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Fresh Food
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Undaunted by difficult times and beef producers’ nutritional claims, the poultry industry fights back.

No time to

CHICKEN OUT
By Meg Major

n ongoing advertising campaign launched by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association comparing the nutritional benefits of lean beef and skinless chicken has poultry producers crying foul. The campaign, funded by America’s beef producers, uses government data to illustrate that lean beef compares favorably to skinless chicken breast in terms of fat, yet provides greater amounts of some essential nutrients.
A series of ads scheduled for the July and September issues of 23 consumer magazines features photos of beef underneath headlines such as: “Lean beef’s actually lower in fat than you think. Makes you wonder about eating all that skinless chicken, doesn’t it?” “We’re not saying, ‘Don’t eat chicken.’ We are saying that you can feel good about eating lean beef,” says Mark Thomas, the
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NCBA’s v.p. of consumer marketing. “With so much conflicting nutrition information out there, it’s time to set the record straight. People love beef. And now, they can enjoy lean beef for its great taste and Ads comparing the health to cut down on its nutritional benefits of beef and saturated fat and chicken (left) have aroused benefits.” calories for health the ire of poultry producers, Not sur- who say the NCBA’s reasons. Howprisingly, the marketing campaign ever, the NCC Na t i o n a l doesn’t tell the whole story. observes that the Chicken ads prove an Council has some important point in its own favor: In terms beefs with the ads, of total and saturated fat content, skincontending that they are poten- less chicken breast is superior to virtually tially misleading for consumers seeking any cut of beef.

“The ads are misleading because there isn’t any cut of beef that can beat chicken breast in terms of low fat,” says Richard Lobb, communications director for the Washington, D.C.-based NCC. In a fair comparison of the average nutritional values of the leaner cuts listed by the NCBA, Lobb says the products have more than twice the total fat and almost three times the saturated fat of chicken breast: “The comparison
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40 years.” Furthermore. a perennially imporing out new prodtant season for ucts and finding Grocery stores still rule the roost retail chicken sales. and fast-food establishments accounted for 60 percent of handling and ingly sophisticated the restaurant category. says Massachusetts and chicken. pet food. chilling. accounted for 18 percent of marketing in 2001. are also developing marketplace that • In terms of the U.S. ally by purified air to inhibit bacteria bone-in thighs. says: “Since chicken is more popular than ever. drumsticks. a We s t e r n branded. and growth. “A lot of product that would have been otherwise shipped overseas stayed in the U.has been promoting the attributes of market retailer in New England to be Smart Chicken in its consumer comLobb says the chicken business remains able to sell Smart Chicken. which is the leanest and toughest grade usually sold in supermarkets. Connecticut. things are returning more to form. he says. of will also play a prominent role in Big are showing a lot of ingenuity in bring.p. Americans are expected to consume nearly 82 pounds of chicken per person. Haskins says the process is supebreast tenders. which method of immersing birds in a cominclude its own brand as well as a full munal ice-water bath. the varieties will body teminclude whole chicken. Lobb says.S. Calif. have led to plant closures and layoffs. This year. of meat Claire D’Amour-Daley. made by NCBA is apparently based only on the select grade of beef. such as tenderloin..S. 64 • PROGRESSIVE GROCER • JULY 1. Smart Chicken joins Big rior to the traditional U.o. leg quarters.” notes them to add value exports at 16 percent of total shipments. food safety. and many do not have time to make pot roast. resulting in their line of Perdue fresh poultry. according to a survey by the fully in place so processors and National Chicken Council. and taste. market (excluding exports. Gudjon Olafsson. to and differentiate purposes at 11 percent. and institutional sales Many producers their products in a at 1 percent. case with LivBig Y Foods. processing Y’s existing fresh chicken lines. 2003 its poultry line about air with the addichilling tion of Smart while in Chicken. pet food. along with avian influenza in 2002 and exotic Newcastle disease in 2003. poultry for better-tasting Foster Farms’ “Fresh & Easy” line (above) more than offers vacuum-packed pouches so that conalternative. she notes. Other major destinations included season. says her family’s chain we are excited to be the exclusive super. while barbeque kickoff tions that will allow restaurants accounted for 29 percent.” For that reason. that we’d be ready retailers alike have Among the survey’s noteworthy results: • Retail grocery stores received 41 percent of the chicken and for our summer been seeking soluchicken products shipped by processors and distributors. retail grocery stores sold 57 percent of chicken. chilled fresh where the chicken line procedure produced by has been the MBA Poultry standard of Tecumseh. Scott Ruth.. Wellpublicized bans and quotas introduced by Russia. says he first learned Y’s summer barbeque campaign. while the cuts listed by the NCBA average 174 calories. chicken is still the best choice. boneless and perature of each bird is cooled individuskinless breasts and thighs.) • Ice pack was the most prevalent form in which chicken was shipped.Inc. Safety and consistency value. But there’s no denying that times have been tough for poultry producers throughout the past 18 months. he says. for chicken products through 2001. sumers need not rewrap chicken for storage. compared with approximately 65 pounds of beef. noting that in 2003. (The survey was taken before the 2002 based Foster Farms’ ates 50 supermarRussian embargo further depressed exports. Such is the and segmented. while products to help will continue to restaurants sold 40 percent. Our prod.” he says.duction in January. rendering. • Exports of chicken hit a high of about 18 percent in 1999 and slipped ingston. and he expects it will uct testings to date have yielded an over. wings. new “Fresh & kets throughout with 37 percent of chicken sent to market on ice.” Pointing out that some of the items featured in the ads are roasts that take up to two hours to cook. founder and c. v. airEurope.COM . adding that in terms of “total nutrition and the role of meat and poultry in a nutritious. even for the select grade. normally placed on foam trays and wrapped in plastic. and was sold at a knockdown 29 cents per pound price in some places. and rendering). it’s no wonder consumption of chicken surpassed beef in 1992 and has exceeded beef ever since. system used Neb.Smart Chicken. exposure to heavy cross-contamination Noting that the poultry line is mer. Governments and institutions handled consumers reduce become increas3 percent. and posito process tioned as a safer.and water retention. Lobb says the values given by the NCBA are in most cases lower than those posted on the USDA’s National Nutrient Database for Standards Web site.During air Smart Chicken coming natural/organic poultry category. chandised as a premium fresh chicken with an emphasis on health.” done by our member companies who Mark Haskins. “Today’s consumers are busy people. Pre-packaged fresh Easy” line. Lobb says.Processors and retailers alike have been seeking to add value to and differentiate their products in an increasingly sophisticated and segmented marketplace. domestic food market. Lobb con- “We expect that chicken consumption may actually slide back a little bit this year after a pattern of growing virtually every year for the last 25 years. tinues. new ways to sell “We wanted to chicken. Chicken is perfect for today’s busy lifestyle.” etail grocery stores maintained their position as the biggest outlet have the program To that end. More desirable cuts. have around 200 calories per three-ounce serving. and other D’Amour-Daley. spokesand specialty departments for Big Y. woman for Big Y.munications vehicles since its introstrong in the U. which operslightly to 16 percent in 2001.PROGRESSIVEGROCER. Chicken breast checks in at 141 calories per three-ounce serving.” Given those kinds of ups and downs. continue in light of “the work being whelmingly positive response. Big Y’s Murray’s Chicken (left) represents the up-and. healthful diet. or 24 percent of all the chicken sold in the cleanup.S. retail marketing recently expanded R WWW. government at 2 percent. The food safety aspects of Smart Chicken.e.

