CROCKETT, Texas — Brookshire Brothers and premium beef supplier AngusPride gave summer a sizzling send-off at the 71st Annual World Championship Fiddler's Festival here earlier this month.
The 72-unit, Lufkin, Texas-based supermarket chain linked up with AngusPride and the local Lions Club for the third year in a row to sponsor a steak grilling competition that festival attendees look forward to as a highlight of the afternoon. For a $15 ticket, festival-goers watched 16 cooking teams put their particular expertise into grilling what they hoped would be the juiciest, tenderest steak of all. Brookshire Brothers' fresh meat buyer Steve Hancock serves on the judging team. After the judging, cook-off observers are served up one of the steaks with all the trimmings.
The Fiddle Festival this year drew more than 2,000 people, and many of them jumped at the opportunity to dine on an expertly grilled rib-eye. The cook-off is a popular event, and the exposure is valuable to both companies, officials said.
“We have a spike in sales right after the festival, but our plan with AngusPride is long-range. It's to grow sales steadily — slowly, but steadily,” Hancock told SN.
Here's how the two collaborate for the cook-off: AngusPride donates the meat and Brookshire Brothers, which prides itself on having its own meat cutters in all its stores, donates the labor.
Two weeks prior to the cook-off, Brookshire's meat-cutting team at its Crockett store begins to age the beef. Then, the day before the event, the team sets about hand-cutting and trimming 550 thick rib-eye steaks, each weighing in at a target 14 ounces.
Referring to his long-range plans to boost red meat sales, particularly AngusPride sales, Hancock said most of the chain's stores are aggressively promoting grilling this summer.
Thanks to point-of-sale materials supplied by AngusPride, Brookshire Brothers' customers can't miss the reminder that grilling season is upon them. A 5-by-8-foot cutout extending into the aisle shows a little boy holding his plate up to a grill where someone is turning steaks. A huge banner hangs from the back wall in Brookshire's meat departments and shows a plated steak with grill marks. It says, “A Great Way to Leave Your Mark.” Then, a static-cling sign showing low-profile flames that span the front of the meat case says, “Make Your Summer Sizzle With AngusPride Premium Beef.”
The featured steaks this summer are top sirloin and tenderloin, and recipe cards at the meat counter include coupons for $1 off any AngusPride item.
“We're taking into account that consumers like to try different things and that more people are grilling,” said Amanda Pokorny, AngusPride brand manager, Cargill Meat Solutions.
Pokorny cited NPD Group figures that show 32% of respondents in a recent survey had grilled within the last two-week period. That's up slightly from last year, but up 17% from 20 years ago.