The 2010 Annual Meat Conference offers information, tools and trends to help retailers increase meat case sales.
By Craig Levitt
With a technology fair, product tasting reception and education and networking events, the 2010 Annual Meat Conference in Orlando promises to offer something for just about everybody associated with the meat industry.
General sessions at the show include presentations from industry experts as they discuss ways to help retailers maximize their meat departments. Topics to be covered include: Power of Meat—an in-depth Look at Meat through the Shoppers’ Eyes, Sustainability—Not Just Buzz, The Future is Here—Now What?, Food Safety: The Approaching Perfect Storm, Adding Value for Your Customer and Unleash the Power of New Technologies and Standards.
The show floor will of course be filled with suppliers and industry organizations as well. Here is a look at what some in the industry are up to:
Agri Beef Co.
“Agri Beef Co. is passionate about beef and the beef business…. from start to finish,” says Jay Theiler, executive director, marketing. Theiler says the company has been strongly focused on building branded partnerships with retailers that frame their business philosophy around quality, integrity, innovation and a dedication to great consumer value.
Since 1968, when the company was founded in Boise, Idaho, by Robert Rebholtz, Sr., Agri Beef has constantly evolved and is now involved in every step of beef production including breeding, ranching, cattle feeding, animal nutrition, beef processing, product marketing and product sales, according to company officials. All beef processing is done at the company’s state-of-the- art beef facility (Washington Beef) located near Yakima, Wash. The 270,000-square-foot plant recently underwent major upgrades and Theiler says it is recognized as having amongst the highest quality standards in the industry.
Agri Beef Co’s premium brand portfolio includes Double R Ranch Northwest Beef, St. Helens Beef and Snake River Farms American Kobe (Wagyu) Beef and Kurobuta (Berkshire) Pork.
Retail partners across the country include Lunds & Byelry’s in the Midwest; Rosauer’s Trading Co. and Metropolitan Markets in the Pacific Northwest and Bristol Farms in California. Theiler says the company is actively searching for additional retail partners that share the philosophy of growing their beef/meat categories through branded partnerships and similar shared values.
Beef Information Centre
Now that the country-of origin labeling (COOL) mandate is in full swing, officials from the Beef Information Centre (BIC) say several retailers are leveraging the labeling requirements to build unique and differentiated store brands using Canadian beef. For the past five years BIC has worked with U.S. clients to build branded programs designed to meet the demands of individual retailers as well as their customers.
“The Canadian beef industry has found that COOL legislation has actually become an opportunity for us as opposed to an issue,” says Marty Carpenter, senior director U.S. marketing for the Calgary, Alberta, Canada-based BIC. “The great news is that American consumers are embracing Canadian beef. After U.S. product it is the most accepted beef product versus product from other countries.”
Since the onset of COOL, BIC has been able to develop a number of partnerships with retailers and distributors interested in promoting the fact that they use Canadian beef. One such retailer is Stauffer’s of Kissel Hill (SKH), based in Lancaster, Pa. The retailer partnered with an Ontario packer to create a Canadian beef program called “Stauffer’s Choice Beef.” SKH meat manager John Gerlach says the program has been very successful.
BIC has also partnered with the Colorado Boxed Beef Co., an Auburndale, Fla.-based distributor that provides beef to grocers throughout the Southwest U.S., to develop a Canadian branded beef program. The program launched in January and is called High River Canadian Angus.
“Retailers and distributors recognize that the development of private label and branded beef programs are critical components to profitability,” says Carpenter. “Canadian beef can deliver on the consistency and quality attributes required for a successful branded program.”
Cargill Meat Solutions
With more than a dozen brands, Wichita, Kan.-based Cargill Meat Solutions offers a wide variety of beef, pork and turkey products. The company’s Rumba line of specialty products was created with multicultural shoppers in mind to help retailers attract and retain ethnic shoppers by providing the unique products they seek. Strategically developed and consumer tested to meet the needs of Hispanics, African-Americans and Asians, the brand’s product line consists of culturally relevant fresh beef and pork specialty cuts and a recently announced line of prepared traditional entrees.
“It is vital for retailers to appeal to the changing demographics of our country by offering relevant products that are right for their unique tastes and traditional recipes,” says Meredith McGowan, Rumba brand manager.
Cargill partners with retailers to customize relevant Rumba brand store-level programs and marketing support based on appropriate shopper demographics to help ensure the program’s success.
In addition to the Rumba brand, Cargill will be introducing its Sterling Silver ready-to-cook Culinary Meal Solutions line. The meal kits include fresh beef and pork, accompanied with a variety of marinades, vegetables and rice. Equipped with executive chef tips and cooking instructions, the kits are convenient, stress free and are designed to make a home cooked meal possible any time, according to company officials.
Carl Buddig & Co.
Times are a changing’ at Carl Buddig & Co. The Homewood Ill.-based company continues to grow under the management of the third generation of its original founder. Company officials say that the Carl Buddig branded meats are the third largest selling lunchmeat in the category with distribution throughout the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.
