CINCINNATI -- Kroger Co. here and other leading retailers have joined with beef manufacturers in a wide-ranging effort to heat up sales of precooked, chilled beef entrees in the meat department.
Contests, couponing, in-store sampling, feature ads, radio and television advertising and remote radio broadcasts from supermarkets are all part of the blitz, one of the most extensive yet to focus on the relatively new category. The promotion, managed by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, Chicago, is funded by beef producers via the NCBA's check-off program.
Chains such as A&P, Food Emporium and Waldbaum's (divisions of A&P, Montvale, N.J.); Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif.; King Soopers, Denver; and Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla., are taking part in the in-store promotion that runs through March 5 in seven markets: Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, New York and San Francisco.
"It is a true co-marketing effort to drive awareness and sales of convenient beef entrees. Retailers and manufacturers have seen the benefits of the products and are coming together to market them better," said Michael Uetz, executive director of retail/food service for NCBA.
Retailer-tagged radio ads throughout February supported in-store events such as a "Dinner for a Year" contest conducted by Publix in its Miami division. Customers fill out entry blanks in the meat department and drop them into a box from which winners will be drawn at a later date. The winner among Publix's shoppers will be given 52 coupons for complete meals featuring fully cooked beef entrees. Coupons also are included for garlic bread and bagged salads to go with the entrees. The heat-and-serve entrees are merchandised in the fresh meat case.
At King Soopers, shoppers are automatically entered in a "Beef Jackpot Sweepstakes" when they use their frequent shopper card to purchase beef items. The sweepstakes grand prize is a week at a resort ranch. Two runners-up will receive Dinner for a Year, featuring fully cooked entrees.
One Midwest retailer, who chose to remain anonymous, said he has seen steady increases in same-store meat sales after adding a clearly marked convenience section with fully cooked items and value-added items in the meat case.
NCBA spokesmen pointed out that manufacturers of fully cooked beef entrees have seen sales increase since they made their debut.
"Each time there's a promotional feature, like there is this month, sales naturally spike up, but what's important is that over the last three years the sales trend has been up. [Consumers] are coming back to buy more after the promotion is over," said an NCBA spokeswoman.
The fully cooked products represent a convenience for today's busy consumers, and they also benefit beef producers since they are made from the usually under-utilized chuck and round cuts of the beef carcass.
The current in-store promotions followed the launch of a huge NCBA-sponsored print campaign that spotlights the nutritional benefits of beef. The ads will run in 36 women's magazines for a total of 84 insertions throughout the year. The aggressive campaign is designed to reach more than 50 million women between the ages of 25 and 54.
"Our mission is to make beef easy to choose and easy to use," said Uetz. "By reinforcing beef's nutrient benefits, we're enabling moms to feel good about choosing beef. And convenient products, like microwaveable pot roasts, stews and other entrees, make mealtime easier for her."