CHICAGO -- To get the summer barbecue season off to a healthy start, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association here, and the Food Marketing Institute, Washington, have teamed up to teach consumers how to prepare burgers safely.
The trade groups are collaborating on a national point-of-purchase campaign, The Perfect Burger, which was slated to have hit meat cases across the country by mid-May.
The primary POP material is a 100-sheet color tear pad. Each of the pad's 3-by-6-inch sheets sports a picture of a hamburger and a list of seven tips on how to prepare it safely and flavorfully.
Jim Porzenski, the director of meat products at Minneapolis-based Supervalu, said that he had ordered more than enough tear pads for the more than 4,000 stores that the wholesaler services.
He said he thought the program would "help educate the consumer and stimulate sales."
Tim Hammonds, FMI's president and chief executive officer, explained that the Perfect Burger program "provides retailers with another tool to address food safety. These cards emphasize the need to cook ground beef properly, and they do it in an upbeat way that customers are likely to read."
Supervalu's Porzenski concurred that "we thought that it was good consumer information that could help to sell ground beef and the [tear pads] were reasonably priced."
The 100-sheet pads sell for between 80 cents and $1.20, depending on the quantity purchased.
More than 45,000 pads had reportedly been sent out, in response to 250 orders placed on behalf of an estimated 1,000 plus stores, according to the NCBA's customer service department.
"[The fact that] we have had [such] a great response in a short time from small stores in rural areas to big stores [shows that] there is a lot of need for [the program]," explained CJ Valenziano, the NCBA's director of public relations.
She went on to state that the campaign had coverage in every market and "we [even] have people ordering seven [pads] because they have just one store."
The tear pads offer pointers on safe cooking methods, such as grilling burgers to medium doneness (160 degrees F), not overhandling them during preparation and using a spatula to turn them.
The number of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's meat and poultry hotline is printed at the bottom of the sheet in case consumers have further questions.
The NCBA and the FMI expect these rules will help consumers overcome their doubts about the safety of ground beef, while bridging what is often perceived as a chasm between a safe burger and a flavorful burger.
"People don't know how to cook a hamburger safely and still enjoy it," said Valenziano. "It doesn't have to be a hockey puck to be safe."
The NCBA's food safety spokesman, TV chef Mr. Food, whose smiling bespectacled face appears on the tear pads, is also slated to lend his support to the campaign by incorporating a food-safety message on more than 140 stations across the nation.
The tear pads, which come with or without hangers, also offer a list of suggested toppings, like salsa or roasted red peppers, that could be used as inspiration for cross promotions.
"I'm hoping the [tear pads] are going to be displayed at the point of purchase and at recipe centers," said Supervalu's Porzenski.
He also added that a Perfect Burger print advertising campaign will probably be accompanied by radio and TV ads in some markets.
He said that during the promotion he also expected that "the majority of [Supervalu's] stores will periodically feature ground beef specials [on holidays like] Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day."
The NCBA's Valenziano said that although the campaign "is primarily geared towards grilling, the materials will continue to be available in the fall."