Making chicken, turkey and the like pop in the fresh meat case requires retailers and manufacturers to anticipate shoppers’ wants in the category — and make sure they return for more
Sure, poultry’s a staple item — especially among those interested in cutting down on their consumption of red meat — but how can retailers and manufacturers keep the interest level up among consumers who may be finding proteins like chicken and turkey a little ho-hum?
First, you have to know just who your customers are, and what they expect from such products. “We continually do research to uncover food trends among our target audience, which is typically women 25-45 who put high value on wholesomeness and quality when purchasing for their families,” notes Rory Bidinger, brand advocacy and marketing manager at St. Cloud, Minnesota-based GNP Co, producer of the Gold’n Plump brand. “We believe consumers are looking for value, convenience and health in fresh, uncooked poultry products. For the Gold’n Plump brand, we strive to not only provide quality and health in all product offerings, but also convenience, which is a key attribute for time-strapped families.”
Of course, depending on the type of consumer to whom they cater, retailers’ customers may have specialized needs beyond the mainstream. “Year-round, PCC shoppers look for local and organic, or local and free-range, in fresh uncooked poultry products,” says Russ Ruby, director of merchandising at Seattle-based PCC Natural Markets, which operates 10 stores in Washington state. “Our PCC Organic Chicken is raised a short drive from our stores, in Mount Vernon, Wash., by Draper Valley Farms. Chickens are cage-free and fed a certified-organic vegetarian diet of GMO-free corn, soy and vitamins. Our ‘Ranger’ free-range chicken is also locally raised by Draper Valley Farms. Diestel Family Turkey Ranch, located in Sonora, California, is our longtime turkey supplier, and we sell their ground product throughout the year.”
But that’s not all PCC shoppers require in poultry. “Our customers also want versatility,” adds Ruby. “Boneless chicken breast is our best-selling cut, but whole-body chickens and griller packs are also popular and offer a good value. With the warm weather, shoppers appreciate ground turkey for burgers, thin-cut boneless breasts and pre-made chicken kabobs for grilling, and chicken cut for quick summer stir-fries or fajitas.”
Creating a Draw
Once you know who’s shopping in the category, and what they expect to find, you can then craft a merchandising strategy that will attract them.
“Gold’n Plump branded in-store merchandising typically consists of meat case shelf signage, especially when there’s a new product,” says Bidinger. “We feel that product-specific shelf-talkers help draw attention to new products and pique the interest of shoppers. With an increasing trend among grocers to have ‘clean-store’ polices [i.e., limiting the number of point-of-purchase displays on the sales floor], GNP Co. continues to modify and tweak our merchandising signage strategies to be within the protocols and policies of each store.”
“Butterball employs a number of tactics in-store to draw consumers’ attention to the product,” notes Natalie Thompson, brand manager at the Garner, North Carolina-based poultry producer. “We’ve found success using branded shelf dividers, as they help set the product apart from competitors, ensuring consumers’ eyes are drawn directly to the Butterball products.”
As a retailer, PCC crafts its merchandising approach with its core shopper in mind. “We mirror our free-range and organic poultry in vertical sets, meaning that we place organic and free-range like items next to each other so customers can make easy comparisons,” explains Ruby.
Hand in hand with effective merchandising is a solid promotional campaign that not only encourages trial of a particular brand or product, but also keeps customers coming back to the poultry section of the meat case.
“We’ve successfully rolled out on-pack redeemable coupons which can be used on specific Butterball products at that location,” says Thompson. “Additionally, the coupons include visuals and language to cross-promote usage of other Butterball products to ensure the entire product portfolio is getting visibility.”
GNP’s promotional methods include in-store sampling events and, like Butterball, eye-catching packaging, the latter of which Bidinger describes as “a great vehicle … that we tend to leverage extensively.” To that end, Gold’n Plump packages include such features as full-color photographs of prepared products, and cooking instructions.
Outside of the store, the company “has employed several social media and online marketing promotions to draw engagement and awareness,” including those offering integration with the Gold’n Plump store locator, according to Bidinger, who adds, “The technology allows consumers to engage directly with the ad to see only their local stores” that stock a particular product.
Bidinger sees technology-based promotions as an important resource for manufacturers, especially since grocers are increasingly striving to control the retail environment. “As more stores employ clean-store policies and smartphones continue to grow in use during shopping, we’ll see more use of the smartphone as a communication channel to reach target consumers,” he notes.
Over at PCC, meanwhile, “our ongoing strategy is to promote different cuts of organic and free-range poultry each week to encourage cross-shopping within the poultry category,” says Ruby. “A very successful program for us has been ‘Natural Express’ — pre-seasoned chicken breasts, thighs, kabobs that create a great meal with no fuss. We use a variety of rubs made by Tom Douglas, the Seattle-based chef, restaurateur and author with a national reputation. Always available are Value Packs that offer a savings of 30 cents per pound.”
Such promotions make good sense for the retailer, since Ruby predicts that the organic poultry trend will “continue indefinitely” among its shoppers. “Consumers trust organic over non-organic,” he adds, “and prefer it for taste as well as for food safety reasons.”