The Business of Branding Meat

Over the decades, a series of different owners and management changes have caused many of ACME Markets’ fabled house brands – such as Louella butter, Ideal, and Virginia Lee – to fall by the wayside. However, for more than 85 years, its Lancaster Brand private label steaks, roasts, and ground beef have stood strong. Lancaster Brand has such a following that it is the main incentive for many customers to choose ACME for their weekly shopping.

“Lancaster Brand meat is absolutely a customer draw for ACME and is a key reason that shoppers will choose to shop at ACME,” says Dana Ward, senior communications coordinator for ACME Markets. “Not only are we one of the only supermarkets that continue to cut meat fresh daily by experienced neighborhood butchers, but customers choose to shop at ACME because of our quality meat products. During the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, many shoppers, some who no longer live close to one of our locations, actually come back to ACME for their holiday turkey, prime rib, and ham.”

Today, Lancaster Brand is offered in beef, chicken and turkey, along with smoked and processed items including ham, bacon, hot dogs and bologna. “ACME also uses Lancaster Brand meat as a staple for our QFI – Quick Fixing Ideas program that offers pre-seasoned grill and oven-ready meat solutions,” Ward says.

Every supermarket may not have the power of the Lancaster Brand name, but an increasing number are incorporating branded meats into their cases, using national and regional brands with stellar reputations in lieu of no-name cuts. Many are offered on an exclusivity basis, helping to cement the store’s reputation in the face of increasing competition.

“Branding and packaging in our business is so important. It has really become a big deal,” says Anthony Catelli, president & CEO of Catelli Brothers, Inc., a Collingswood, N.J.-based purveyor of veal and lamb. Catelli Brothers is involved in every aspect of meat processing from manufacturing its own feed, to owning its farms and processing the carcasses.

“In the meat industry today there are no games to be played,” Catelli says. “Food safety is paramount. So you want to develop a brand. You need the consumer to trust that name, and it is extremely important for our future and setting ourselves apart from the competition that when the consumer sees the branded section of veal and lamb that they have confidence,” Catelli says.

“We live in a branded society, where consumers want to know more about their food than ever,” explains David O’Diam, director of retail for Certified Angus Beef brand, based in Wooster, Ohio. “Consumers have a higher perceived value of brands than commodity products. They seek brands that provide a repeatable experience with desirable results.”

Certified Angus Beef is raised on family farms and must meet 10 exacting quality standards, starting with a premium level of marbling, setting it apart from other beef grades and Angus brands, O’Diam says.

He notes that research from Firebox Research & Strategy found 60 percent of consumers are willing to drive 25 minutes or more to a store offering Certified Angus Beef. “Brand shoppers tend to have a larger basket size,” O’Diam says. “With inflationary dollars continuing to rise, a trusted brand helps attract customers and more business.”

Northglenn, Colo.-based Niman Ranch, producer of sustainably and humanely raised pork, beef and lamb, has expanded into gourmet artisan charcuterie with a 23-count line of Genoa Salame, Capocollo, Hot Sopresatta, Pepperoni and Pancetta.

“In response to the urging of chefs and specialty grocers who wanted a real choice in superior tasting charcuterie made humanely and sustainably by U.S. family farmers, we created a new product category from our delicious tasting pork,” says Jeff Tripician, general manager and chief marketing officer at Niman Ranch.


Hatfield Sunburst

Hatfield has been a trusted name in pork for over 120 years. Its products are distributed throughout the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and parts of the Midwest, and are stocked by major chains such as ACME, Meijer, and Giant Eagle. Over the past year, many of the brand’s labels have been redesigned to reflect the all-natural nature of many of its products.

“We’ve changed the whole look of our brand blocking,” says Michelle Williams, senior retail marketing manager at Clemens Food Group, the Hatfield, Pa.-based producer of the Hatfield brand. “Our previous branding was red. We’ve switched over to a more natural look that is lighter, brighter and cleaner. Our logo is circular. We call it the Hatfield Sunburst.”

Kevin Clancy, associate retail marketing manager at Clemens, notes that creation of brand blocking – including case dividers, case strips, danglers, case cards and other point-of-sale materials – helps Hatfield stand out in the meat case compared to its competition. “It is very cohesive, so it flows a lot better now between all of our categories in our portfolio of product,” he says. “There is a very clean look that goes with our product and it is called out as ‘family-owned, American made.’ We were founded in 1895, and we’re in our sixth generation of being a family-owned company. That gives both customers and consumers confidence in our products.”

This fall Catelli is debuting a new line of lamb and veal that is VSP (vacuum sealed packaging) in addition to its traditional MAP (modified atmosphere packaging) line. “VSP offers a longer shelf life and it is easier for the consumer to toss the package in the freezer when they get home,” Catelli says.

VSP will allow Catelli to fit more packages in a box, reducing transportation costs. Unlike the MAP, which has a see-through window, the VSP line will be wrapped in a sleeve.

“It is important to show a picture of the product, what it looks like when it is cooked, nutritional information, and include a website where the consumer can go and recipes,” Catelli says. “We have young people going to restaurants and enjoying veal and lamb, but we have to educate them about how simple it is to buy and prepare them at home,” he says.

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