Macon -- The team that helped launch some of America's first microwaveable beef dishes is sharpening its focus even more. Checkoff-funded new product development team members from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) are using market research to choose the biggest opportunities for new products based on their potential to get into the market fast, as well as earn incremental beef sales quickly.
"Several factors have helped the development of new beef products jump exponentially since we began concentrating checkoff resources around the category," said Jennifer Dunn, Coordinator of Consumer Relations for the Georgia Beef Board (GBB). "The beef industry helped fuel the fire, and now independent companies are discovering the potential for profit that others have achieved by adding value to undervalued beef cuts. By increasing the value of cuts from the chuck and round, everybody profits," she said.
In order to get the most out of checkoff resources, the beef industry's new product development team has shifted its focus to support product concepts that have emerged as being most interesting to manufacturers, supermarkets and restaurant operators. The team labeled these concepts "fast track" products.
"There are four product concepts, according to market research that have the ability to produce the greatest volume increases for producers in the fastest amount of time, capitalize on consumer trends and increase beef carcass value," Dunn said.
One of the products, the Boneless Beef Filet was launched recently and is now available to retail supermarket chains and foodservice operators from No Name Steaks@ of St. Michael, Minn., and Chicago Meat Authority headquartered in Chicago. The Boneless Beef Filet is a tender, marinated and thin beef chuck steak that offers an easy alternative to the boneless, skinless chicken breast.
Other "fast track" products are rotisserie beef, ground beef crumbles and a marinated beef roast with a popup timer.
"As busy consumers and restaurant and cafeteria operators look for convenient, nutritious, and versatile meals, these `fast track' products offer an easy alternative to other proteins," said Dunn. "One of our main goals is to get processors interested in developing these new products and marketing them on their own. We have generated considerable interest with several large companies and our research has helped them more clearly see the opportunities."
The "fast track" products have attracted national and international attention. The beef industry shared its top new checkoff-funded beef product concepts throughout the year at events such as an International Meat Secretariat Meeting, a new product open house during the AMI World Food Expo in Chicago, and at the industry's Beef Summit in New York City. Leading meat manufacturing companies, including Excel and Advance Foods, are among those who attended such events and who are now on board to start marketing some of the product concepts.
"We have shared extensive product development work and market research with these companies, which we hope will help reduce the time needed to get these products into the marketplace," she said. "These large companies have seen the consumer change over the years.
"They have also watched other proteins, such as poultry, continue to develop new, convenient products. They see big opportunities with beef."
A team of Research and Development (R&D) food industry experts helps develop new product concepts and shares them with those who can help get the product in the market. Team members have extensive experience in product innovation and marketing and include meat and food scientists, operations experts, marketers, chefs and home economists who have worked in the meat packing, processing, packaged goods, foodservice and retail industries.
"Through new products, we can increase the market price for traditionally undervalued cuts, ultimately improving the price paid at the producer level," said Dunn.
Other top opportunities for new product development include beef appetizers, such as cheeseburger fries, and sandwich meat items, such as beef ham and cheeseburger by the slice, all from undervalued cuts.
Additional activities surrounding value-added products, spurred by cattle producers' beef checkoff dollars:
• Lloyds and Stouffers have both developed successful product lines of new, convenient beef products. Lloyds new Sloppy Joe product continues to add to beef's growing share of the company's sales. Stouffers has six new "Skillet Sensation" beef items. The Kraft/Louis Rich company introduced Carving Board Steak Strips, the first product launched nationally that carries the beef industry's beef mark. The beef mark is designed to build beef's brand image by ensuring that the beef used in a specific product delivers all the things consumers expect from beef -taste, quality and satisfaction
• With their new Hearty Beef Stew, Crockery Creations is changing the way people think of frozen foods with its first Crock-Pot® frozen beef product from Land O'Lakes-affiliate Crockery Creations®.
• Following the successful launch last year of more than 30 new beef products to SYSCO, the nations largest foodservice distributor, the beef checkoff continues to influence the menus of top restaurant chains. More than 5,800 Dairy Queen restaurants worldwide introduced The Great Steakmel™ Basket to their menu. The sandwich is made from an undervalued muscle.
• Gordon Foodservice, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., is selling checkoff-developed Boneless Beef Filet to Midwest restaurants. Other foodservice operations across the country are being encouraged to market the Filet.
Spreading the Word
• Stories surrounding new products, the new product development program and its team have appeared throughout the media including hits on CNN, CNBC, and articles in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and the Chicago Tribune
• A recent beef checkoff-funded television media "tour," held via satellite and featuring heat-and-serve beef pot roast, received widespread interest from television stations across the country. As a result, information about convenient beef products was seen by about a half million viewers in more than 12 states.