by Darcy Maulsby
Pork is an on-trend source of healthy protein that’s so versatile it can take on multicultural flavors and star in a variety of dishes. So why don’t more foodservice outlets offer more pork options when consumers are clearly hungry for it? The Pork Checkoff’s channel marketing team is helping to bridge this gap. These professionals are applying pork marketing insights and data to help create promotions year-round that empower grocery retailers, restaurants, convenience stores, and others to succeed with pork.
Pork Fires Up National BBQ Battle
A Pork Checkoff partnership with Giant Food Stores shined the spotlight on pork recently during the National BBQ Battle in Washington, D.C. Nearly 100,000 suburban and urban residents flocked to America’s capital on June 22-23 to celebrate the official start of summer at the Giant® National Capital Barbecue Battle. The Pork Checkoff was a platinum sponsor.
More than 20 Iowa Pork Producers Association members wore t-shirts with the message “I’m an Iowa pig farmer. Ask me a question.” The pork producers engaged consumers along with grilling and handing out 1,600 pounds of boneless pork loin samples. “People would take a bite, look at each other, nod yes and then ask, ‘What did you do to this?’” said Randall Newton, manager of national channel marketing and innovation for the Pork Checkoff. “They couldn’t believe we just used Weber backyard grills, salt, and pepper for flavor and the proper temperature of 145 degrees.”
This tied in with the Pork Checkoff’s digital thermometer campaign with Giant stores. Any Giant customer who brought a pork coupon book to the BBQ Battle Booth from their local Giant store could get a free digital thermometer from the Pork Checkoff. The promotion also helped raise $1 million for DC Metro United Service Organizations. “This was a great way to support a good cause and help people experience how tender, juicy and delicious pork can be when it’s cooked properly,” Newton said.
Disney Embraces Pork 101
Foodservice is a key part of the wonderful world of Disney, whose theme parks around the globe attract millions of visitors each year. Disney strives to keep up with consumers’ evolving food expectations for healthier items and more premium menu items.
“Disney food ranges from festival/midway-style food to five-star dining,” said Bart Goldberg, with the Pork Checkoff’s channel marketing team. “Pork can fit all these applications.”
The Checkoff hosted a Pork 101 seminar with Tommie Smothers, senior sourcing specialist for Disney’s foodservice division, and his team earlier this year.
Sharing the We Care℠ Principles
“We gave the 30,000-foot view of timely topics, including pork exports, sustainable pork production, African swine fever, animal care and well-being,” Goldberg said. “The pork industry’s We CareSM initiative offers a great way to address these issues.”
The Checkoff team also highlighted the potential of bone-in and boneless pork loin, showing them seven options using various cuts.
“They were very receptive to these ideas, which included banh mi, pig fries and chuletas. The latter is a thick boneless loin chop with belly meat still attached, sous vide overnight and then fried golden brown,” Goldberg said. “While events like Pork 101 may not translate into immediate results, strengthening our partnership with Disney creates more future opportunities.”
Handy Pork Reference
Employee turnover is a perpetual challenge in the grocery retail world because many positions are often entry-level roles. So how do you get pork information into the right people’s hands without training a never-ending stream of new employees?
That’s where Checkoff’s Pork Pocket Guide, which folds to the size of a credit card, comes in. The handy resource is packed with helpful information.
“It answers about 90 percent of the questions meat counter employees might get from customers,” said the Pork Checkoff’s Randall Newton. “What’s the difference between St. Louis-style ribs and spare ribs? What’s a pork butt? Just consult the guide.”
In 2018, the Checkoff began distributing the guide to Food Lion stores, distributing nearly 2,000.
Welcome to Grillville
Pork promotions attracted attention this summer at Sam’s Club stores, including Welcome to Grillville. The promotion highlighted pork chops, including how lean and packed with protein they are.
A Welcome to Grillville website offered nutrition information and cooking tips for the “mighty pork chop.” The website emphasized that a 3-ounce serving contains roughly 24 grams of protein, equivalent to 6 tablespoons of peanut butter.
The Pork Checkoff also partnered with Freeosk, a company that amplifies in-store promotions such as Hawaiian Foods Week featuring pulled pork at Sam’s Club stores.
Convenience, Cooking Temps Matter
“We’re getting good engagement on these promotions to help position pork as the protein of choice with shoppers,” said Neal Hull, director of channel marketing for the Pork Checkoff.
Promotions, in-store displays, and convenient package options are key, says Hull, as is an ongoing focus on endpoint cooking temperatures for the best eating experience. “Overcooking is still one of the biggest challenges with fresh pork, so messaging about proper cooking temperature is essential to educate consumers,” Hull said. The Welcome to Grillville website included a short video on how to grill pork chops, emphasizing the 145-degree cooking temperature.