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These Deli Pros Are a Cut Above

Jill K. Robinson, Evan Inada | October 18, 2021

People

Inaugural grads of new charcuterie certification program include five employees from Columbus Craft Meats

When Matthew Hall, a sales representative with Hormel Deli Solutions, learned he could earn certification as a salumiere — an expert in delicatessen charcuterie — he didn’t hesitate to sign up. “The knowledge that I acquired through this certification process is extremely valuable, and something I’m looking forward to using in the field,” he says. “I’m excited to share what I’ve learned with clients who are interested in creating quality charcuterie boards and other ways they can help their customers.”

A certification like this is one of the ways that associations can say product knowledge builds sales.

Angela Bozo, Education director for IDDBA

In 2021, the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA) established a new certification program to showcase the value and skill set of deli industry professionals in the growing artisan market: Charcuterie Professional Certification: Salumiere. The nonprofit membership organization believes that the subcategory of charcuterie provides retailers a wealth of opportunities to capitalize on current trends that drive consumers to purchase such products.

“The American Cheese Society has had so much success with their Certified Cheese Professional program, which was introduced in 2012,” says Angela Bozo, education director for IDDBA. “Not only have they grown the number of applicants every year and therefore have grown the number of professionals, but we are seeing retailers pay people a bigger wage to get the certification. That’s critically important to growing the category, and a certification like this is one of the ways that associations can say product knowledge builds sales.”

Establishing Expertise

The certification program is geared toward establishing subject matter expertise in the sale and handling of charcuterie products in the retail food setting. As the definition of customer service evolves, especially with the food that we eat, our expectations have grown from just having a friendly human on the other side of the counter to wanting to know more about the products we buy.

“It all has to start behind the glass, but the deli employees and in-store merchandisers serve as the front line for education and entertainment in the deli,” says Evan Inada, charcuterie/partnerships director at Columbus Craft Meats. “Crafting something that gives them recognition can empower them to keep their career going, rise up to be a fantastic educator, and even be rewarded by their employer. And part of what’s included in the test is the understanding of terroir and what makes charcuterie interesting to the everyday shopper, because we want certified salumieres to influence people from the ground floor up.”

The Scope of the Exam

Inada was among 61 subject matter experts (including François Vecchio) in four committees who wrote and reviewed 100 multiple-choice questions for the annual proctored exam. “The entire process took three to four years to get the team of experts together and meet a few times a year to go over questions one by one to make sure they were challenging enough to prove the professionalism that the candidates have for the craft,” says Inada.

The inaugural class of 14 certified salumieres include 5 from Hormel: Diane Corrente-French, Amy Forbis, Matthew Hall, Valentin Nayfeld, and Katherine Wilkey. The exam demanded many hours of study, and the entire team from Columbus Quality Meats, one of the few manufacturers to participate in the program, passed the test.

This certification lends extra credibility to us, as experts in our field, as we work with our accounts.

Amy Forbis, prepared food specialist for Hormel Food Sales

“I was super excited when this certification was announced and that I was going to be part of it,” says Katherine Wilkey, merchandiser for Hormel Deli Solutions. “I enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues that I don’t work with as closely in everyday life. We’d call each other and brainstorm, ask questions, and share what we were studying. It made what could have been a lonely activity much more fun and meaningful.”

“It was really nice to work with people in the same industry focused on the same goals,” says Diane Corrente-French, sales merchandiser for Hormel Deli Solutions. “I’ve done trainings before, but now I have this certification behind me, showing my clients that I’m much more than my title. It gives me additional legitimacy.”

Certification Builds Legitimacy

That legitimacy is important, given the growing popularity of charcuterie among consumers today. According to Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), sales of “charcuterie types of packaged lunch meats” grew 8.1 percent in 2019 from the previous year, and reached $561 million. Sales of “charcuterie types of packaged meat snacks/meals” grew 6.5 percent, reaching $375 million.

“I work with retailers and customers,” says Valentin Nayfeld, merchandiser for Hormel Foods. “I hold the products in my hands. This certification is a tool in my toolbox in working with clients and addressing their questions and concerns.”

The exam covers the major domains of practice, tasks performed and knowledge applied by a charcuterie professional, ranging from preparation of products for merchandising to marketing, sales, customer service, product handling, business practices and safety. Candidates study from a recommended reading list and an extensive content outline.

Charcuterie board on a table

“This certification lends extra credibility to us, as experts in our field, as we work with our accounts,” says Amy Forbis, prepared food specialist for Hormel Food Sales. “But it also reflects well inside the company. I think it’s awesome that IDDBA is expanding their educational programs in this way. It’s relevant, on trend, and a necessity for those of us who are representing high-end quality charcuterie programs.”

The next Charcuterie Professional Certification: Salumiere exam is scheduled for June 2022. Eligible candidates should have a minimum of 1,440 hours paid or unpaid work experience in charcuterie or deli retail during the past two years. “There is a certain amount of background professional hours that we ask candidates for, but we want everyone to feel like they have the ability to take this test and be certified,” says Inada. “It’s not just for the top one percent of salami professionals. It’s for the people who have that inner passion for what they do. To share that passion with the everyday consumer is important for our industry to continue to grow.”

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