CHICAGO -- The challenges, present and future, that supermarkets face when addressing home-meal replacement at the meat case were explored by John Story, senior director of meat and deli at Fairway Foods, Bloomington, Minn., and two of his managers at the Meat Industry Research Conference here.
"To me HMR is a bad term. We feel that it boils down to a simple thing called meal solutions," said Story.
And the ideal meal solution, he said, "should solve or help solve the 4:30 dilemma."
He said that the need for solutions to that problem had not yet been satisfactorily met in the retail arena, and cautioned that "our competitors aren't just supermarkets."
Randy Wallerich, a sales manager for meat operations at Fairway, said that "our meat departments have to evolutionize."
Some of the directions that the meat department could head in, according to Wallerich, would be to include more value-added offerings and marinated and stuffed items.
"Branded products have the benefits of not being produced at store level, and have longer shelf life," he noted.
Story noted that in trying to change the traditional meat department "part of the problem is we don't necessarily have the kinds of equipment to best utilize these [new] products."
Jason Herfel, a senior specialist in deli operations at Fairway, who was the third speaker, said that deli foods have shown significant growth in the area of HMR, but that it was difficult to maintain both quality and consistency.
He informed attendees that Fairway is about to introduce a new line of HMR offerings called Chef's Promise, which is expected to hit the shelves in spring of 1998.
"Our traditional supermarket wasn't meeting customers expectations," he said.
Wallerich added that in order to meet these new expectations it was essential to change the way that products are merchandised, displayed and priced. He added that employee training was also essential.
Herfel agreed that employee training was one of the most important areas where significant changes were necessary in order to effectively meet customers' HMR needs.
Another way to meet customers' needs, according to Wallerich, is to learn more about them, through a good target marketing program.