According to Tom Buddig, executive vice president, trends in the category include lunchmeat products featuring bolder flavors, various slice thickness, “good for you” attributes and convenient packaging. “There is a lot of talk about lowering salt levels in many food companies,” says Buddig, “but for a product to be successful it still must have great taste.”
He adds that Buddig Deli Cuts have been formulated to support the move towards health and carry the heart check mark, while retaining the taste necessary for successful product evolution. Additionally he says that Buddig Originals showed double-digit sales increases, providing retailers with the same value it has had for decades.
As a producer of many of the private labels at retail, Buddig says the company has enjoyed positive growth as well. He adds that investments in new equipment has allowed for the development of innovative new products such as grilled chicken breast for salad kits and meal solutions.
Certified Angus Beef
Building on its 30 years as a USDA certified brand, Certified Angus Beef (CAB), based in Wooster, Ohio, continues to expand its top Choice offerings. Its fresh beef categories are Modest or higher marbling, Prime marbling, as well as its Natural product with Modest or higher marbling. New convenience items include ready-made meatballs and rotisserie meatloaf and new sizes, packaging and supplier options have been designed to satisfy retailer needs for all-beef frankfurters and sausages.
“In this economy, consumers gained greater perspective of price/value relationships,” says retail director Al Kober. “Whether consumers are buying steak, burgers or deli roast beef, they expect good value for their money. They expect great-tasting beef.”
Kober adds that in a market where conventional wisdom suggested to back away from the priciest cuts of beef, CAB’s top 20 retailers saw a 13% increase in middle-meat sales. Retailers that featured CAB were rewarded with a 24% jump in sales, while those that didn’t lost 17% in that category. “Consumers are best suited to decide when or if price exceeds value,” says Kober.
He points to a 2009 study from West Texas A&M University that shows consumer preference for modest or higher marbling. When asked to visually identify the desirable amount of marbling in a steak, 49% of consumers surveyed selected modest or moderate marbling. Another 20% indicated a desire for prime marbling levels. According to Kober, new marketing tools are also in place that link licensed retailers to Angus producers in their regions.
Don’t tell the folks at Creekstone Farms there is a recession. According to Jim Rogers, vice president of marketing, the Arkansas City, Kan.-based company enjoyed its best sales year ever with double-digit growth in 2009.
“I think 2010 will be more of the same,” says Rogers. “We have a continued focus on driving sales. We are real excited about 2010 and what we think it is going to hold for us with additional opportunities in both retail and food service.”
One area that Rogers says continues to generate interest from retailers is the availability of case ready products. Both steaks and roasts in vacuum packs or case trim primals. “I think, among other things, for retailers there is a food safety aspect,” he adds. “Many don’t want to grind shop trim anymore.”
Land O’ Frost
Throughout 2010 Land O’ Frost will continue its focus on further building consumer awareness of its products nationwide and creating brand loyalty—both through traditional marketing initiatives and by focusing on the social media space. In February, the company launched www.landomoms.com, an online resource for moms, where they can share parenting ideas, download valuable Land O’ Frost coupons and swap recipes.
Continuing their tradition of executing several national consumer promotions with high profile marketing partners; this year, Land O’ Frost has again slated events to drive shoppers to the category. In April, Land O’ Frost supports its Premium One Pound brand, alongside the Iron Man 2 movie release. Nearly 10 million packages will promote the “Land O’ Frost/Iron Man 2 Instant Win Game” offering consumers an opportunity to win an all-expenses paid trip for four to San Diego for a Marvel Universe Super Fan Vacation.
“Land O’ Frost is always looking for new and exciting ways to reward our consumers for their loyalty, while driving incremental sales growth for our retail customers,” says president David Van Eekeren. “We’re confident that our 2010 promotions will demonstrate added value to consumers, reach our core consumer and attract new shoppers to try our great tasting lunchmeat.”
Meyer Natural Foods
According to company officials, Meyer Natural Foods is the one-stop solution for retailers with a desire to capitalize on demand for healthy and premium natural beef. The Laura’s Lean Beef and Meyer Natural Angus brands provide retailers with unique ways to drive shoppers to the meat case. The product lines deliver on distinct, growing consumer segments: the label-reading, health-minded shopper and the conscientious connoisseur, with a taste for culinary experiences at home.
At the product-tasting reception, Meyer Natural Foods is sampling offerings from both brands, all of which are produced naturally—from cattle raised without antibiotics or hormones and fed a vegetarian diet.
Officials say that Laura’s Lean Beef is naturally raised and lower in fat. The product line is backed by the Good Housekeeping Seal and certified by the American Heart Association’s heart check mark, for meeting the association’s criteria for saturated fat and cholesterol.
Meyer Natural Angus is a supplier of private label natural beef programs. In addition, its products are served at some of the nation’s top restaurants. Officials say Meyer Natural Angus has been recognized for its industry-leading animal welfare protocols, which have earned the brand the Certified Humane distinction.
