ATLANTA -- Kroger Co.'s division here jumped on the case-ready meat concept early on.
It began testing a case-ready pork program three years ago and has since expanded it to all its 122 stores.
"We did not go into this for a savings factor alone, but so that we would have case-ready product when the customer wanted it," said Brent Scott, vice president of operations.
The product costs, he said, are "more expensive than pork in full loins, but you have to take into consideration wage costs."
The store was able to redeploy meatcutters because the case-ready program took preparation out of the store into the hands of suppliers.
"Obviously, we think we made the right decision," said Scott. "We didn't lay anyone off, we just concentrated their efforts elsewhere in that meat department."
However, to transform the departments "is a long process," he stressed. As with any new program, said Scott, "there have been growing pains."
At the beginning, he noted, "we weren't necessarily happy with the packaging," and some modifications were made. "But there weren't any problems that were insurmountable. Now the cases are filled up much more quickly than they had been in the past." And while Kroger has received some inquiries from its customers regarding product packaging, there have been no comments "about the product itself," said Scott.
The stores each carry a full variety of case-ready pork products. Scott declined to state the size of the pork departments, but said "they vary from store to store," depending on demographics.
But, he warned, case-ready is not for everyone.
"I don't think you'll ever see 100% case-ready because there is always a customer who wants a custom cut and you have to offer to the customer what they want to purchase."
When asked about the reasoning behind industry initiatives to propel the development of case-ready, Scott concluded, "I think people from the National Livestock and Meat Board realize they could sell more meat if the trip from the cooler to the case is two minutes rather than two hours."