply for someone who wants guacamole on their burger when they’re tailgating.”

Marketing Matters

Today’s retailers recognize the importance of merchandising game-day favorites and leveraging endcap space and display bunkers to ensure consumers know where to find the best items for their tailgate event.

“We have not only partnered with retailers to help drive trial and awareness, but also have personnel in stores to help retailers effectively merchandise product,” Hormel’s Quinn says. “We are always innovating for the next big solution that will make the lives of consumers better, especially on game day.”

He adds that bundling items together that create the perfect solution is by far the best route to go, as partnering with other suppliers to offer meaningful promotions for consumers is something the company is always entertaining.

To create a successful tailgating destination in a store, Placon encourages customers to be creative and put together delicious, eye-catching displays.

“We see more grocery stores adding custom signage or displays to grab the shoppers’ attention to a product area,” Kinziger says. “Some stores will merchandise tailgating essentials, accessories and food items together to help shoppers make the most of their experience. Not only will there be dips next to the chips, but entire kits are all grouped, such as taco dips, fruit and vegetable platters, alcoholic beverages, desserts, paper plates and napkins, and even lawn games.”

Beaverton’s Biggi says the best way for delis to attract the tailgating audience is to cross merchandise with other items so consumers can just walk into one display and find everything they want.

“The merchandising in an island display can be everything one needs for a tailgate,” he says. “You can have your protein, carbs and condiments.”

Employing a cross merchandising tactic is also effective for upselling. By complementarily grouping items, the customer is more likely to make an impulse purchase they might or think they might need, which increases the basket.“Placon offers a broad selection of grab-and-go-style containers of various sizes to accommodate any tailgating experience, so consumers have what they need with minimal waste,” Kinziger says. “For cross merchandised products, we recommend our multi-compartment containers Fresh ‘n Clear Catering Collection and GoCubes that hold an assortment of food products like cheese and sausage, vegetable trays with dipping sauce, taco dips and any other mixed snack items.” DB

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