Suzy Sirloin Organic, coming soon

At presstime, Suzanne Strassburger, president and CEO of Strassburger Meats, relayed to The National Provisioner the company’s latest news: Suzy Sirloin will launch a new line of organic beef grinds, raised and sold locally in the tri-state (New Jersey, New York, Connecticut) area. The new organic program is slated to start in April. Product will be sourced from a few local farms in upstate New York, and offers consumers an option that helps them limit their own carbon footprint by consuming beef grown and processed in New York state. Stores in the tri-state area that already offer Suzy Sirloin’s natural products will carry the new organic product, and Suzanne expects it to be offered in other organic food markets. To start, the grinds will be offered in one-pound brick packs.

“We are producing what consumers want and giving them more choices,” Suzanne says. “Furthermore, it is another way to promote meat and educate the consumer about pasture-raised food. And, finally, it is a way for us to support the New York farmers.”

Look for more information on this new line from Suzy Sirloin in the coming months in our New Consumer Products section.

Since 1865, the name “Strassburger” has been a fixture in the New York City meat marketplace — providing high-end beef to some of the best-known, most-loved and up-and-coming steakhouses in the metropolis.

Backed by that reputation, the fifth generation of the Strassburger family has begun to build the company outward, launching a new retail line, opening up an e-commerce storefront and expanding into the export business.

As the recession hit in 2008-2009, Strassburger Meats — like almost every company in the nation — had important decisions to make about its future. Although it would not abandon its core principles or market, diversification most definitely was needed. Suzanne Strassburger, fifth-generation president and CEO of the company, admits that she has steered the ship very conservatively from the time she became an executive partner in the business a decade ago. However, she says, during tough economic times, it helps to rely upon one her father’s beliefs: “Change with the times, don’t give up!”

“We had to diversify, and so we got into branding, retail and natural meat,” Suzanne explains. “We sell 80% Prime meat; we sell Choice meat; we sell Select meat. We also sell frozen cut steaks, and the other way we’re diversifying is through export.”

Here comes Suzy Sirloin

In 2011, Suzanne launched the Suzy Sirloin retail brand, which can be found today in supermarkets in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The brand stands out, Suzanne says, because it steps over some of the lines that exist in meat retail branding.

“We get a lot of compliments — and I broke the ‘rules,’” she says. “You’re not supposed to have the animal on the package, you’re not supposed to have blue. Everyone says blue is not a color for food.

“But I want to make Suzy Sirloin fun, simple, colorful, not complicated or intimidating — but memorable,” Suzanne adds. The design of the logo and label are meant to be family- and kid-friendly, and also are designed so that non-English-speaking consumers can differentiate and recognize the product easily. Promoting the family-friendly aspects of the product line has paid dividends already, Suzanne relays.

“We were on the ‘Today Show’, really pushing Sliders, referring to them as ‘kids’ cuts,’” she says. “Well, it was an instant success. About every 10 seconds, we had 100 orders, which was phenomenal because we were not big into online e-commerce at that point. So, this brought us into that market, and [it was] a great win.”

The “win” extended into the holiday season, when Suzy Sirloin saw its sliders getting snapped up by consumers looking to step up their holiday-party culinary options, says Andrea Strassburger, chief culinary executive and Suzanne’s sister.

“The [holiday gifting] segment was about giving a unique culinary gift,” she explains. “We have these sliders positioned one way as kids’ packs, but they’re also ideal if you’re having a party because you could pass them around as appetizers. They’re beef, lamb or veal — so you get this really unique variety of sliders, and sliders are trending right now.”

Although the positioning of the brand revolves around its simplicity, Suzanne points out that launching commodity products was not the initial way the company wanted to enter the retail-branded marketplace.

“We realized that there was a demand for natural meat — there was a demand for no added hormones, no antibiotics — so we went after it,” she explains. “We had — and still have — the capability to do beef, pork, lamb and veal. … It was just a matter of me getting out in the market, showing up in my cowboy hat, and letting potential customers meet the face behind the brand.”

Additionally, the product quickly gained traction with the health-and-wellness consumer, says Andrea.

“One of the product lines is 90% lean, so it really appeals to multiple audiences,” she says, adding that some consumers are attracted to the great taste of the product, while others enjoy having a more natural option that delivers the same nutritional benefits of other protein cuts.

Suzanne adds that the product has capitalized on the so-called “mommy blogger” trend — an area in which family-friendly and health-and-wellness in foods often coexist.

Next steps

Over the last year and a half, Suzy Sirloin has experienced quite a bit of success in its tri-state distribution area, based on its unique position. According to Suzanne, health-and-wellness got the ball rolling for the brand. But now, based on the popularity of the product, packaging and branding, and the service and quality,
Strassburger Meats customers request more commodity-type offerings from the company.

“We did start doing that in small chain stores, but I really think the key — even though ground beef is our No. 1 item — is that we’re still differentiated even in commodity types,” Suzanne says. “What I love about Suzy Sirloin is that it’s beef, pork, lamb and veal. And seeing as how people have brand loyalty, I think that makes us a winner.”

In the short term, Suzy Sirloin looks to expand distribution geographically, moving outward from its current distribution area first and foremost — without losing focus on the national and global possibilities that the e-commerce and export business offer.

Although the collaboration is still in its infancy, Strassburger Meats has secured a coveted spot for its products in the Williams-Sonoma catalog as well as on the Williams-Sonoma e-commerce platform.

“Being in Williams-Sonoma gives a huge endorsement to the product and to Strassburger,” Andrea says, explaining that, because Williams-Sonoma’s customers are very discerning, the company went through a lot of tastings before agreeing to carry Strassburger Meats’ products. “Part of the appeal now is Strassburger steak: You can now have this prime-aged beef at your doorstep in your home, for your dinner party. That same Williams-Sonoma consumer that cares about really beautiful products, such as the type of cookware they use, also cares about the type of food and ingredients they serve.”

As for exports, Suzanne says that business currently represents the smallest piece of the puzzle for Strassburger Meats — but with tremendous potential.

“I’d like to grow it to be the biggest piece because I believe that is where the money is — where the population is,” she explains. “Americans love beef, but there are many parts of the world that love American beef as well.”

Strassburger Meats now exports only Berkshire pork, but even that has posed its early challenges.

“It’s not the customers: I have several clients in Hong Kong, Korea and throughout Asia that are dying to buy my meat,” Suzanne says. “My biggest problem is getting [enough] product.

“I’m meeting more and more people, making more and more connections,” she adds. “I’ve been talking about it so much for so many years that people are finding me, and it should happen soon.”

Suzanne says that her goal in 2013 is to double the size of the company. With the legacy steakhouse-supplier business forming a rock-solid foundation upon which to build, Strassburger Meats will continue to explore new avenues to parlay its reputation for high-quality products and great customer service. Suzanne believes that she will continue to keep her options open — looking into whatever products meet consumer and customer demands.

“We’re really open to anything, and we like to do what other people don’t like to do,” Suzanne concludes. “We like to be innovative, inventive, and we don’t mind a challenge; we like to do difficult things.”

Taking up and solving the challenges that its customers present — and positioning its products uniquely in the marketplace in a variety of ways — gives Strassburger Meats a bright future. With the fifth generation of the family very passionately guiding the Strassburger Meats and spreading the good news about meat to consumers and chefs alike, it’s hard not to root for the company led by the woman the New York Daily News called New York’s “First Lady of Meat.”