Why Butterball expanded the Natural Inspirations line of all-natural products
Butterball’s senior director of retail marketing Kyle Lock discusses new product lines, trends that consumers want in their meat products and the company’s renovated deli line.
Andy Hanacek: Off the top of your head, what product line in the last year or two has seen some really good success coming out for Butterball that you can talk about for our viewers?
Kyle Lock: The first one that comes to mind is Butterball’s Natural Inspirations line. This is one of the first times where we have used a sub-brand to span across multiple categories keying in on a key consumer benefit, which is being all-natural. We do a lot of consumer research here, and we consider ourselves to be a thought-leader when it comes to the turkey protein, so reaching out to our core-consumers, understanding what it is that they want most out of all the value-added forms we provide… so you are talking about everything from packaged lunch meat to frozen burgers, bacons, sausages, etc. We are in the process of building and launching a multi-category line, an ever-expanding line, focusing on being all-natural. When we look at all the benefits we can provide, everything from being gluten-free to American Heart Association certifications and Humane Association [certifications] and stuff like that, what we find is we often bundle those things together. A shortcut to knowing if something is going to be better for you is that is it all-natural. That paired with the fact that it is coming from Butterball, it’s not going to taste like cardboard.
Hanacek: So the natural product, did you always have that in some of these categories and this is just bringing them all together?
Lock: It’s been a combination, so you have some products that had been all-natural, and we said, ‘we need to go retrofit those so they more clearly communicate that to the consumer.’ Our frozen all-white turkey burger is an example of that. Meatballs is another example of that. We had others where we said, ‘Look we are constantly innovating and growing into this category, and we need to find something that is new and different.’ When you look at something like packaged lunch meats, you can say there we are using special technologies for casing and for formulation so we can provide the consumer with something that is all-natural that still has a lot of taste to it. That’s our magic cross-point. Yes, certainly we are going to be healthy, but of course, it is going to be delicious because it’s from Butterball.
Hanacek: I know you guys have renovated or overhauled the deli line. Talk about what went into that and the why’s and the how’s from your standpoint.
Lock: Fun project! Butterball’s been in the service deli turkey business since 1985. For a really long time, [it’s] been a successful part of whole bunch of retailers product offerings. It had though, over time, in some cases merged together through acquisitions and things like that. The product line wasn’t all that consistent, and if you started to ask around the building ‘A retailer should carry Butterball in their service deli case because…?’ We having a little bit of a hard time filling in the last line. We had a lot of great answers but not one consistent answer. So we said, ‘let’s go back to the beginning.’ Let’s talk to service deli consumers and figure out what it is they want most from their line and what makes the most sense for Butterball to do. It was a really cool research project. You get a sense of it’s these combinations of claims around this central idea, so you end up with something that is optimal. That was then blown across the entire line. So everything that we would have in market, the front line set for 2015 and even adding a couple of additional items in 2016, everything that you are going to see that is turkey and chicken as well are going to offer those bundled benefits. Those things, in order, what they told us they want most from us were [1.] American Heart Association certification. In that case, most of the products already met that classification, but we went through the process of validation with AHA. [2.] Made from whole turkey breast, so that idea that it’s not a thoroughly, super processed product that they would get in packaged lunch meat. But this is something that is more like a whole bird in a deli form. [3.] American Humane Association certification, so that’s something that we’ve pioneered over the last couple of years [and] spilt it over our entire product line really in retail. It’s something consumers were really concerned about. They like that they can come to Butterball and get that extra stamp, that third-party certification, that we are kind and humane in how we are treating the animals.
Hanacek: Is there anything else on the product side that we didn’t mention that you wanted to mention?
Lock: Well, I think you’ve already got an earful on frozen turkey burgers. That is something I am really proud to have worked on. I was working in innovation when we took it back in the shop. We really did the same thing with consumers. Let’s workshop it. Let’s figure out what’s not being met in their needs out there, which essentially was something that tasted good and was healthy. There were plenty of healthy options out there, but they just weren’t something that was all that palatable. So you had something that was a really, really niche product. It was like, ‘I love burgers, but there’s no way I’d eat a turkey burger.’ We’ve built a line now of products that range from something that is very enjoyable to eat all the way to something like Natural Inspirations, which is a white burger which is a little bit smaller and one of the healthiest ways you can eat a burger in the market.
Be sure to check out our other Q&A interviews with Butterball executives.