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Local food is all the rage, and it doesn’t get much more local for a grocer than when your beef supplier is based about a mile down the road from your new flagship market.
That’s the case for Wooster, Ohio-based Buehler’s Fresh Foods and its extensively remodeled Milltown store, Progressive Grocer’s May 2015 Store of the Month. Visit the meat department in any of Buehler’s 15 locations and the only beef you’ll see is provided by Certified Angus Beef, which also has its headquarters in Wooster, about 60 miles south of Cleveland.
It presents a rare opportunity for a grocer and supplier to work together closely on new product launches and merchandising ideas, giving Certified Angus a test bed for innovation and Buehler’s a chance to take the pulse of its meat shoppers.
“We do a lot of testing for them on new items,” says Dave Savidge, meat director at Buehler’s. “It’s an open-door, open-minded relationship.”
Adds Brent Eichar, SVP at Certified Angus Beef, “Buehler’s gives us a testing ground to be innovative. As an exclusive user, they give credibility to the brand.”
And with beef prices soaring over the past couple of years, retailer and supplier can collaborate on the best ways to satisfy shoppers’ demands for both quality and value.
“People want beef, even if prices go up. We have to be creative,” Savidge says. “We’ve always kept beef on the front page.”
With higher prices, Eichar notes, “consumer expectations are higher … [but] we’ve been able to buck the trends” by offering economical products like flat-iron steaks and other value-priced cuts aimed at keeping shoppers from trading down or out of the category.
Further, Eichar says, a product’s performance at Buehler’s is reflective of broader tastes because the retailer has stores in both white- and blue-collar areas, which “gives us a nice cross-section of how our product performs with different demographics.”
And as a bonus, Savidge adds, “Buehler’s is small enough that we can make changes quick.”
Buehler’s and Certified Angus have worked together to develop value-added products like marinated and seasoned meats, and meal starter kits.
During PG’s recent visit to the Milltown store, the meat case offered such items as Florentine and mozzarella beef pinwheels, and a “pick five for $25” special on selected cuts. There’s also flavored burgers; Savidge notes that Buehler’s gourmet patty program will launch this summer with at least a dozen flavor varieties.
Meanwhile, Buehler’s is already working on its ads for grill cuts as the weather warms up into grilling season. “We’re going to have attractive retails on middle meats this year,” Savidge reveals.
Beyond products, Buehler’s and Certified Angus have collaborated on training as well as events at CAB’s nearby culinary center.
“We’re always looking for something innovative. If Certified Angus Beef does it, we’re going to try it,” Savidge declares. “You’re not going to beat the beef – you have the flavor and the quality. The product sells itself.”