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Expert Column: The Meatologist Is 'In'


By Ronnie P. Cons

Studies show that many meat shoppers are under-educated and confused about beef purchases and their preparation and are thus looking for guidance. The confusion stems from the existence of the many types of beef cuts with varying nutritional values, prices, tastes and methods of preparation.

For instance, a mother of young children will be less concerned about the fat content of the sirloin than would a wife of a husband with heart disease. Thus, the latter would want to know which cuts are the leanest while the former might want to know which cut is tastier for her children when grilled.

The confusion and concern has only increased due to the many new recipes for different cuts, as well as a general increase in the desire for nutritional information. Today's consumer wants to be well informed about what he eats, thus meat department personnel must be knowledgeable and expert enough to guide and answer all the questions that the consumer might have. S/he must be able to answer questions ranging from - what cut to buy; storage of meat, preparation and recipes; nutritional value; taste of final product; which type of people generally prefer which cuts (kids vs. adults) etc.

The 'Meatologist'

In order to answer this need, the meat department should ideally have at least one meat expert on hand at all times. He will be the "meatologist" – the store's official meat expert and go-to person to answer all meat questions. This person will be perceived as a very valuable resource by the consumers as they will now feel more confident in their meat purchases.

The existence of a meatologist should be advertised in regular flyers and in a big in-store display positioning him as a meat expert ready to guide them in all their purchases. This exposure will position the department as meat information experts who will lead to a greater volume of new clients, higher sales and customer satisfaction.

If a current meat department has no meat expert on hand but just personnel who are somewhat informed, the manager can initiate a program to educate one or more meat department staff members over the coming months, including ample training and education to prepare them to become the store's official meat expert. A final evaluation of the personnel by a meat expert will confirm if the person is ready to take on the title of meatologist. Another option is hiring a new person for that position.

The marketing effect of having such an expert can be enhanced with a distinct uniform and other elements, such as a large picture on an in-store poster broadcasting that the "meatologist is in."

The second part of meat education that goes hand in hand with an educated staff is having all the resources to educate the customer. That is, tools must be available on hand that the meatologist can refer the customer to so that he can educate himself and answer in detail any questions the customer may have. For example, the meatologist might be posed a question on the nutritional value of a particular cut of beef, which can be personally answered further reinforced with an “information wall” that has brochures discussing specific cuts of beef, as well as other useful information such as nutritional value; methods of preparation; recipe tips; portion sizes, etc. The brochure should also have practical advice on what quantities to buy according to number of diners. The information wall can also contain large posters; for example one that shows all the beef cuts and final prepared products from those cuts.

Another suggestion for grocers is to add an on-site computer linked to an existing website that allows consumers to enter the type of cut and preparation method they are interested in, which can present results with pictures and recipes. This method is inexpensive to deploy and the result will yield a meat department that will generate buzz and bring in more clients.

In summary, having educated meat personnel and in-store educational resources will lead to more educated and satisfied clients, which will act as an engine to drive sales and profits.

Ronnie P. Cons is EVP of C&C Packing Inc., a leading Canadian meat and poultry distributor. He can be reached at (514) 461-5202 or [email protected]


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