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Consumers' increasing interest in portion control prompted National Cattleman's Beef Association (NCBA) researchers to develop methods to further fabricate ribeyes, top loins and top sirloins to create small filets and roasts.
In addition to creating smaller portions, the new BAM (Beef Alternative Merchandising) cuts eliminate additional seam fat. The price per pound increases, but a package with two filets can cost less than the full cut.
"Consumers demonstrated considerable purchase interest in the newly developed cuts," says John Lundeen, executive director for market research at Centennial, Colo.-based NCBA. "While the new cuts should not replace traditional steak options such as the ribeye, they do represent a marketing opportunity for more health-conscious consumers seeking to reduce their portion size or reduce fat intake."
Focus groups were held in 2009 to understand the appeal of BAM cuts. Consumers assigned a wide range of benefits to the cuts, with convenience, enhanced nutrition and portion control leading the list.
Products were placed in a middle-America grocery chain during the summer of 2010, and 150 consumers provided valuable insights on product appeal, first in the store, and then after cooking and sharing the product with their respective households.
The chosen customers were given a ribeye filet BAM cut and a top loin petite BAM roast to evaluate. They cooked the products in their homes using their chosen techniques, and completed a diary capturing their reactions.
"A remarkable 84 percent indicated purchase interest in the ribeye filets, and 78 percent in the petite roast," Lundeen notes. "This speaks to the add-on opportunity these filets represent. The retail team suggests keeping traditional ribeyes, top loins and top sirloins in the case for those who prefer the cuts they have always loved, with the marbling they have been accustomed to. But a more health-conscious consumer represents a valuable new market for the BAM filet and roast options."
Oklahoma City-based HAC Inc., which operates supermarkets under the Homeland banner, selected 11 key stores to introduce the BAM program.
"Initially, we displayed the product in the service case and self-service case," explains Park Ribble, HAC director of perishable merchandising. "We surmised the most effective way to sell these new 'Simply Beef' pre-portioned steaks to the public was to display them in the service meat counter, where the meat person on duty could talk about the benefits and attributes of the product. But we found out early on that because the smaller portions made the total package retail lower, customers were buying the steaks from the self-service counter also."