Archives for September 2014

3 Things to Consider for FY 2015 Planning

It’s always interesting to me how consumer trends across the board shape what happens in the meat case. As you plan for FY 2015, here are three trends that you should consider:

  1. Capitalize on the Protein Craze

A walk down any center grocery aisle will tell you that protein is one of the hottest buzzwords right now. It’s as if the rest of the world just figured out what we’ve known all along:  protein is a big deal. Everything from cereal to pasta now boasts added protein, and consumers are gobbling it up. This trend means good things for the meat industry — we have a lock on protein!  Not only is meat an excellent source of naturally-occurring protein, it tastes great. Would you rather get 23 grams of protein from a nice juicy Strip Steak, or 11 grams from a bowl of Cheerios™ Protein?

The message consumers need to hear is this:  look no further than the meat case for protein-rich, nutritious food.

Other nutrition topics we need to pay attention to include recent challenges to established USDA guidelines on fat intake. Headlines are swirling that saturated fat, long considered to be a diet no-no, might not be so bad after all. Consumers who have been restricting their fat consumption might now consider coming back to the meat case. You need to be ready for them, and loudly proclaim the incredible value of protein-rich, flavorful meat.

Read more:

Last 50 years of diet advice on meat, saturated fat could be wrong

Low-carb trumps low-fat for weight loss and cardiovascular risk: study

High-protein diets linked to lower blood pressure: study

  1. Give Permission to Spend More

There’s no way around it:  beef prices are continuing to rise, and the price gap between beef and other proteins is widening. Current beef prices, already about 30% higher than 2013 levels, are expected to climb another 12% in 2015, while pork and poultry are expected to drop about 15% and 8%, respectively.*

For beef retailers, it’s no time to shrink. (Pun intended!) Instead of apologizing for the sticker shock, give your customers permission to splurge on what some have been cutting back on: beef.  According to Len Steiner, demand is one of the drivers of higher-than-expected prices.* For beef lovers, nothing satisfies like a tender, juicy steak, and sometimes all they need is a little nudge to get over that price hurdle.

Pork and poultry retailers, you should soon be sitting pretty. With those anticipated lower prices, you will be perfectly poised to develop messaging around being the most affordable protein choice.

Read more:

*Fat is in, changing meat economics: Steiner  

  1. Thin is In

Bigger beef carcasses are leading to even-higher-priced steaks. Savvy retailers already know that cutting primals into thinner cuts generates packages with more-appealing unit prices for customers. But have you thought about the across-the-board implications of thinner cuts?  Merchandising should include simple meal suggestions and shorter recommended cooking times to ensure a positive eating experience. Prominently feature recipes on your website that showcase thinner cuts and revised timings.

Another reason to pay special attention to thinner cuts is a shift in demand for portion sizes. Large segments of the population, particularly Millenials and Boomers, are now looking for smaller package sizes and smaller cuts. More than ever, you need to be aware of customers’ needs and evaluate your product mix and merchandising programs to meet those needs.

Read more:

Bigger Cattle; Smaller Steaks

What do you think?  What’s on your mind as you’re planning for FY 2015?  Please leave a comment below or feel free to contact me directly at

My First Photo Shoot

072914 Photoshoot 4 I recently had the opportunity to participate in my first photo shoot. We planned a day shoot and the goal was to capture a culinary shot plus three, possibly four, product shots. Once we received client approval on photographer and location, we had a pre-production call with the photography team. The team included the photographer, photographer’s assistant, food stylist, assistant food stylist, prop stylist and art director (in addition to our client, Greg and me). During the call, we walked through the plan that the photography art director had put together. We discussed each photo and planned out how we wanted the shoot to flow. On the day of the shoot, I was at the Charlotte airport bright and early. This was also my first trip to Chicago and I wanted to experience as much of it as possible so I made sure I had a window seat on the plane – I really enjoyed the view of the downtown area as we flew over Lake Michigan. After we landed, I took the ‘L’ train (as I learned from Allison, our admin in the Chicago office) to the nearest station to the photography studio. As I traveled the rest of the way to the studio, I noticed three distinctive things about Chicago: the ‘L’ train ran really close to some buildings (mainly houses and apartments), there were lots of really great murals and graffiti on various structures and that more people rode their bikes in this city than any other I had ever been to. When I arrived, the photo team was already preparing the food and lighting. I really appreciated the creative environment of the studio – it was open, with lots of natural light and easy access to the outside. As we waited for the client to arrive, we started setting up for the culinary shot. I was volunteered to be the hand model, so I put on an apron and stood behind the table as the prop stylist set up the location of all of the cooking items. I didn’t mind being in the photo because it gave me an opportunity to get a closer look at how the food was set up and how to take direction from the photographer. Once the food was ready, the food stylist carefully placed the meat sauce on top of the pasta that was on the plate. I held the skillet of sauce in one hand and a spoon full of sauce in the other and slowly moved the spoon back 072914 Photoshoot 1and forth from the pan across the late of pasta as the photographer took multiple shots. The rest of the photos were shot close up and in shallow focus. Lighting seemed like it was the most difficult for the team to set up – the main issue being the color differences in the products. We needed more light for the beef, but not so much that the details in the bread were lost. We used stand-in product to get the shot set up and then, once we had everything in the place we wanted it, the food stylist would come in with the best product and do her magic. She used paint brushes and tweezers and all kinds of other tools to make sure the food looked great (even if it wasn’t going to be edible when she was finished with it). I liked watching the stylists and the photographer as they set up before we took the final photo – the smallest tweak in lighting, camera location or placement of a prop could change the entire photo. I don’t think most people realize how much work goes into making a photo of a simple burger look so enticing. 072914 Photoshoot 6By the end of the day, we were able to get all of the shots in that we had planned on. I’ve worked with the planning part of the photography process before, but it was a really great experience to be able to have input while the photographs were being taken; not to mention how much easier it made the design process once the photos were complete. I think food photography is such an interesting thing to be a part of and I’m looking forward to being more involved in that process in the future.