GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Meijer, upgrading its meat departments, is rebounding to the type of service and quality the company had been known for in the past, industry observers told SN.
The chain has redone its meat departments to give them the feel of an old-time butcher shop, with certified meat cutters and a higher grade of beef — exclusively Certified Angus.
Still, with its focus on value, the chain will sell Certified Angus beef at retail prices that other retailers charge for USDA Choice, Meijer officials said in a statement.
While the chain used to have some meat cutters at small service counters, it cut back significantly on labor a few years ago.
That was just about the time Wal-Mart supercenters came into its marketplace, industry analyst David Livingston, president, DJL Research, Waukesha, Wis., told SN.
“They took out their meat cutters at the time to try to stay competitive, but you can’t out-Wal-Mart Wal-Mart. So, now they’ve decided to do something to differentiate themselves.”
And they have the wherewithal to do it.
“Meijer was a grocery store with a large variety of fresh foods before it became a supercenter,” Livingston said. “Then 10 or 12 years ago, they scaled back significantly. Letting meat cutters go, and replacing a lot of full-timers with part-timers.”
Meijer still carries a large variety of such merchandise in its huge stores, but the 199-unit chain is now looking to take back the panache it once had with high-quality perishables and customer service, industry observers said.
“The trend with national competitors has been to offer less service, more prepackaged, grab-and-go,” Meijer spokesman Frank Guglielmi told The Detroit News.
Certainly, Meijer is bucking that trend with its meat department redo.
In a statement last week, the chain’s vice president of fresh merchandise, Jerry Suter, said Meijer is the first — and only — retailer in the Midwest to upgrade its beef selection to carry only Certified Angus beef.
“We are exclusively offering Certified Angus beef, the absolute highest-quality beef, and continuing the tradition of carrying the best brands without the premium price,” Suter said.
Read more: Meijer Brightens Produce With LED Lighting
At the same time, the company announced the completion of a meat cutter certification program.
“All Meijer meat cutters — about three or four per store — are certified to meet the retailer’s standards, further ensuring quality custom cuts, precise portioning and adherence to the strictest food safety practices,” Suter pointed out.
Industry sources emphasized that the meat department changes will give Meijer a definite edge.
“If Meijer had just one certified meat cutter they’d have more than Wal-Mart has,” Livingston said.
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