Let’s face it—after two years of product development, you’re not about to be sheepish about promoting a distinctive new product line. Yet when the nation’s COVID-19 pandemic arrived in 2020, it hurt World Select Cuts’ efforts to introduce new lamb items to both the in-store deli and foodservice markets.

World Select Cuts’ Aussie Select Lamb Pastrami earned the “Best New Product-Alternate Channel” honors in Prepared Foods’ annual Spirit of Innovation (SOI) awards. Hear more of World Select Cuts’ story when Prepared Foods hosts its SOI Awards ceremony on Wednesday, July 28 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. EDT.

But now it’s time to tell the world. World Select Cuts LLC, Marietta, Ga., represents a collection of US and Australian experts in the meat, restaurant and retail sectors. And it was back in 2018 that these food industry veterans laid the groundwork for Aussie Select, which today includes a unique Lamb Pastrami and two flavorful Lamb Hams (Agave Rosemary, Tikka Masala) for both in-store deli and foodservice channels. 

This May saw Prepared Foods’ Spirit of Innovation award judges enthusiastically endorse the Lamb Pastrami, which officials say is the retail channel’s only pasture-raised, premium ready-to-eat lamb charcuterie meat.

“I have worked directly with the Australian Lamb industry for nearly 10 years. That work led to a full understanding that although lamb is loved by Americans—there was unexplored opportunity to drive better access,” notes Jaclyn Glatzer, World Select Cuts president and chief operating officer. “There’s a fear expressed as, ‘I don’t know how to cook it’ and we learned that we could overcome that with a prepared item.”

“People also traditionally associate lamb with special occasions,” she adds. “While it’s true that lamb on holidays is a great fit, leaning into deli drives sandwich and charcuterie board application—and that makes lamb relevant every day of the week. Our ‘aha’ moment at the deli made us wonder why lamb is not present behind the deli counter like other proteins such as turkey, beef, pork or chicken. We wanted to do for lamb what turkey deli meat does for turkey. It was all about providing access and sandwich relevance to drive an all-year-consumption of lamb in the home. We believe turkey isn’t just for Thanksgiving and lamb isn’t just for Easter.”

Again, it was back in 2018 when the World Select team took that product premise and developed initial bench samples. Then Glatzer says the company “soft shopped” the concept to key potential buyers, including consumers and chefs. The company officially incorporated in December 2019 and then set to work in 2020. That meant hiring a corporate chef, refining the product formula for large-scale production, partnering with a production facility, and conducting additional market research—all during COVID-19 travel and work restrictions.

Glatzer says Aussie Select Lamb Pastrami targeted a traditional peppercorn bite and a tender texture. The lamb is seasoned with traditional deli flavors including coarse ground black pepper, coriander and brown sugar. Then it is smoked with hickory and mesquite.

“When it came to the pastrami, we leaned heavily into the traditional reference point that most consumers have—which is that the pastrami rub and flavors are the No #1 aspect that people love,” says Glatzer. “As we continue to innovate we’ll do so within the two product sets we have developed (pastrami, ham), with additional varieties. We will look at regional or seasonal options and also look to other product platforms that are traditionally made with beef or pork.”

Glatzer admits that although COVID proved challenging on many fronts, it also gave World Select Cuts team to step back and more critically assess its strategy.

“COVID forced us to slow down which allowed us to work on things we may have otherwise skipped in a rush to market,” she says. “We used the time we had to nail down our production processes, critical industry and supplier relationships, key insights and marketing materials. Now seeing the results of our research—including our focus group insights—we see that we had some breakthrough successes and we have validation that consumers love these products. Winning Prepared Foods’ Spirit of Innovation Award has been an incredible success.”

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