TAMPA, Fla. — Beef Backers increased their beef sales last year in part because they pumped up efforts — in-store and through social media — to strengthen connections with their customers, they said.
Four retailers — Tops Friendly Markets , Broulim’s Fresh Foods, Redner’s Warehouse Markets  and Harris Teeter  — were honored here at the Cattle Industry Annual Convention and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association trade show, funded by the Beef Checkoff program.
The Beef Backer awardees had made it a priority to showcase their in-house butchers.
For example, Tops Friendly Markets, Williamsville, N.Y., chosen Innovator of the Year, stood posters in its stores that show a photo of the store’s butcher, and carry this message: “Real Meat, Real Butchers.”
Jim Lane, director of meat and seafood at 155-unit Tops, told SN this is one step to get customers connected with their butcher. They’re encouraged to seek him out.
“Part of our motivation is to find out what customers want, and then provide it,” Lane said.
Face-to-face contact works to get feedback, he said, but now a lot comes via Facebook.
“Facebook is so immediate. It’s good to get comments and criticism we can respond to quickly,” said Katie McKenna, Tops’ manager of communications and public relations.
Read more: Consumers More Interested in Antibiotic-Free Meat 
Tops launched a total of nine initiatives last year to give customers convenience and value. Included were such programs as Fresh Creations, featuring ready-to-cook cuts of beef, with instructions. Another was Brown Bag Your Beef, encouraging customers to cook enough to make sandwiches for lunch the next day.
“We say cook it once, enjoy it twice,” Lane said. Tops also posted creative POS materials in selected stores to appeal to Hispanic customers. Beef-cut charts and signage were bilingual, and cuts favored by Hispanic shoppers were added.
Rigby, Idaho-based Broulim’s Fresh Foods, a three-time winner in the Beef Backer independent category, also introduced its meat managers via stand-up, life-sized posters, entitled “The Magnificent Seven,” a take-off on the movie.
“Putting a face on our meat managers worked well,” said Mike Smith, corporate meat supervisor at Broulim’s, which now has nine stores, two recently acquired. “Every store has a trained meat cutter on site from early morning until 9 at night,” he added.
The company employed NCBA-backed Beef Alternative Merchandising — promoting new “value cuts” of beef such as flat-iron steaks and petite top sirloin roasts — bringing total fresh meat sales up more than 4% last summer over the same period a year earlier.
Read more: Ptacek’s Grilling Beats the Cold, Warms Up Sales 
During “tax-refund season,” Broulim’s ran a case-lot promotion, due for a repeat this year. The promo requires customers to buy meat in 10-pound increments to get it at $2.49 a pound. “We cut the beef however they want it, and freezer-wrap it in individual packages,” Smith said.
This past year, Broulim’s promoted beef on the front page of its circular every week. “For the year, we actually saw a bit of an increase in sales despite the drought and feed prices,” Smith said.
Redner’s Warehouse Markets, Reading, Pa., Beef Backer awardee in the midsized chain category, considers its most successful promotion its “Pick 5 for $19.95.”
Gary Redner, executive vice president of procurement and director of wholesale operations, said he launched the promotion a few years ago, but only monthly then. Proving its worth as a good value for customers, the popular promo was changed to run every day.
Here’s how it works: Certain meat items, in a self-service bunker, are stamped with the “Pick 5” logo and a customer may choose five of them, whatever they are, for $19.95.
“It doesn’t have to be beef … but our best-selling SKU in Pick 5 is our 75% lean ground beef,” Redner said.
This week, New York strip steaks will be among the 10 fresh-cut meats in the Pick 5 group. The 8-ounce steaks will be cut and packaged individually by Redner’s meat cutters.
The Pick 5 promo can push sales of a particular cut up more than 400%, Redner said.
Since the promo began running every day, total meat sales are up between 3% and 5%.
In the year and a half, the Pick 5 for $19.95 promotion has been run every day, total meat sales have risen between 3% and 5%, Redner said.
“It’s definitely a niche for us, and we’ll keep it up.”
Read more: Four Retailers Receive Beef Backer Awards 
Harris Teeter, Charlotte, a five-time winner of the Beef Backer Award, had recently launched a beef-only mobile website to make it easy for shoppers to get cooking instructions by cut of meat.
The 211-unit chain also was cited by judges for featuring beef on the front page of its circular weekly, and for using a unique “Big Red Button” that summons the store’s butcher.
Recently, the company launched a beef-only mobile website to make it easy for shoppers to get cooking instructions by cut of meat. Recipes are included.
The chains was cited by the judging committee for outpacing competitors with its beef sales, probably due in part to its featuring beef on the front page of its circular weekly, and a unique “Big Red Button” program that reconnects the consumer with each store’s butcher.
The Beef Backer awardees all worked closely with NCBA and their state beef councils on promotions, training, and customer education.
The awards program is funded by the Beef Checkoff Program.
|Suggested Categories||More from Supermarketnews|