Retailers looking to spice up sales in their perimeter meat and poultry and seafood departments would do well to consider more cross-merchandising opportunities with seasonings, rubs and breadings.

Stocking the right meat seasonings and rubs in the right place can make a huge difference in meat department sales, says John Brewer, vice president of sales and marketing for Pekin, Illinois-based Excalibur Seasoning, all of whose blends are made to order.

Among other things, merchandising rubs and seasonings near the meat case helps customers come up with last-minute menu ideas, Brewer says.

“It really does drive fresh meat sales, due to the fact that a lot of potential customers are intimidated by the meat case, selecting cuts, and then knowing how to prepare them,” he says. “We’re experts in helping bridge that gap.”

Consumer education is the key, Brewer says. Cross-merchandising flavors next to proteins they pair well with increases incremental sales in both categories. The soaring popularity of meal solutions, he says, makes cross-promotions even more of a no-brainer.  

“The popularity of meal kits reinforces this fact. Make it easy for your customers to shop your store by giving them menu options they can wow family and friends with, and your store will become the go-to expert,” he says. “It’s occurring more and more with progressive retailers.”

Excalibur’s retail best-sellers are products that that call out the ingredients in the title, Brewer says. One consumer favorite, Rosemary Basil & Thyme,  is perfect for salmon and other seafood and also pairs well with chicken, pork and lamb. And it’s a natural, he says, for cross-merchandising.

“The aesthetics make it a perfect choice for application and display in full-service meat and seafood cases.”

When it comes to pork and chicken rubs, it’s hard to beat Excalibur’s Smokehouse BBQ, Brewer says. The company sells it to retailers, meat processors, commissaries and even professional BBQ competitors.

Excalibur’s Ultimate Steak & Roast Rub doesn’t call out any ingredients, but there are still visual cues that it’s a great steak rub, Brewer says. “You can see flakes of kosher salt, garlic and onion that make up the majority of this blend. It’s a No. 1 seller for us and can be used on seafood, all proteins, and is also perfect on vegetables — especially corn on the cob.”

In terms of trends, Excalibur expects continued strong demand for bold and spicy flavors. Habaneros, chili peppers and chipotle are finding their way into more and more of the company’s seasoning blends.

International flavors are also surging. Excalibur offers more than 30 international blends in many different processing applications, including dry rubs, sausage blends and dry marinades. Millennials, Brewer says, are a driving force behind demand for more international flavors.


Breadings get health-savvy

While it’s safe to say that breaded meat, poultry and seafood are not at the top of most people’s lists of healthy foods, Four Oaks, North Carolina-based breadings specialist House-Autry has distinguished itself in the marketplace by showing that it can thrive in a health-conscious age, says Tia Newman, senior associate brand manager.

House-Autry breadings, for instance, are made with stone-ground flour, which “keeps the nutrition in,” she says. The company also has a dedicated facility for its gluten-free products, to ensure no cross-contamination.

And with its oven-ready options, House-Autry provides an alternative for shoppers trying to stay away from fried meats and seafood.

“The versatility of our items works well in this new age where people are prioritizing health,” Newman says.

Gluten-free is one of the newer top performers for House-Autry, Newman says. The company introduced the line, which includes breadings for chicken and pork, in 2016. It’s now the No. 1 House-Autry seller on Amazon, and it has helped the company expand its geographical reach.

“We’ve seen a lot of interest outside of our core market in the Southeast,” she says.

That said, gluten-free, which House-Autry co-developed with one of its retail partners, also generated “a lot of interest” from North Carolinians at the House-Autry booth at the North Carolina State Fair this summer, Newman says.

House-Autry offers a full lineup of retail products for use with fresh meats, seafood — even produce. And the company’s product roster is rapidly growing, says Newman.

House-Autry’s offerings include traditional breadings for chicken and beef products and fish fries, cornmeal breadings, breadings for oven-cooked pork and chicken and gluten-free breadings.

The company’s products are occasionally cross-marketed in fresh meat and seafood departments — and Newman says she would love to see that increase.

Gluten-free isn’t the only recent addition to the House-Autry lineup. The company partnered with legendary Texas-based hot sauce maker Texas Pete on its Texas Pete Wing Breading Mix. Designed for wings, many customers have also found it’s a great fit for seafood, Newman says.

Another new big retail seller for House-Autry is a crossover from another category, Newman says.  The company’s Hushpuppy Mix with Onion has its top category seller in foodservice — now, she says, it’s a hit in grocery stores, too.


Inspiration south of the border 

Frontera’s full-flavored sauces make everyday Mexican meals quickly and deliciously, says Alok Advani, brand manager for Conagra Brands, Frontera’s parent company.

“Chockfull of flavor from high quality vegetables and herbs,” Advani says, “these sauces create restaurant quality meals at home.”

Packed in convenient, easy-to-use, and single-use pouches

The next generation of seasonings made from high-quality ingredients (not dried spices and powders)

Distinct flavors from Mexico

For authentic, flavorful Mexican cooking in 15 minutes

Created by celebrated chef Rick Bayless



Beef: basil, bay leaf, black pepper, cayenne, cumin, curry powder, dry mustard powder, garlic, green pepper, onion, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme

Poultry: basil, bay leaf, cilantro, cinnamon, curry powder, garlic, mace, marjoram, mint, onion, paprika, parsley, rosemary, sage, saffron, savory, tarragon, thyme

Fish: Bay leaf, cayenne, curry powder, celery seed, chives, dill, fennel, lemon zest, marjoram, mint, dry mustard powder, onion, paprika, parsley, red pepper, saffron, sage, sesame seed, tarragon, thyme, turmeric