According to Keith Welty, vice president of marketing for National Beef, the Kansas City, Kan.-based company’s objective is to help its customers succeed with its products and programs. Those programs include National Beef’s introduction of its green and sustainability WELL initiatives; Black Canyon Value Cuts merchandising and its ground beef initiatives.
“Natural consumers continue to evolve,” says Welty. “They want natural beef that also addresses their environmental concerns which leads them to seeking products that are green and sustainable.” National Beef’s natural programs now include the WELL Initiatives program focusing on lessening the impact on the environment.
Welty says the Black Canyon value cuts program is designed to help their trade customers meet the needs of today’s recession weary consumers, who are seeking value while showing restraint.
Ground beef continues to account for a larger portion of beef sales and Welty says National Beef is working with retailers to become a ground beef destination by offering merchandising ideas. He adds that retailers also can also help sales by featuring primal grinds, Angus and natural offerings.
National Cattleman’s Beef Association
The National Cattleman’s Beef Association (NCBA) is focusing on several of its Beef Checkoff initiatives. One of the programs being highlighted is called Beef Alternative Merchandising (BAM). According to Shelley Bradway, marketing manager for the Centennial, Colo.-based organization, the program shows that by cutting a strip ribeye or sirloin differently five new steaks and three new roasts can be created.
“Retailers can use this program in two ways,” says Bradway. “They can either create a line extension of current product or create a new category. What’s nice about these steaks and roasts for consumers—and something that retailers can tap into—is that the new cuts are nice portion sizes and convenient to prepare.”
The NCBA is supporting the program by visiting retailers and providing cuttings for meat managers as well as training materials for cutting. Bradway says thus far the NCBA has done about 23 cuttings affecting 2,300 stores.
The NCBA has also revamped its slice and save program, which is designed for consumers to buy beef subprimals, take them home and cut them into steaks and roasts themselves. Bradway says with this program consumer education is a huge component.
“We don’t want consumers to be intimidated by this large piece of meat,” says Bradway. “They want to be sure that if they buy this they are going to be successful and we have developed materials that will help them.”
Bradway adds that throughout 2010 more than one million beef-specific coupons will be available to consumers through partnerships with traditional NCBA partners such as Kraft and Anheuser-Busch as well as new partners such as Heinz Classico.
Pederson’s Natural Farms
The Hamilton, Texas-based company is adding to its core business of all-natural, uncured bacon and is showing new products at their booth. The new items include honey, jalapeno and barbeque. Along with the new bacon items Pederson’s is offering an array of new bison products, including bison sausage and bison bacon burgers.
President Cody Lane says Pederson’s is also coming out with healthier alternatives to current pork products by offering a turkey bacon and a turkey sausage. “The quality is always number one, but if we can create something that tastes great and is good for you, that is our ultimate goal.”
He says that all products are supported with POS materials as well as in-store demos. “I have always found demos to be the most effective marketing tool at store level,” says Lane. “Although a lot of buyers still want ads or coupons and we are willing to do any of those. Whatever program that a retailer feels comfortable with; we will do.”
Lane adds that in addition to the new products, Pederson’s is in a big growth mode, practically doubling the size of its plant.
Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods is introducing two new concepts, cascading off its fresh meal kits. Tyson fresh meal builders, available in smoky ranchero, thin sliced pork sirloin, garlic and pepper beef chuck, beef sirloin cubes, Philly cheese steak, beef skirt steak and citrus pepper beef sirloin strips, is designed to save consumers time and ease meal prep with fresh pre-cut seasoned beef and pork cuts. Also available are chicken, beef and pork slow cooker creations, which Scott Rouse, senior vice president of customer development, says are similar to Crock Pot offerings.
On the raw poultry side, Tyson is offering individual frozen boneless, skinless chicken strips on a limited basis. Rouse says these items are designed for use in fajitas, quick serve salads, stir-fries, casseroles and wraps.
“For our processed business we have a reformulation around health and wellness and a reduced sodium platform that will transform across our portfolio,” says Rouse. “We also introduced a grilled and ready non-breaded whole muscle boneless, skinless chicken breast filets.”
Tyson Fresh Meats
The Dakota Dunes, S.D.-based subsidiary of Tyson Foods is making a big push towards natural with the debut of its Open Prairie Natural Angus Beef line. According to Kent Harrison, senior director of marketing and value creation, this past summer Tyson Fresh Meats underwent a reevaluation of its supply chain and how they got cattle they deemed natural into the system.
“Rather than rely on an affidavit system we have taken the extra step,” says Harrison. “We know who is raising the cattle from cow/calf operator and we made sure we can trace back to where the animals have come from.” Open Prairie Natural Angus Beef is 100% vegetarian fed, with no hormones or antibiotics and in addition to being available to retailers as a branded item, Harrison says many retailers use it as a source for their store brands as well.
Other brands from Tyson Fresh meats include Star Ranch Angus, which was launched last June, and the Chairman’s Reserve beef and pork.