CHICKEN ENJOYS BEST IN-STOCK POSITION: STUDY

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Retailers kept chicken product displays the fullest out of seven categories of fresh meat stocked in meat cases, a new national study has found.Chicken had the least incidence of out-of-stocks and low stocking -- four or fewer packages per stockkeeping unit -- based on the findings of a meat case study conducted by Cryovac/Sealed Air Corp. in partnership with the National

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Retailers kept chicken product displays the fullest out of seven categories of fresh meat stocked in meat cases, a new national study has found.

Chicken had the least incidence of out-of-stocks and low stocking -- four or fewer packages per stockkeeping unit -- based on the findings of a meat case study conducted by Cryovac/Sealed Air Corp. in partnership with the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

That's good news for the chicken industry, an industry official noted at a presentation during the annual Chicken Marketing Seminar.

That meat cases tend to have plenty of chicken products "tells me retailers are doing a good job with the category," said Bill Kuecker, national retail coordinator for Cryovac/Sealed Air, Duncan, S.C. "They're managing it in a way that displays they're comfortable with it."

The study was intended to offer a snapshot of what consumers see when they shop the meat case. Findings were based on data collected by teams of meat and retailing professionals who visited 97 conventional stores in major markets in February and March 2002.

According to the study, only 19% of all chicken stockkeeping units at all the stores were in the low stocking position of four or fewer packages, compared to 48% of beef SKUs, 41% of pork SKUs, and 70% of lamb SKUs.

The study also found chicken had the most package density per linear foot of case space of any meat product. The top six chicken items accounted for nearly 65% of total packages, with little regional variation. Boneless breasts were the No. 1 item, followed by bone-in breasts, drumsticks, whole chickens, bone-in thighs and wings.

On average, chicken also had the highest number of pre-seasoned, ready-to-cook or ready-to-eat products in self-serve cases -- 13.3 items per store -- compared to beef, lamb, pork, veal and turkey. Beef ranked second, with an average of 12.4 items per store.

"That reflects the fact there's a significant number of new products and products specifically aimed at the convenience segment in the fresh meat case," Kuecker said. With respect to on-pack labels, results were mixed. Beef, ground beef, pork and turkey had cooking instruction labels on packages more frequently than packages of chicken. About 43% of beef items and 40% of pork packages had the labels, compared to just 26% of chicken packages, the study found. In fact, 37% of all meat packages had the cooking instruction labels. However, labels with nutrition information were found on 34% of all meat packages, including 46% of chicken packages.

Those findings suggest home cooks may be more comfortable with chicken than other proteins, Kuecker said. At the same time, marketers of the other meats have been busy using labels to educate consumers.

"One of the major ways to make the meat case easier to shop is to make it as convenient as possible for consumers to understand the products," he said. "The NCBA and National Pork Board have made a big push to make sure that happens."

The store survey also revealed that nearly two-thirds of chicken items were branded, and 15% of chicken packages were "natural" brand products. Another 16% of packages were store brands, and 6% were not branded. Organic chicken products made up a tiny segment, Kuecker said.