In its own market research. which Lea says is difficult to implement at plant level with random-weight shipments. and we believe this is the way business will done in the future. “Up to now. he says. With net weight scannable. allowing for electronic receiving and ultimately more efficient handling of the products throughout the distribution pipeline.” The reasons.COM .” he says. and boneless skinless breasts—has been thus far rolled out to 300 grocery stores. Pointing to a recent ACNielsen survey that finds consumers overwhelmingly prefer food products that are simple to prepare and convenient. fully automated facility in Noel. With a net weight scannable program.PROGRESSIVEGROCER. “Many retailers are focused on optimum assortment by the demographic makeup of individual stores. The hand-trimmed.” says Lea. “One of the things that’s really becoming an important aspect of caseready meats is net weight. Foster Farms found that approximately 70 percent of shoppers freeze and store fresh chicken but dislike having to touch the raw meat when rewrapping it for storage. particularly on the poultry side. of consumer products.Accurate promotional pricing is paramount to the advantages Tyson’s net weight poultry line offers efficiency-seeking grocers. split breasts. Olafsson says people are constantly looking for new ways to complete cooking chores faster. resealable bag containing three vacuumpacked pouches so that consumers don’t have to spend time rewrapping portions for further storage. product manager for the West Coast’s largest poultry producer. New products. represent only a fraction of Tyson’s strategy to expand its share of the chicken market with a new fixed-weight scannable poultry line. pre-rinsed. the ability to eliminate out-of-stocks and incorrect prices presents a huge opportunity.” Ditto for zone pricing. explains. Tyson Foods has recently unveiled four varieties of heat-and-serve chicken and turkey medallions in a 20-ounce package. Like the foodservice segment. it’s not impossible to have a unique price for every store. Why net weight works Accurate promotional pricing is paramount to the advantages Tyson’s net weight poultry line offers efficiency-seeking grocers. “The net weight poultry products we’re rolling out function like any other scannable consumer product that arrives in the warehouse pre-coded both on the case and on the pallet. according to Lea. when we used to think that size wasn’t as important to the retail customer as it was to the foodservice operator. we’ve done our best to determine how many packages we want to sell on promotion by guesstimating. however. which inevitably comes up short or long because we can never guess exactly how many packages we’re going to move.. Mo.p. Lea says retail is becoming “more about portions and portion costs than it has been in the past. drumsticks. Processed in a newly constructed. are self-evident in view of the distinct advantages net weight perishables offer both the retailer and the consumer with consistency in prices and supply chain requirements. says Olafsson. the first wave of Tyson’s net weight poultry line—which includes whole birds. v. readyto-cook poultry comes in an easy-to-open. John Lea. We now know that consumers are shopping for consistent-size products WWW.

