A. Elizabeth Sloan

Boldly flavored rotisserie game hens, pork loins, kabobs, and stuffed turkey breasts sit right next to rotisserie chickens in supermarket take-out sections. Meat departments have dedicated cases for all-natural/organic fresh meats and poultry, and Sara Lee’s Single Occasion Packs position sliced meats/cheeses as a grab-and-go snack. 

The powerful protein industries are on a roll, and restaurants are responding, too. Burger King offers an Angus Steak Burger and BK™ Chicken Fries, and Papa John’s offers The Meats and a Barbecue Bacon Pizza. McDonald’s has added Premium Chicken Sandwiches—The Classic, Ranch BL, Club, and Spicy

According to the 2005 Gallup Study of Home Meal Replacements, 25% of meal preparers served red meat for dinner four or more nights a week and 19% served poultry, whether cooked from scratch, a convenience meal, or purchased outside the home. 

Easy. According to the 2004 National Meat Case Study, the heat-and-serve category enjoyed the largest space gains—11%—followed by processed meats, seafood, value-added products, and sausages. According to IRI, refrigerated dinners/entrees sales rose 6.1% in mass markets (excluding Wal-Mart) for the year ending (YE) 9/11/05. 

Slow-cooked whole roasts such as Owens’ Slow Roasted Beef Pot Roast with Gravy (ready in 10 minutes) and meals that contain a side, like Jennie-O’s So Easy Stuffed Turkey Breast line, are among the new directions. 

Also setting the pace are bold-flavored refrigerated entrees, like Double R Ranch’s Quick Chef ‘s line with Chipotle Flavor Beef Petite Fillet and Lime and Chile Flat Iron Steak; regional recipes such as Flavoré’s Cajun-style Jambalaya; ethnic favorites like Hormel’s fully cooked Southwestern Pork Carnitas; and upscale fresh preparations like Catelli Brothers’ Italian Bistro Veal entrees. 

Coleman Natural’s Fresh for the Freezer Chicken Breasts are individually vacuum-packed in zip-close bags. Prepared frozen and bagged entrees like Advance Brand’s Fast Fixin’s Chicken Fried Steak continue to grab customer attention, as do refrigerated precooked ingredients in tubs, such as Saddlers Smokehouse‘s Heat & Serve Barbeque Brisket and Butterball’s Turkey Breast Strips

Sales of frozen ground beef rose 110% YE 10/5/05, according to ACNielsen, and poultry sales increased 7.8% to $2.2 billion YE 4/17/05, reports IRI.

Healthy. Pilgrim’s Pride’s EatWellStayHealthy™ fully cooked frozen and fresh refrigerated chicken lines are taking healthy eating mainstream, with products like Key Lime Flavor Breast Fillets and Fully-Cooked Szechwan Chicken Breast Tenderloins. Farmland Foods’ Nutrition Wise™ line of pork products is certified by the American Heart Association to be at least 95% lean. 

Datamonitor projects that natural and organic meats will rise 23%/year to $13.8 billion by 2009. ACNielsen reports that unit volume of frozen organic meat jumped 322%, frozen meat entrees 317%, fresh meat 84%, frozen poultry 84%, and frozen poultry entrees 73% YE 2/19/05. Refrigerated sausages, canned meat, fresh meat, and refrigerated lunch meat are the largest organic categories. 

Coleman’s Purely Natural meat case provides retailers with antibiotic-, hormone-, and additive-free beef, pork, chicken, sausage, lamb, bison, and processed meats. Applegate Farms recently introduced antibiotic/hormone- and nitrite/nitrate-free Dry Cured Bacon and deli meats such as Black Forest Ham

Tiny. With more than 3.5 billion chicken wings sold in 2004, according to the National Chicken Council, and restaurants like Wingstop based solely on wings and sauces, it’s not surprising that they’re about to get some competition. 

Tyson Foods introduced Steak Fingers and Fast Fixins Restaurant Style Cheeseburger Fingers with Jalapeños. Ol’Smokehaus offers Kippered Beefsteak Rounds made from real round steak, and Con Agra’s Slim Jim offers a new Pepperoni Flavored Smoked Snack

The flavors are more adventuresome, too. Penn Valley Farms organic sausage comes in Spinach and Feta and Apple flavors. Johnsonville Sausage Co. has a hit with Grilling Chorizo, and Carando Classic Italian features thin-sliced Genoa Salami seasoned with spices and fine wine. Perdue’s La Cocina deli chicken line is marinated with a blend of citrus juices and adobo spices. 

Premium. Adding traffic and profits to the meat department are new premium cuts of meats such as the Beef Shoulder Petite Tender cut developed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association; certified breeds, such as Premium Certified Angus and Hereford beef; and local and regionally raised meat and poultry, such as Agribeef’s Northwest Double R Ranch Certified Pacific Northwest-Raised Meat

And consumers are experimenting with Tender-Bison, American Bronze turkey, ostrich, goat, lamb, and venison, as well as Kobe/Wagyu beef and Jurobuta pork from Berkshire and Duroc hogs.

by A. Elizabeth Sloan,
Contributing Editor
President, Sloan Trends, Inc., Escondido, Calif.
[email protected]