ALL-BEEF MEAT LOAF LIFTS VALU'S GROUND SELECTION

BALTIMORE -- A vendor-supplied, all-beef meat loaf recently added at Valu Foods here has increased sales in the operator's already successful dedicated ground-meat section."Sales are growing, and we already have some repeat business," said Payton Tucker, meat director of the 18-unit chain. "The meat loaf provides more variety for our customers and is a very consistent product."Even without demonstrating

BALTIMORE -- A vendor-supplied, all-beef meat loaf recently added at Valu Foods here has increased sales in the operator's already successful dedicated ground-meat section.

"Sales are growing, and we already have some repeat business," said Payton Tucker, meat director of the 18-unit chain. "The meat loaf provides more variety for our customers and is a very consistent product."

Even without demonstrating the seasoned meat loaf item, sales have gone exceptionally well since its introduction three months ago, according to Tucker. Plans are under way for demonstrations to be scheduled after the holidays, when sales will probably double for the item, Tucker believes.

"The meat loaf product has a great taste profile," he added.

The new item, merchandised in chub packs, joins the other ground items in Valu Foods' ground section. Quality beef grinds, chicken, turkey, seasoned taco meat and the meat loaf are displayed together, in a coffin or multideck case, depending on the unit.

In stores with multideck displays, the fastest sellers are merchandised in the well. The size of the offerings ranges from 3 feet to 6 feet.

Valu Foods shifted to displaying all ground items in one location within the meat department of its units two years ago, based on consumer traffic patterns.

"We saw ground turkey growing significantly," Tucker said. "Ground turkey, at that time, was positioned in our poultry section. Still, customers would go to the ground-beef section looking for ground turkey, so we shifted merchandising ground turkey to where our customers were looking for it."

Following the shift to the all-grind display, the lean beef ground sales picked up along with ground turkey and chicken sales, according to Tucker.

"Our best-seller today is the 93 percent lean ground beef," Tucker said. "Customers are accustomed to the taste of beef. Many look for the leaner options, and some buy the beef and mix it with turkey or chicken."

The new meat loaf product, supplied frozen by Signature Foods, Omaha, is sold at retail both thawed and frozen.

Other vendor-supplied ground items within the Valu Foods merchandising mix include ground beef in 1-, 3- and 5-pound chub packs, and ground turkey and chicken items that are pre-ground and gas-flushed. "This eliminates cross contamination," said Tucker.

Store ground beef selections are prepared at a bare minimum to keep them fresh, Tucker said. To maintain out-of-stocks, ground beef is refilled up to six times per day.