Annual Meat Conference Highlights: Verde scales up as grass-fed beef demand grows
The demand for grass-fed beef in the United States continues to grow. While overall sales for the product remain small compared to conventional beef, the sales growth for grass-fed beef has had an enviable track record for the last several years. As consumers continue to purchase grass-fed beef, companies like Verde have grown along with the demand.
Verde Farms has been in business for 15 years and was one of the first companies to really focus on the grass-fed beef market. The company has noticeably changed in order to meet the demand. In recent years, it has expanded its front office team, added new products, accepted a substantial outside investment from a minority partner and opened its first processing facility.
That growth, says company founder and CEO Dana Ehrlich, comes from understanding the consumer.
“We’ve always been interested in being more than just a meat company and a commodity player,” he said during an interview at the 2020 Annual Meat Conference, held in Nashville in March. “We’ve always been interested in trying to understand what the consumer needs are and connecting with them in a deep and emotional manner. We’ve done a lot of research to try and understand what that consumer is about and who that target customer is.”
Ehrlich points out that many of the consumer trends show the need for Verde’s products: 100 percent grass-fed beef from pasture-raised cattle. He was aware of this need from the company’s onset, but it was much more difficult to get the rest of the meat supply chain to listen.
“Ten years ago, there was nobody really highlighting organic and grass-fed in the marketplace, so when you made the phone call and said, ‘We’ve got this, there’s a need for it,’ it was met with skepticism. The market’s really evolved,” Ehrlich said.
For its part, Verde has grown to meet the needs of both its consumers and its retail partners.
“We really want to make sure that we build our brand from the shelf out,” explained Pete Lewis, vice president of marketing. “Some people have a label that looks pretty, but there’s not a real brand behind it. We’ve built a real brand that the consumer can interact with, and we can interact with them. We make sure we educate back-of-store staff so that they understand the differences of what our product represents.”
Having the desirable attributes, Lewis said, is no longer enough. More and more companies, including some of the larger corporations, have claims-based meats with similar attributes. Verde has strengthened its existing relationships and gained new ones by offering a premium program — not just a premium product.
Verde recently released a new line of products. The Simply Sear It! line of sous vide-prepared products offer a consumer a high-quality steak with a five-minute preparation time. The Simply Sear It! and related Simply Shred It! products complement the sausages and other value-added items that Verde has released in addition to its ground beef and steaks.