” says Gold. After that time. the segment rep. many of today’s turkey products are ideal for busy consumers who demand products that taste great. N. v. including deli breast.C. and this is one way we believe we can address not only consistency of size.” markets. explaining that the cooking method seals the outside with a crisp crust that keeps the interior juicy. are healthful.000-plus grocery stores. who notes that pre-cooked turkey products. say category proponents. but also consistency of portion cost. great. Steve Gold.PROGRESSIVEGROCER. According to Rosenblatt.Y. we know of. continue to be solid performers. representing roughly 20 percent of Tyson’s fresh chicken business at retail. as well as a fixed-weight growth in view of “peo100 percent vegetarian chickens scannable poultry line. Tyson will make a determination to convert four other facilities to net weight operations. but products aren’t always available on the shelf. poised for significant heat-and-serve chicken and turkey Gold says. think the whole category. but also in meat. we believe this will be the way fresh chicken will be sold.” where from 40 to 60 percent of sales. threshold.” Fresh Food editor Meg Major can be reached at megmajor@aol. she adds. of marketing for While Gold readily acknowlMurray’s Chicken. “What we’ve seen over otic-free poultry prothe past year is threefold growth in ducer.between conventional and natural based all-natural. says Rosenblatt. comprising a quarter of all sales. which of penetration for natural and organic meats is any. Lea says Tyson’s net weight products will be available in 1.C. says while the conventional supermarkets’ natural niche segment has yet to and organic category—not just in exceed 2 percent of sales produce. according to Rosenblatt. Over time. a edges the sizable gap that exists South Fallsburg.would probably double the price. turkey ham. But consumers are retailers: When looking for new and innovative proteins to you think put on their table. “We’re receiving considerable interest from retailers. adding And though he believes there’s a market for organic that in Whole Foods and Wild Oats. spokeswoman for the Washington.and portion sizes for their families. think love to have turkey at Thanksgiving. Ground turkey has experienced the largest sales growth in the last decade.PROGRESSIVEGROCER. and are easy to prepare. Gold says there’s also a price point sensitivity resents 100 percent of sales. N. the week of Aug.p. 15. there are a lot of givens that receive space because they’re an accepted part of the daily meal rotaReminder to tion. Raw products. and even though consumers poultry. the rate exception of buying certified organic feed.com. which includes ple’s growing concerns boneless skinless breasts (above). in conventional superand frozen foods. the category is Industry giant Tyson has developed new Though not certified organic. and we’re starting to get requests faster than we have capacity to fill them. so we think if they had a better presence. “There’s always more room for turkey products.COM • PROGRESSIVE GROCER • JULY 1. “and the public is just not there yet. “In the meat department. several other turkey products are closing in on the whole bird’s dominance in the marketplace. also are seeing an increase in sales. we would see them move through the category quickly as the consumer becomes more aware that it’s a choice they can add into their meal rotations.poultry. “our birds are the only products. antibifood stores. our chickens are raised the same way with the “In stores like Fairway and Stew Leonard’s. Growing natural/organic segment Although the case for Tyson’s fixed-weight initiative is indeed promising.-based National Turkey Federation. something they want to enjoy more often. 2003 JULY 1. which also includes turkey. and turkey bacon. poultry.COM . D.” Reminder to retailers: When you think poultry. The desire is there. The Southern tradition of deep-fried turkeys has gained in popularity in the last few years.” Lea says. 2003 • PROGRESSIVE GROCER • 68 WWW.” Following completion of a second net weight facility scheduled to begin operations in Monroe.” The most popular turkey product continues to be the whole bird. says Sherrie Rosenblatt. they are the whole beginning to realize it’s category. so is the outlook for all-natural and organic poultry. However. especially breast cuts like tenderloins and cutlets. 68WWW. As a result. Even though we about the use of antibibelieve the organic standards are otics in their meat and poultry.