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The fresh perimeter is the engine driving supermarket sales, and despite the rise in popularity of alternative proteins, meat is still holding court at center of plate.
Faced with high prices and competing products, how can grocers improve their category management activities in order to retain, recapture and drive traffic in the meat department?
“To improve category management activities, I recommend limiting fresh SKU subprimals,” said Kari Underly, founder of Muscolo Meat Academy and principal of Range Inc., both based in Chicago, and author of The Art of Beef Cutting. “Instead, have multiple merchandising plans for the same raw material. This will maximize seasonality while reducing out-of-stock positioning and limiting assortment.”
For example: The ribeye cap can be merchandised into ribeye steaks, ribeye roasts, filets and cap steaks. “One subprimal can deliver on all these cuts,” Underly explained.
“Also, I recommend increasing case-ready offerings and antibiotic-free product assortment and products grown and raised with non-GMO corn.”
Training and education is key to providing customers with a meat staff that can truly participate in the shopping experience, asserted Megan O’Connor, co-founder of Muscolo Meat Academy.
“Knowing the cuts, where they come from, why they taste the way they do and what cooking methods are best for optimal taste and texture on the plate – only then can a staff member help a customer prepare their meat and meal,” O’Connor said. “Programs like Muscolo Meat Academy’s online Meat Merchandiser Certification program (due out in January) is geared to address exactly that gap that exists today. The program tutorials and assessments will train and certify meat staff to be confident, well-informed meat department professionals for your customer and store.”
Read our full report on fresh category management in the July 2015 issue of PG.
Seasoning from the inside out
A new product innovation, still in its early stages, may present a good opportunity for retailers to set its meat department apart from competitors and open new cross-merchandising possibilities as well.
Seasoning Cylinders, a patent-pending device developed by Blacksburg, Va.-based new product development consultant Locke White, give consumers a way to quickly and easily infuse meat with the flavors of spices, fresh vegetables or fruits.
The four 7/8-inch-diameter tubes, made from coated cardboard or plastic, can be pushed into a roast or other meat item by grocery store butchers, White explained. The cylinders hold the holes open in the meat for consumers to stuff with seasonings; a small portion of the cylinder is left sticking out to enable removal at home.
“The great thing is that these flavorings go all the way through and not just on the outside,” White noted. “It gives consumers a way to quickly and easily add a wide variety of amazing spices, and even fresh vegetables and fruits, to the inside of their meat dishes like beef, pork and others by simply stuffing the holes.”
White said Seasoning Cylinders could give grocery retailers a unique point of differentiation in their meat departments. In consumers’ minds, he argued, “all uncooked pieces of meat are pretty much the same. The rump roast from one company looks exactly the same as the rump roast by the other company. This is unlike the vast majority of other consumer products where there are very distinctive features that make one better than the others.”
Further, White said his cylinder concept is superior to surface seasonings, marinades and injections. Seasonings applied to the outside of meat cuts don’t penetrate the surface, while injection is time-consuming: “They can only inject liquids because solids will get jammed. Another problem is that they take a long time to use. It takes a cook a lot of time to inject the seasoning when they have to do it every few inches. Looking at all the problems of meat injectors, and the fact that consumers desperately want a flavorful piece of meat all the way through and not just on the outside, it seems that the market is wide open for an innovative solution that will make one piece of meat truly different and better than all the others.”
In White’s system, when the cylinders are extracted, “because the meat has been stretched, the holes remain open and ready to be stuffed with the fresh vegetables (e.g. onion, garlic cloves), fruits (such as apples or cherries) or spices (i.e., thyme, sage). Once the holes are filled, they then lay the piece of meat back flat and press down on the top causing the holes to close on top of all the wonderful seasoning ingredients, and they pop the meat into the oven and simply wait for all the flavors to spread from the inside out.”
White said the concept has been successfully tested by a food scientists, and retailers have expressed interest in the idea.