CARLISLE, Pa. — Giant of Carlisle has rolled out on-pack fresh meat labeling that includes the amount of iron, zinc, B vitamins and other micronutrients the meat contains. Having launched the program in November, the chain became the most recent one to adopt the labeling program, whose design was funded by the Beef Checkoff Program and is managed by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
“We already were using it on ground beef, but now we have the labels on whole muscle meat as well, and we're doing this in all our stores,” said Phil Bravo, meat director for the 149-unit supermarket chain.
Most of the chain's units have both service and self-service meat departments.
“There are major reasons why we're doing this,” Bravo said. “By providing such nutrient information, we're giving our customers the value and service they've come to count on us for, and it makes it easy for them to make a decision based on how healthy the product is.”
Bravo told SN he particularly likes the fact that people are seeing that meat is healthier than they might have thought it was.
“We did convey some of the information before this, but not right on the package, like it is now.
Adding micronutrient info has necessitated adding another half-inch to the size of the on-pack label, bringing it to 2-1/2 by 4 inches.
The chain now is busy getting the message out to customers that the micronutrient information is readily available on the meat packages.
Signs in the department, a block in the chain's ad circular, a message on the chain's website and in-store public address system announcements have helped spread the word.
“We've also provided talking points for our meat managers and cooking school instructors,” Bravo said.
Listing beneficial micronutrients as well as the amount of fat, cholesterol and calories in a piece of meat has the obvious advantage of emphasizing that meat is a healthy food choice.
Educating consumers about the healthiness of meat gives a retailer a competitive advantage, Randy Irion, NCBA's director of channel marketing, told SN.
The time is certainly right, too, he pointed out.
“Consumers' concern for their health, we believe, is the highest it's ever been,” Irion said.
Therefore, consumers see added value in the information provided.
“Our earlier [16-week] test at Marsh [Supermarkets, Indianapolis] showed micronutrient labeling there inspired customer loyalty.”
More than a third of consumers in follow-up interviews after that test said such labeling definitely influenced where they shopped.
And 45% — a percentage that had risen 9 points from pretest interviews — said they consider meat “very healthy.”
Since the test, Marsh has continued its program and expanded it. Meanwhile, other chains — including Hannaford Bros., Food Lion, Bloom and Ukrop's — have initiated programs with guidance from NCBA.
“It's getting easier, because all the major scales companies — seeing this as a wave of the future — are now set up to format the [micronutrient] labeling,” Irion said. “And most of the costs involved are right at the beginning, when you're getting the correct information from suppliers, working with the scales people. It's primarily start-up costs. From then on, it's not a big challenge to keep it going.”
Giant of Carlisle's Bravo told SN that for Giant it was a process that took a few months.
“We started talking about doing this last April, and then launched it on Nov. 13.”
Bravo said much of the time was spent collecting nutrition information from suppliers. He was glad that adding micronutrient information expanded his labels by only a half-inch, he said, because it doesn't cover up too much more of the product.
Irion promotes using dual nutrition labels for ground beef, because the nutrition profile changes so dramatically when the meat is cooked. Much of the fat, for example, is cooked out of it. “Dual,” in this case, would mean attaching a label that shows nutrient levels in the product after it's been cooked, as well as a label showing the nutrient profile of the product raw.
“It's something to think about,” Bravo said. “But think how much of the product will be covered up.”