A time for meat

Well-timed promotions and prominently displayed nutritional information are key drivers in helping beef up meat counter sales.


By Elizabeth Louise Hatt

Promotions and pricing, especially in the fresh meat department are akin to a good joke—timing is everything. As consumers continue to look for ways to save money yet still feed their families nutritious meals, retailers are planning more and more promotions during the traditionally slower sales periods at the meat counter.

According to the Power of Meat 2011 report, released jointly by the American Meat Institute (AMI) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), price is the top consideration for consumers. The report further states that 75% of shoppers research meat deals via circular or online and 70% stock up on meat and poultry when it is on sale. Holding promotions and sales during these times is key to keeping a retailer’s meat counter healthy, say industry observers.

There are two things to consider when it comes to timing sales, says Tom O’Boyle, executive vice president of merchandising and marketing for Montvale, N.J.-based The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A&P). “First thing is the actual time. A lot of it depends on what customers are doing in their lifestyle to define what promotions are going to be successful. When are people outside cooking meats, when are they doing barbecues and the like?”

The second consideration is consumer spending. “What we see typically is that customers are more likely to stock up at the beginning of the month,” says O’Boyle. “So if there is a good price early in the month, there is a good chance customers will buy a little bit heavier and stretch their dollar a bit further knowing that they can freeze it and come back and use it weeks later. It’s really all about how customers are trying to make their dollar go further.”

The retailer recently introduced its first line of locally grown, naturally raised chicken, turkey and beef from Mid-Atlantic Country Farms. “We expect it to resonate with consumers who value supporting local farmers and really appreciate naturally sourced products,” says O’Boyle. “We’re promoting it with signage in the meat section, making in-store announcements and we’ve created a website, www.midatlanticcountryfarms.com.”

Teaming up with manufacturers can help retailers get their timing right. By working with manufacturers to create a promotional schedule, retailers can not only maximize their sales but also do it during a time of high supply, say observers.

JBS Pork does just this, working with their clients to develop a customized schedule for product features. “It depends on a combination of what consumers are looking for at that time of the year and also what retailers can get good value on,” says Rick Parker, director of pork marketing for the Greeley, Colo.-based company. “Products that are popular at a particular time of year are also extremely expensive because everybody wants them. We work one-on-one with individual retailers to find the best plan that meets their needs.”

Kent Harrison, vice president of marketing and premium programs at Tyson Fresh Meats, a subsidiary of Tyson Foods based in Dakota Dunes, S.D., agrees with this tactic. “There is a dip in sales for ground beef during the last two weeks of July and first two weeks of August. It seems counter intuitive that people aren’t grilling burgers, but there is no holiday for which to gear up for. So we give retailers some in-store signage and incentives to feature ground beef in their circular ad for that time period. We are helping them increase their dollar sales and assuring that we have an adequate demand for our product during that time period,” he says.

While consumers are doing their homework, they are still influenced by in-store touchpoints. According to the Power of Meat 2011, only 25% of shoppers compare prices across stores before leaving, but 45% compare prices in the meat department with 87% of shoppers claiming to pay attention to in-store signage.

With the USDA’s new nutritional labeling requirements taking effect on January 1, 2012, in-store signage is taking on an increased importance. Under the legislation, retailers must make nutritional information available for 40 of the most popular cuts of whole or raw meat and poultry, as well as on packages of ground and chopped meat and poultry, either with nutritional fact panels on the package labels or at the point-of-purchase.

Observers say the additional information should help sales. The National Pork Board (NPB) began preparing for the new requirements a few years back by updating all the numbers for pork in the USDA’s National Nutrient Database in order to better educate consumers.

“Consumer education is always a good thing,” says Patrick Fleming, director of retail marketing for the Des Moines, Iowa-based NPB. “Putting information out there in an easy successful format will be good, particularly for pork, in the long term. I think when consumers can compare and contrast pork to everything else in the meat case they will be pleasantly surprised with what pork has to offer.”

Fleming notes that a lot of the pork loin cuts are as lean as boneless skinless chicken breasts yet not enough consumers are aware of this fact. He says going forward the NPB will address some of the specific unique points of nutrition in pork. That is one of the board’s goals with its new image and tagline, “Pork. Be Inspired.”

“We are hoping to display the versatility of pork,” says Fleming. “It’s not just the Sunday roast or pork chops; it can be anything from pulled pork to ribs and can be used in a variety of forms and recipes. The rebranding gave pork a fresh start and will hopefully change the way people think about pork.”

JBS’s Parker agrees with Fleming. “I think consumers will be surprised to find how many cuts of pork are really low in fat,” he says. “I think now that people will have more information to base their decisions, they will be happier and we will be able to meet their needs and demands.” 

First online
When Springer Mountain Farms’ marketing manager Dale Fuance told the tech team he hired more than three years ago that he wanted to use QR codes to offer consumers a product rebate they “looked at me like I was a Martian,” he says. “I knew the next big thing was going to be targeting smartphones. Before the iPhone even came out, I had a phone with a scanner and I knew that QR codes were popular in Japan. So I figured why can’t I use the same technology to offer rebates?”

The first promotion the Cornelia, Ga.-based all-natural chicken producer offered was a rebate that consumers activated by scanning the QR code on the product package and selecting a reward on the mobile website, such as a full-length movie, soundtrack, donation to the National Breast Cancer Foundation or a $2 rebate deposited into the consumer’s PayPal account. “It takes about five weeks to get a rebate back in the mail. We got it down to 20 minutes,” he says.

Fuance believes the company’s innovative marketing tactics accurately represent the company’s offerings and sees them growing as the demand for their product does. “We haven’t seen a sales decline in seven or eight years. The all-natural chicken category is growing. Our product is very unique and stands out against everything else in the marketplace so our marketing and advertising should too,” he says. “I think we are probably five years away from revolutionizing the electronics world with mobile devices. I want to be the first one there—that’s my game plan.”

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