TORONTO -- Case-ready meat is still on the move, reaching small independents, who are embracing the concept for the first time and extending to new items in meat cases everywhere.
r owner had made a decision on consumer-ready products and he was very dedicated to it," said Kelly Walker, corporate meat director of Herb's Foods in Laughton, Okla.
"We've made the program work for us -- we've been on a case-ready program now for four years and enjoy a lot of success out of [it]," said Walker, who supervises "an eight-store multiconcept meat operation using case-ready pork and tray-ready beef."
Although the tray-ready beef program at Herb's has proved less than ideal, Walker is looking forward to future improvements.
"We have stumbled two or three times on [tray-ready beef], but we're still dedicated to the beef program in some form -- we would like to see it as a consumer-ready product too, ready to put in the case. As we all know, that is approaching soon."
"We used to have to come in at 4 a.m. just to have pork produced in time for business to hit us," Walker said.
"Now we come in and within 45 minutes of the first person getting there we've got our counters up and we're ready for business."
The success has been borne out in sales, he added. "We experienced 18% to 20% growth in the meat departments in these stores since going case-ready."
"The people we have in place, we talk to them on a regular basis to let them know that their jobs aren't in danger but there might be some re-training involved. Because what we want them to do now is sell product, instead of spending eight hours a day producing product. We've tried to turn them into producers of profit instead of producers of product.
"We try to stress to them that when we cut a pork loin end to end, no matter how hard we try, not every one of those pork chops is going to be great product; but if we order in case-ready center cut chops, we've got some good-looking product. With case-ready we're offering the customer more center cut than we've ever offered them in our lives."
He said there's a definite emphasis on getting meat department personnel out on the floor. "We now require that every person in the meat department spends half their shift on the sales floor.
"It's a company rule that we speak to anyone that passes within a 3-foot radius of us on the floor."
Case-ready products seem set to continue expanding, said Herb Meischen, vice president of marketing for Excel Corp. "The move toward case-ready is evolutionary and not revolutionary," he told attendees. "As we look up and down a meat case today it's not only chill-packed ground beef but it's the boneless pork loin that was on ad last week, it's the bone-in spareribs that in many instances are sauced and spiced.
"Fully half of the eye rounds we sell to our retail customers are being merchandised as whole pieces in their original package in the meat case."
Retailers play an important part in consumer acceptance of case-ready by lending an important equity: the store's own good name.