Ruling the Retail Roost
There’s no end in sight to poultry’s growth spurt.
What a difference a few decades can make. Just a little more than 30 years ago, Americans consumed nearly twice as much beef as they did poultry. Today, the typical American gobbles down significantly more poultry than beef — USDA figures indicate a doubling in per-capita chicken consumption since 1970, while the National Turkey Federation reports a 220 percent increase in turkey consumption.
Poultry fits in well with today’s popular high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets, a fact that has helped to drive recent growth. In addition, it continues to benefit from its low-fat status.
Meeting increasing demand
Poultry purveyors are flexing their creative muscles to meet growing demand, filling refrigerated and frozen cases with flavorful, innovative products that are both convenient and on-trend.
Two trends worth noting, says Dan Emery, vice president of marketing for Pittsburg, TX-based Pilgrim’s Pride, are consumers’ desire for bolder flavors and the rising popularity of chicken breast strips.
The palates of adult consumers are becoming “a lot more adventurous — they’re looking for bolder flavors,” says Emery. “The breast strips are extremely hot, mirroring what we’re seeing on the foodservice side.”
Recent product launches packing an extra flavor punch — and heat-and-eat convenience — include fully cooked, frozen On The Go Bistro chicken fillets from Scarborough, MA-based Hannaford Bros. Co., which come in varieties such as Lemon-Pepper, Rosemary-Garlic, and Teriyaki. Maple Leaf Foods of Canada introduced into the refrigerated case a Slow-Cooked Turkey Breast in a sun-dried tomato and basil sauce. And Oklahoma City, OK-based Advance Brands’ new Fast Fixin’ frozen line of fully cooked Fire-Roasted Chicken Breasts, Chicken Breast Fajitas, and Chicken Thigh Fajita Slices add to a freezer-case already bulging with spicy poultry offerings.
Among the new arrivals to the breaded breast strip arena are Fast Fixin’ frozen Chicken Breast Strips, ConAgra Foods’ frozen Easy Entrées Chicken Breast Strips, and Salisbury, MD-based Perdue Farms’ freshly prepared refrigerated Chicken Breast Strips in original and Buffalo-style versions.
A new health-consciousness also is evident in the poultry sector. Tyson Foods, for example, removed the trans fat from all of its breaded chicken products, while Perdue Farms introduced low-fat Baked Breaded Chicken Breast Tenderloins and Nuggets to the refrigerated case.
“I think you’ll see more non-breaded products, healthier products,” says Emery, “with more diversity in flavor, maybe some new packages.”
The lunchmeat front — especially the premium thin-sliced category — also represents a growth area for poultry, notes Greg Sykes, vice president of technical research and development for Cincinnati, OH-based Sara Lee Foods. The company upped the convenience quotient here by packaging its Hillshire Farm Deli Select Ultrathin turkey and other lunchmeat varieties in reclosable, reusable GladWare tubs.
Finally, some companies are attracting consumers simply through the application of fresh treatments to traditional products. For example, Pilgrim’s Pride added a ready-to-cook Premium Young Turkey  seasoned with “real creamery butter.” No Name Frozen Premium Turkey Breast Fillets, from the St. Michael, MN-based J&B Group, are marinated, boneless, and skinless, and they offer an alternative to the ubiquitous frozen chicken breast.
Report courtesy of Refrigerated & Frozen Foods magazine.