New products and celebrity chef promotions help spread the good word.
Veal and lamb may be the perennial bridesmaids to center-of-the-plate proteins like beef, chicken, and pork, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t garnering attention in their own right. Taking advantage of restaurant trends and growing food knowledge among consumers, veal and lamb processors are capitalizing on good buzz about their products through new items and promotions.
While both markets remained relatively stagnant for years, grocery sales of lamb rose 6.84 percent over the last year — the highest protein category gain —relays the Hoffman Estates, IL-based FreshLook Marketing Group. Veal may have lost some ground in that study, dropping 2.47 percent, but has expanded its profile through a series of appearances by celebrity chefs in the national media.
The veal campaign was sponsored by the veal program arm of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), Centennial, CO. “Our celebrity chefs have used veal in a number of national TV segments, like the (NBC) ‘Today’ show and ‘Fox and Friends’,” reports Dean Conklin, executive director of veal marketing.
The lamb industry has also zeroed in on the influence of celebrity chefs. This year, the Denver, CO-based American Lamb Board (ALB) focused on pursuing national broadcast placements for lamb, and scored coverage on the “Today” show and the popular “Emeril Live” show on the Food Network, hosted by chef Emeril Lagasse.
Beyond the trickle-down effect from the restaurant and chef spotlight, lamb and veal are riding the coattails of low-carbohydrate eating trends. “High-protein, low-carb diets are definitely helping overall beef demand and I believe help veal to a degree as well,” notes Conklin, adding that his group’s “Veal: Eat Smart, Eat Well” campaign has reinforced the message that veal is a healthy indulgence.
Processors are also reinvigorating the category with new products. Dutch Valley Veal/Brown Packing Company, South Holland, IL, recently partnered with Chicago-based Roma Packing Co. to develop all-veal sausages, including sun-dried tomato, bratwurst, hot Italian and mild Italian varieties. “That is something new that retailers can add to their counter space — and they just love it,” reports Joe Smith, director of sales for Dutch Valley. “It’s also a value-added product — we are using veal trimmings and adding value to them.”
To accommodate new avenues for growth, Mountain States/Rosen LLC, Bronx, NY, has expanded its veal and lamb production capability. The company recently opened a new 15,000-square-foot section of its plant, including a special area for state-of-the-art case-ready processing. “Every retail chain in our backyard has been asking for case-ready veal,” reports president Bruce Rosen, adding that the company also recently developed new sliced leg veal cutlets and a new line of all-natural, anti-biotic free lamb.
Heat-and-eat products may represent the next frontier for these categories. Rosen is looking into fully-cooked items, while Collingswood, NJ-based Catelli Brothers Inc. recently rolled out a new fully-cooked Osso Buco veal dish earlier this year.
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