Viewpoints

3 Ways to Change Meat Department Culture

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What’s the point of investing in a full-service meat case if customers don’t feel comfortable talking to your butchers? As reported on last month by SN (and in this week's SN Data Points), this year’s Power of Meat study, published by the Food Marketing Institute and American Meat Institute, found that only 5% of customers go to their supermarket butcher when they need help cooking a new meat cut or product. That’s nobody, really. So, who are customers going to for help with their meat cooking?

Well, it turns out many people (27%) are going to their friend Google, or some other “digital resource.” Some customers look to their real life family or friends for advice (23%), and others, typically shoppers 65 and older, refer to a cookbook (22%), according to the study, developed by 210 Analytics.

But how do we make shoppers see the meat counter as a resource?

1. Slow down: It’s important retailers create an environment where butchers don’t appear to be So Very Busy. They can do this by offering help or recipe ideas before the customer even has to ask.

Shoppers “like someone to pick out an item for them. Someone to say, ‘This is the best way to cook this,’” said Tom Sargent, Kroger’s senior coordinator commodity procurement of meat merchandising at the Annual Meat Conference in Nashville, Tenn.

2. Be enthusiastic: The people behind the meat counter should give off the vibe that they love to talk about the meat cuts and recipes. And, customer questions should be encouraged, not shot down with a three-word response that makes the shopper feel dumb for asking. There has to be a reason that one pork chop is pricier than another, so be ready to explain the difference.

SN Data Points: Meat Consumers Shop Around

In the Power of Meat study, more than a quarter of people said they would absolutely use a “here’s how you do it” meat preparation program at the supermarket and 54% said they would maybe use it.

In-store signs explaining the qualities of meat cuts and recipe ideas can support the friendly butchers.

3. Hire equally: While you’re changing up the culture of your meat department, I’d also add some more women to your meat counter staff. It’s good to have people behind the counter that closely represent the population of your shoppers. And since women are more than 50% of the U.S. population, retailers have some hiring to do.

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David Orgel

David Orgel is executive director, content & user engagement, of Supermarket News (SN) and its website, SupermarketNews.com. Orgel delivers his opinions on industry trends through a bi-weekly...

Jon Springer

Jon Springer has been writing about food, food retailers and food retailing for more than 10 years, and is in his second tour of duty with Supermarket News. His prior experience includes covering the...
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