Focus Groups Critical of Meat Departments

DALLAS — Many shoppers feel that modern supermarket meat departments are both boring and intimidating, according to a series of shop-along interviews and focus group sessions conducted in Chicago and the Washington, D.C., area by Shugoll Research and Midan Marketing.

DALLAS — Many shoppers feel that modern supermarket meat departments are both boring and intimidating, according to a series of shop-along interviews and focus group sessions conducted in Chicago and the Washington, D.C., area by Shugoll Research and Midan Marketing.

The findings of these studies, along with suggestions for short- and long-term solutions that retailers might employ to improve consumer perception of their meat departments, were presented here during the "Turning Trends into Sales" session at the Annual Meat Conference, a production of the American Meat Institute and the Food Marketing Institute.

Basically, the shoppers who participated in the study tended to agree that meat departments tend to be visually uninteresting, unlike other fresh food departments such as in-store bakeries and produce departments. And, since many shoppers are unfamiliar with how various cuts of meat and poultry are best prepared, they often find themselves overwhelmed by the large selection of similar-looking products.

When researchers asked the focus groups to talk about their sensory experience in the meat department, participants did not register a single positive experience involving sounds, sights, smells or tastes, Danette Amstein, principal of Midan Marketing, said during her portion of the presentation.

Some solutions that retailers might consider? Bakery departments often use the smell of fresh-baked bread to inspire purchases. Regular sampling programs, or even something simple, like a crock-pot cooking up a meal idea near the service counter could help a meat department generate a similar positive sensory experience. And, many produce departments use misters that generate the sounds of rain and thunder, while dairy department cooler doors often open to the sounds of cows mooing. Why not employ similar tactics in the meat department, with the sound of a steak sizzling on a grill?

Amstein was joined by Michael Shinall, president of Meridian Research, and Merill Shugoll, president of Shugoll research.