Essential products every Italian deli should stock

11 October 2023, 12:00 PM
  • Authentic Italian food and drink is beloved in the UK. We discover how retailers source their stocking ideas and what you need to have on your shelves
Essential products every Italian deli should stock

Italian culture is synonymous with great food, so it’s no surprise that even the most British of delis and farm shops love to stock products originating from the sun-drenched Mediterranean nation.

“We sell a fairly large range of Italian products. Cheese, wine, flatbreads, charcuterie, pasta, the list goes on without even mentioning the Christmas panettone!” says Simon Warren, owner of The East Street Deli. “We plan to run an Italian month in 2024 where we’ll be highlighting our range of Italian cheeses, wines and all of the great foodie treats from this great country.”

Why is artisanal Italian food popular in the UK?

Behind the allure of Italian food and drink, David Josephs, CEO of Panzer’s Deli, believes there is a real passion for food that is simply made with the best ingredients. “I think [customers are] looking for authentic, artisanal products that aren’t, hopefully, mass produced. Some love and care has been put into it rather than the cheapest commodity available.”

For UK-based delis, this means sourcing and stocking the best products from the Continent, from fresh cheeses to artisan olive oils.

“In our case,” David tells Speciality Food, “we try and source an amazing mozzarella from a small farm that has their own buffalo, so we know that the product is going to be absolutely superb. In the same way with Gorgonzola, we try and find a small producer who produces their own milk. You can really taste the difference between an average one and a really, really good one,” he says.

Finding inspiration

Sourcing this great variety of artisan products means weekly trips to Italy to find the best producers and collect fresh fruit and vegetables from markets in Milan and southern Italy for the shop. For example, David says after he found a brilliant small balsamic producer – a family business running for three generations – he used their expert knowledge of the area to find other local recommendations, leading them to new cherry and apricot suppliers. “We always try to find a local supplier, and then we then go and spread out from them and find other artisanal producers. One, for economics, and two, it’s just great to be able to support local communities,” he says.

Even if you can’t make frequent trips to Italy, Simon says delving into the food world where you live is sure to inspire. “We love our food and are always looking for new products by watching cookery shows or reading books and magazines,” Simon says. “Obviously social media drives a lot of interest, and that’s where many ideas come from.”

His deli also receives samples from Italian suppliers to taste test. “And of course we often visit other delis and food stores to gain inspiration,” he adds. 

Retailers should leave no stone left unturned, and the foodservice and hospitality industries can be great sources of knowledge. “We like to talk to local chefs and caterers that spend all day looking for new ideas, which also gives us great ideas and helps us see the latest food trends,” Simon says.

Italian deli products to stock

When it comes to filling your shelves, it’s often the simplest products that you need to do very little to that sell best, David says. “It’s a dream finding these small artisans who are passionate about what they make.”

Fresh fruit and vegetables

“Fresh produce is absolutely key,” David says, pointing to delicate stuffed courgette flowers with ricotta. “You can’t get anything better than that,” he says.

Olive oil

There’s always more than meets the eye with olive oil. “We started in Sicily with one olive oil supplier. We now have three,” David says. That’s because each blend is so different, from olives that grow in the rocky soil in the south to the richer soil in the north, with gives an earthier flavour. 

The deli counter

Your deli counter is prime real estate for Italian food products. “Cheese, wine and charcuterie are so easily paired together, and specialist shops like ours always have a great range,” Simon says.

There are a number of must-stock cheeses, including Gorgonzola, Pecorino Toscano, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Mozzarella di Bufala. And don’t forget protected DOP meat products, like Parma ham and San Daniele ham.

David adds that stocking ham leads on to sweet melon – a must to create the Italian summer classic combo of Parma ham and melon. 


Fresh pestos, from traditional to pesto rosso, which is made with sun dried tomato, should definitely be on your shelves. Other great authentic sauces to stock include spicy tomato-based chilli sauce arrabiata and puttanesca made with olives and Sicilian capers.

Ambient products

“Some of our best sellers are the Seggiano range,” Simon says, “with their Lingue flatbreads. They’re so popular all year round, whether it’s for summer picnicking or winter snacking with a cheeseboard.”

Taralli biscuits, in their signature swirl shape, are also popular among customers and can be added to a cheeseboard or eaten on their own. David also swears by Benedetto Cavalieri – “probably the best dried pasta,” he says.

Sweet treats

Aside from the popular seasonal must-stock of panettone, Simon says, “The best-selling Italian sweet treat is definitely the range of Sicilian cannoli, which are a real footfall driver.”

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