Supermarkets face tough competition from convenience stores when it comes to meat snacks like jerky and sausage. But some grocers are winning their share of profits through varied product placement.
The retailers and wholesalers polled by SN cited the front end, the salty snacks aisle, the candy gondola and the meat department as places where they are likely to merchandise dried meats.
Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Spartan Stores recommends that its retail clients merchandise meat snacks with nut snacks and potato chips, said Gary Evey, the wholesaler's spokesman.
Other chain executives agreed.
"Retailers typically merchandise meat snacks in one of two places, the salty snacks section or the meat department," said Craig Hoff, director of category management for grocery, frozen and dairy at Fleming Cos., Oklahoma City.
Scolari's Food & Drug, Sparks, Nev., is in the process of moving its meat snacks displays, said Chuck Jones, senior buyer at the independent.
Stores previously displayed beef snacks in-line with candy. As of the end of last year, however, the merchandising began to change.
"Beginning with a store we opened in December, we moved the meat snacks and sunflower seeds to a separate rack that is up front with the [single] candy," Jones said. The products are displayed in an 8-foot section near one of each store's two entrances.
Like candy, meat snacks are likely to be an impulse item in supermarkets. "That's why we put it there. We get more incremental sales by having it where it's seen," Jones said.
When interviewed by SN, he said only three stores had been reset, and "I've already seen an increase in sales."
Retailers told SN they get from 25% to 40% margins on these products. One retailer said his line of meat snacks brings in as much as a 60% markup.
"Over the past couple of years, we've noticed an increase in meat snack sales of 15% in 1994 and around 12% in 1995," added Fleming's Hoff.
Product variety is expanding as well. Spartan's Evey said his company has noticed an increase in the number of products it is distributing.
"The only item we carried six months ago was Slim Jims. Now we have a 4-foot section and are looking at another 20 to 30 items," Evey said.
Some of the items Spartan is bringing in include dried chicken snacks and kippered products.
"We see consumers and manufacturers going more to dried beef snacks and dried chicken snacks because these items can be advertised as low- or no-fat," he said.
An influx of multipacks is attracting price-conscious consumers, Evey added.
Hoff observed that ham and turkey snacks have been added to the mix of existing dried-beef products. SN has also noted ostrich, buffalo, kangaroo and deer displayed at various conventions and exhibits.
Packaging in supermarkets is changing as well, particularly among the jerky products.
"They're moving to bigger packaging," said Bill Roatch, a buyer with Raley's Supermarkets, West Sacramento, Calif.
Jones of Scolari's agreed. "In our area, the consumers are moving up from the 1.5- to 2-ounce bags to the 4-ounce bags. That's becoming the more popular size," he said.
Raley's Roatch said he merchandises the products at the front end and in the salty snack aisle, either on pegs in-line or clamped on fixtures at the checkstand.
He is able to get a bigger ring off the 4- to 8-ounce bagged products because West Coast consumers prefer turkey jerky and beef jerky, as opposed to single sausages, which are popular on the East Coast.
Barbara Page, spokeswoman at Price Chopper Supermarkets, Schenectady, N.Y., said meat sticks and sliced pepperoni are the big movers in her company's stores. Holidays, the hunting season and the Super Bowl bring in the majority of sales.
Seasonal ads, in conjunction with floor racks, spinner racks and barrels, raise awareness of the products, which Price Chopper merchandises in its meat department.
Meanwhile, not all grocery retailers are seeing the positive movement and sales results on dried-meat snacks.
"We do very little business with it," said Arley Morrison, vice president of meats at Minyard Food Stores, Coppell, Texas.
"This is not a real beef jerky area, I guess," he said, trying to account for the lack of consumer interest.
Nevertheless, Minyard merchandises beef jerky and dried summer sausages on a rack in the meat department, Morrison said.
H.G. Hill Stores, an independent based in Nashville, Tenn., displays meat snacks on a snack rack, often found up front, said Joe Hendrick, direct-store-delivery buyer for the company.