January 1, 2006
By Barbara Young,
Pilgrim’s Pride places a new page in its strategic growth manual with yet another innovative chicken marketing program under its wings.
Positioned as the second-largest poultry producer in the United States and Mexico and the largest of its kind in Puerto Rico, this Pittsburg, TX, chicken and turkey business operates in a continuous improvement mode, generating $5.7 billion in annual sales with 40,000 employee-partners.
The company processes approximately 6 billion pounds of poultry and 40 million-dozen table eggs each year. Its size doubled with its acquisition of the ConAgra Foods’ chicken division in 2003, which added employees, sales, and locations. Pilgrim’s markets more than 1,000 products, including fresh, fully cooked, and a signature line of pre-marinated chicken and IQF (individually quick-frozen) products. Turkey products include a line of refrigerated salads and fresh and frozen whole turkeys.
Chicken is the foundation of the Pilgrim’s Pride business, however, signified by the introduction of its 100% Natural line of marinated fresh products.
“We are among the first poultry processors to offer an all-natural enhanced product,” reports Dan Emery, director of marketing and a poultry-industry veteran. “We are always looking at ways to improve our customers’ ability to succeed in this highly competitive world.”
All natural is the line’s marketing theme and the product portfolio includes more than 70 varieties of fresh cuts including boneless skinless breast fillets and thighs, whole chickens, drumsticks, whole wings, and tenderloins. The chicken is produced without artificial ingredients, hormones, or steroids, and is minimally processed.
“Consumers view chicken as a healthy product, and now Pilgrim’s Pride further delivers on this belief with these natural products,” notes Lonnie “Bo” Pilgrim, chairman of the board. “Many items are approved by the American Heart Association as a food that meets the criteria for fat and cholesterol. The heart checkmark logo is prominent on the package.”
Bo Pilgrim started the company in 1946 in partnership with his brother Aubrey, who died in 1966 from heart disease. When he suffered a heart attack and stroke by the age of 53, Bo Pilgrim made a commitment to create more healthy products to benefit his family as well as consumers of his company’s products. Working with doctors, nutritionists, and scientists, he first developed EggsPlus, the first egg to contain substantial amounts of Omega 3, Omega 6, and vitamin E. A line of Eat Well Stay Healthy chicken cuts preceded introduction of the 100-percent natural products.
The inclusion of the American Heart Association checkmark certifies that the products are low-carb, low fat, low-calorie, low-sodium, low-cholesterol, low-sugar, and allergen-free.
“We know our customers have a limited amount of time to spend evaluating products, and we are making it easy for them,” says Bob Wright, Pilgrim’s Pride executive vice president of sales and marketing. “With our Eat Well Stay Healthy line, consumers can be assured they are getting healthy and delicious products. They can make the choice of ready-to-cook or ready-to-eat, and choose among three bold flavors including Italian, Key Lime, and Kung Pao.”
The fresh choices in the line come from uncooked boneless skinless chicken breast meat trimmed to meet 99-percent fat-free specifications. Fully cooked chicken has less than 5 grams of fat per serving, with less than 2 grams of saturated fat, less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol, and less than 480 milligrams of sodium per serving.
“Eat Well Stay Healthy products offer a healthy, nutritional, and great-tasting alternative for consumers who don’t want to give up anything, whether great taste, bold flavors, or new choices,” Wright says. “Pilgrim’s Pride is giving consumers exactly what they want for today’s healthy lifestyles: nutritious and healthy products that taste great.”
Although the enhanced product concept as such is not new, Emery emphasizes that the company’s formula is brand new.
“Our enhanced formula has been carefully developed to maximize flavor and tenderness while minimizing sodium levels,” he explains. “Enhanced individually frozen chicken has been sold in club stores and used in many restaurants for more two decades with superior results. Now consumers can enjoy this product in the convenience of their homes.”
Emery says testing confirms that consumers prefer enhanced products 4 to 1 over non-enhanced products because they are plump, juicy, and tender. “Enhanced chicken is more tolerant of high cooking temperatures, making it easier for customers to prepare more flavorful chicken without it becoming tough and dry,” Emery concludes.
Pilgrim’s Pride increased its marketing budget by 50 percent to finance various media campaigns. The initial rollout is on a regional basis targeting markets in the southern, southwestern, and central United States. The upgraded packaging design carries bilingual information.
“We are generally moving into the healthier product category,” notes O.B. Goolsby, president and chief executive officer. “This is a long-term strategy because it is important to consumers. It is truly gratifying to continue to see the increasing acceptance of chicken as a healthy, convenient meat protein.”
From its humble beginning as a single farm-supply store, Pilgrim’s Pride stands as a vertically integrated company that controls breeding, hatching, and growing of chickens and turkeys as well as the processing, preparation, packaging, and sale of its product lines. The company’s primary distribution channels include retailers and restaurants throughout the United States and the northern and central regions of Mexico, and the foodservice industry nationwide in both countries. The U.S. business generates the bulk of the company’s sales with slightly more than 13 percent from Mexico. NP
Behind the certification
To be certified by the American Heart Association requires that product meet specific nutritional levels, which are based on a standard serving size as specified by the Food and Drug Administration for an individual food. The following specifics apply:
Low in fat means a product contains less than or equal to 3 grams.
Low in saturated fat products contain less than or equal to 1 gram.
Less than or equal to 20 milligrams qualifies a product as low in cholesterol.
Sodium value is set as less than or equal to 480 milligrams for individual foods.
Products must contain at least 10 percent of the Daily Value of one or more of these naturally occurring nutrients: protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron, or dietary fiber.
Poultry must meet these nutritional requirements per standard serving and per 100 grams: contain less than 5 grams of total fat, less than 2 grams of saturated fat, and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol.