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Red Meat Producers Trying Videos To Reach Shoppers

October 4, 1986

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ It was nearly midnight when the three shoppers nearest the 24-hour supermarket’s meat case were attracted by the startup of the bold music that accompanies another showing of ″Meat Features.″

They watched as high-tech graphics introduced a 60-second video about preparing lemon pepper steak, a dish using low-priced chuck steak and a marinade to make the cut more tender.

When the preparation and cooking demonstration videotape ended, one customer picked up a package of meat displayed under the television monitor and put it in her basket. All three shoppers took recipe cards from the display.

The reaction was just what beef, pork and lamb producers are hoping for.

″It’s a very effective tool to reach the consumer,″ said Tom Flaherty, spokesman for the National Livestock and Meat Board, a Chicago-based group that promotes red meat.

Meat videos, as the short presentations are called by the board and producer groups, were the brainchild of Dick Pringle, a rancher and feedlot operator in Yates Center, Kan.

″It’s not an original idea,″ said Pringle. ″I’d seen other products and commodities use it.″

It was Pringle, though, who persuaded the Kansas Beef Council to chip in $20,000 more than a year ago to help get the project off the ground. An Iowa pork producers group and an organization of meat importers also contributed $20,000 apiece, and the livestock board put up $90,000.

The concept is simple. A television monitor with a videotape that plays continuously is used to deliver a message about a specific cut of red meat. Recipe cards are provided to accompany the tape, and packages of the meat being featured are displayed nearby.

Pringle, who is chairman of the livestock board, said the videotape is almost as good as an in-store demonstration. He said it helps renew the shopper contact lost when custom butchers vanished from most stores.

″I don’t think that in a lot of aspects it will completely fill that void,″ Pringle said. ″But, on the other hand, it gives very good ideas to the consumer.″

When the first tapes were tested in Texas and New Jersey the results delighted board officials and participating grocers. One ″Meat Feature″ showed how to stir-fry meat strips and vegetables in a skillet. Sales of stir- fry strips jumped more than 300 percent while that video was running.

Although ground beef is already a high-volume item in most meat departments, the videotape test found its sales could be increased 18 percent to 25 percent.

Most of the major supermarket chains in the country are now testing ″Meat Features″ in selected stores, Flaherty said.

In Kansas, for example, five chains or wholesalers are participating.

Joe Leaton, the meat merchandising manager for Safeway stores in Kansas and Missouri, said he decided on an eight-week test in two Super Food Barn stores in Wichita after seeing a presentation.

″I thought it was outstanding,″ he said. ″I really see something in the future with this. It’s like a talking sign.″

He likes the quality of the videos. ″Whoever put it together did a first- class job,″ he said.

In one of the Wichita stores using the tapes, meat department workers said they are having trouble keeping the meat case near the television monitor stocked 24 hours a day.

″It’s working really well,″ said Eric Garrison, the meat department manager.

He said sales of chuck steaks, the first week’s featured meat, picked up immediately once the video started playing.

Garrison said he is interested in seeing if the response will be similar when less familiar cuts are promoted later in the trial.

There are 18 videos available now. By June, the livestock board plans to have 53 of them ready so retailers can go a full year and run one video a week without ever repeating the same tape.

The board and state beef councils have been sharing the costs of the ″Meat Features″ tests with participating stores.

Videos are just the latest shot fired by red meat producers in a campaign to reclaim the market share they have been losing to poultry.

″You just can’t sit back and wait for somebody else to do it,″ said Rene Wassenberg, Kansas Beef Council executive dierctor. ″If it works, great. If it doesn’t, at least we tried.″

End Adv Weekend Editions Oct. 4-5

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