In the retailer's new 71,000-square-foot superstore in Sauk Rapids, Minn., the department, except for a small service counter, has been pulled off the back wall and laid out in line with the grocery aisles.
The meat is displayed in new five-tier merchandising units. Self-service fresh meats are displayed on one side of the wide aisle, and packaged, processed items such as hot dogs and lunch meats are featured on the other.
As the company remodels its other stores, the meat departments most likely will be set up in this new way, said Mike Czeck, meat buyer-supervisor for the 15-unit chain, which operates stores under the Coborn's and Cash Wise banners.
He said that first, however, the company wants to make sure the upright display cases maintain consistent temperatures on all the shelves.
Czeck said he knows this is an unconventional approach to meat merchandising, but after extended discussions and endorsement by the company's design consultants, Coborn's decided to give it a try.
"Because it is not traditional, we were unsure if people would shop it," said Czeck. "So far," he added, "I like the approach because it gives a whole new look to the department."
The new setup is part of a remodel opened in November that is twice as big as the original unit and offers triple the space devoted to meats, according to Czeck.
The department was pulled away from the back wall not only to provide more space, but to give meat more visibility, Czeck said.
"Normally the meat department has always been against the back wall, so now it is being shopped pretty uniformly," he said. "People are walking the whole department."
With the additional space, Czeck said displays of "almost everything" have gotten larger, including that for lamb, veal and beef. The store has also added a prepared food section in the self-serve meat case and a club-pack section.
The service counter spans 8 feet along the rear wall and is positioned almost as if it were the focal point of the parallel lines created by the freestanding meat cases. The service counter features USDA Choice meats. Another 8 feet of space is used for ready-to-cook meats and some fully cooked items.
Some of the 20 ready-to-cook items include Cajun seasoned meats, flank steak rolled in garlic butter, chicken cordon bleu and beef Wellington. Most of these items are also offered from the self-service cases.
The meat aisle is 60 linear feet, and is placed near the rear corner of the store near the produce department. It runs parallel to other grocery and dairy aisles.
The processed meat side is separated from a dairy aisle by two sets of 20-foot island cases each with 3-foot end bunkers. Two of the 20-foot cases and endcaps are devoted to the new club-pack section, which includes items such as 5-pound-plus bulk deli meats and whole sticks of summer sausage. The other cases carry boneless hams and smoked, bone-in hams and smoked turkey and turkey parts.
Next to the fresh meat side of the case, are another two sets of 20-foot coffin cases with 3-foot end bunkers for frozen meats and prepared products, such as turkeys, breakfast sausage and also an area for frozen club-pack meats, including 10-pound boxes of hamburger patties and beef liver.
Additionally, there is 8 feet of space for frozen chicken and 8 feet for frozen fish, which extend beyond the 60 feet of fresh cases.
But with more products being offered, there may be more questions. So Coborn's has a full-time staff member -- either a chef, home economist or meatcutter -- behind the meat counter until 10 p.m. each night to assist customers, said Czeck.