Packaged deals

Cash- and time-strapped consumers are turning to packaged meats to feed their families.

By Deena Amato-McCoy

The tight economy has created a more value-centric shopper who is visiting the packaged meat category more frequently. Besides demanding cost-efficient choices, consumers are also in search of more robust flavors and meal solutions. These three factors are leading grocers to create more innovative sets across the category.

It seems to be working as industry observers say the sets, as well as additional shopper traffic, have helped packaged meats become a $3.6 billion category, up 1.8% from last year. Retailers do face limitations however, not the least of which is space. With real estate at a premium, observers say SKU rationalization is running rampant and consumers continue to find limited assortments.

“There is only so much cooler space, so retailers are hard-pressed to maximize this space and offer consumers more choices,” says David Van Eekeren, president and CEO of Land O’Frost, based in Lansing, Ill.

In order to maximize the limited space provided to the category, observers say retailers should be concentrating on providing shoppers with the most value possible. However, value means more than just the most inexpensive items.

“Value comes in different ways,” says Don Baker, vice president, pricing and category management selling strategies for Downers Grove, Ill.-based Sara Lee Corp. “Value could mean a premium packaged meat product that costs a little more, but provides a great tasting and more economical solution than an alternative, like dining out.”

In today’s health-conscious society, value  is also measured in health benefits. With its health advantages over some other packaged meats, turkey has become a favorite for many consumers. Kim Anderson, product manager for the Jennie-O Turkey Store, based in Willmar, Minn., says with increased household penetration, packaged turkey sales are up in both dollars and volume.

While value is important, most consumers are unwilling to sacrifice taste. Many are in search of bold flavors and like to experiment with new products—two trends that are boosting interest in more gourmet-style packaged meats.

Jennie-O is responding to the demand for bold flavor with its Italian and Taco Seasoned Ground Turkey. Sara Lee’s Ball Park brand is experiencing strong growth in its Angus Beef Franks line, while its Hillshire Farm division launched Turkey Pepper Jack and Turkey Polska Kielbasa Smoked Sausage Links, created with cuts of lean turkey and a blend of spices.

As the economy continues to squeeze consumers from both discretionary income and time perspectives, it has also refueled their interest in home meal replacement, a trend that features ready-to-eat, take-home products.

Many have turned to packaged meat items like hot dogs and smoked sausages as convenient at-home meal solutions. Sandwiches also remain meal solution staples, prompting consumers to purchase more lunchmeats, hot dogs and grilled sausages.

Land O’Frost is adding to the meal solution category with its sub kits. Complete with the fixings to make an average of 12 6-inch sandwiches, the kits, which come in re-sealable pouches, provide 72 slices of cold cuts layered and separated with parchment paper.

Land O’Frost features its Italian-style kit, which has Cotto salami, bologna and smoked ham, and a smoked ham and oven roasted turkey kit. The company also features a new innovation: wraps kits.

Merchandised in re-sealable packs, the wrap kits are available in Oven Roasted Turkey and Pepper Jack and Black Forest Ham & Swiss. Each kit contains 25 slices of lunchmeat, five slices of cheese and five tortillas.

As ready to-eat options have gained traction, so have ready-to-cook packaged meats. Meeting this demand is AB Foods with its marinated Quick Chef line. The line benefits retailers as well as consumers, says Jay Theiler, executive director of marketing for the Boise, Idaho-based company. “As retailers face inflationary pressure, they need more options that lighten the labor that they are using in fresh departments,” he explains. “By offering more ready-to-sell options like our Quick Chef line, they can keep labor costs low and satisfy shoppers’ value-based demands.”

Another meal solution that innovative grocers are marketing as a packaged meat meal solution is refrigerated pizzas with meat toppings. Shopper data shows a distinct correlation between those who purchase pizza dough and meat-based garnishing, including ground beef, pepperoni and sausage. MaMa Rosa’s Pizza hopes to leverage this trend by marketing its offering within the packaged meat category.

“It is a good fit as 75% of pizzas sold are either cheese, pepperoni or sausage,” says Bill Mackin, president, MaMa Rosa’s Pizza, based in Sidney, Ohio. “Refrigerated pizza encompasses $233 million in sales, according to SymphonyIRI, and 85% of those sales are from pizzas with meat toppings. This shows how big of an impact meat toppings play for the pizza category.”

MaMa Rosa’s is hoping to attract even more packaged meat consumers with its new Pizza Grillers, which are designed to cook directly on a barbeque grill in less than eight minutes. Available in four varieties—pepperoni, Italian sausage, four-cheese blend and roasted chicken with barbeque sauce—Mackin believes the product can boost barbeque sales if it is merchandised with other summer favorites.

Marketing is always top of mind for manufacturers. Many are encouraging retail partners to create new ways to build excitement around the category. Land O’Frost is banking on the anticipation of the summer launch of the film, Captain America to boost sales.

“We are building a special bunker filled with our merchandise and related displays to drive attention to the merchandise and category as a whole,” says Van Eekeren.

Carl Buddig & Co. hopes to touch the hearts of loyal consumers with its national “Be A Reader” campaign. Through a partnership with Reading is Fundamental (RIF), the Homewood, Ill.-based company hopes to raise a minimum of $100,000 for children’s literacy programs. Buddig is launching an integrated marketing campaign including online and print advertising, summer and back-to-school consumer promotions and social media engagement to raise awareness among consumers of the role reading plays in laying a foundation for future success.

“Our brand has been nourishing young minds for more than 100 years, and we believe that reading and literacy go hand-in-hand with good nutrition to support a life-long love of learning,” says Tom Buddig, executive vice president, marketing for Carl Buddig & Co. “We’re proud to embark on this new partnership with RIF and to award this donation to benefit children’s literacy and motivate families to read together.”

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