KANSAS CITY — Four in 10 shoppers say they want their local grocery stores to add more premium-quality products to their meat cases, according to the 2021 Power of Meat study. And shopping carts with premium meats in them translate to higher rings at the register.

It’s a pretty simple equation for retailers: adding premium meats is a great way to showcase your meat department and, in the process, boost your bottom line.

Arkansas City, Kan.-based Creekstone Farms sells a wide variety of premium meats at grocery retail, including its Premium Black Angus Beef, Premium Natural Black Angus Beef and Natural Duroc Pork products.

In the Premium Black Angus lineup, products range from tenderloins to ribeyes to briskets. Unlike most Angus beef suppliers, Creekstone doesn’t select on hide color alone, said Dan Stewart, the company’s marketing director.

“Our cattle are hand selected to represent true Black Angus genetics, with only one in 100 cattle meeting the high standards upheld by Creekstone Farms,” he said.

During the pandemic, with more consumers looking for new ways to diversify their home cooking, demand for premium meats soared. Traditionally, premium beef and pork products are just over 15% of the volume of meat sold.  Now, according to IRI data, it’s more than 20%.

“What that tells us is that consumers gained confidence in cooking beef and pork during the pandemic and are continuing to explore more with premium products and cook food-service quality meals at home,” Stewart said. “Consumers are continually raising the bar with their at-home cooking experience, and they’re looking for beef and pork products to step up with them. That means we must keep raising the bar on the products and service we provide our customers.”

The quality of the meat case is what steers many consumers to pick one grocer over another, Stewart said. Stocking that case with premium meats is one way to make not only your case but your entire department stand out.

“We work to connect our customers with products with a quality that is authentic, bold, and reliable — things we have found keep consumers coming back to the meat case,” he said.

More confident cooks

Tyson Fresh Meats, a division of Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods, continues to evolve its Chairman’s Reserve premium cut program, which features both beef and pork.

Ribeye, strip and sirloin steaks are among the highlights of the Chairman Reserve program, said Ozlem Worpel, Tyson Fresh Meats’ director of fresh meats marketing.

And heading into the colder months, Tyson expects to see stronger demand for Chairman’s Reserve chuck, the best source for roasts. Tyson will focus on alternative roast options like striploins and sirloins to ensure continuous supply in the roast category, whose most popular entry is prime rib.

On the pork side, the top sellers are ribs, followed by shoulder butts, Worpel said.

“Everyone loves barbecue and these are the most popular cuts for barbecue,” she said. “Also on the pork side, we expect to see increases on our loin roast, sirloin roast as well as shoulder roast.”

Chairman Reserve pork got a big boost this year when 49 Super Target locations in seven states began selling products from the line. SKUs include a tomahawk chop, tenderloin medallions, ribeye chops, and New York chops.

Demand for prime cuts of meat is on the rise, Worpel said.

“We’re finding that consumers of all income levels are willing to spend more on experiences and products they think are best,” she said. “Furthermore, consumers are more confident in the kitchen after nearly two years of cooking more at home, and starting with better products, like Chairman’s Reserve Meats, leads to better meals.”

Helping retailers draw attention to premium products is crucial, and Worpel said Tyson makes it a top priority.

“I would say the consistency and support we give to our premium brands is unmatched,” she said. “We help our customers communicate the quality of the meat and inspire their shoppers to use those premium cuts. We always want to provide the best support and service for our customers.”

The natural route

Clemens Food Group, Hatfield, Pa., markets several lines of premium cuts at retail, including:

  • Farm Promise – No Antibiotics Ever
  • Hatfield Premium Reserve Pork - Elevated eating experience
  • Hatfield Dry Rubbed Marinated Pork – All Natural
  • Hatfield No Antibiotics Ever – All Natural, right sized for today’s consumer

Before 2018, Clemens’ portfolio was considered “conventional,” said, Michele Williams, the company’s senior retail marketing manager.

“Converting the majority of our portfolio to All Natural, we have continued to innovate to create a point of differentiation by elevating our current offering to more premium,” Williams said. “ Upgrading our uncured ham and bacon to NAE and rebranding the Hatfield Premium Reserve Pork portfolio has contributed to this evolution.”

The demand for premium cuts at retail is definitely rising, Clemens said. Younger consumers in particular are looking for ways to elevate their eating experiences through different cuts of meat, various formats and flavors.

Nutrition and animal care attributions also play a part in what consumers consider a premium cut, she added. The desire to know where food is coming from and how animals were raised drives the demand for premium cuts, as well.

Making the set easier to shop and surrounding products with the right POS materials are keys to successfully merchandising premium meats at retail, Williams said.

Instore demos have been a major part of Clemens’ merchandising strategy for Hatfield Premium Reserve Pork.

The key to successfully merchandise Farm Promise, meanwhile, has been to clearly communicate the farm to fork story, Williams said.

“Now more than ever, shoppers are concerned with the transparency behind brands, especially in the protein industry where animal care is so important to a majority of consumers. Shoppers are voting with their dollars to support those companies who are taking the extra care to raise their standards.”

To reinforce that message, Clemens’ Farm Promise product labels and point of sale focus on transparency and highlighting local family farmers and their practices.

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