Beef Expands Message, In Time For Grilling Season


With beef-lovers across the country firing up their grills, the beef industry is expanding on its latest ad effort, with a greater focus on lean cuts, portion control and recipes.

Funded by the Beef Checkoff, a marketing and research program funded by beef producers, the "Profiles" campaign, which broke earlier this month, "is getting great feedback so far," Kim Essex, SVP/marketing for the National Cattlemen's Beef Council, based in Centennial, Colo., tells Marketing Daily. "We're excited about the direction of the new campaign, with its focus on health and nutrition."

Moving toward Memorial Day, she says the group will heavy-up its effort, with a greater focus on recipe communication. "Summer is our best time, cyclically, and consumers feel better about cooking because it involves the grill." Ads tagged "29 lean cuts, one powerful protein" will be expanded to include summer radio spots in 20 markets, with specific retail mentions.



Overall, she says, "we are seeing a little bit of softening on concerns about price, and cyclically, they usually do increase during the summer. But we are also seeing a lot of innovative menu offerings. We've done really well with hamburger, and the gourmet hamburger has brought growth in that category. We've also seen more growth in portion control products, including platters and some smaller steaks. That's good news from a price point, and also good news for consumers, who are looking for smaller servings."

Essex says consumers are also responding well to new cutting methods for cuts like rib eyes, "which add varieties and options for consumers -- there are lots of times you just don't want a 20-ounce steak."

Dollar sales of beef are down 3.3% in the first quarter, but up 1.3% in pounds sold. Essex says the organization is also getting feedback from restaurants and food services that consumers are "cautiously optimistic, and more willing to spend."

The campaign, with each ad "starring" a different lean cut, was inspired by research that indicates that 57% of consumers were unable to identify eight popular beef cuts as lean.

In addition to radio, print ads are also running in such magazines as Bon Appétit, Food Network Magazine, Men's Health, Women's Health, ESPN and Better Homes & Gardens.

One weak area, she says, has been the natural/organic area -- which accounts for about 2.5% of dollar sales, but is down in both dollars (2.4%) and pounds (1.2%.) "Because of the economy, there has been a tightening in that category," she says. Some are betting that as the economy improves, more green and health-conscious carnivores will boost sales. Whole Foods Market, for example, just announced that it has made grass-fed beef that is also organic available in all 284 of its U.S. stores.

Whole Foods' messaging focuses not just on the environmental advantages of grass-fed beef that is also organic, but also that it's healthy: The Austin, Texas-based chain says that beef from these grazing cows has a more favorable ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, is leaner, and has "a distinct, vibrant flavor."

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