Marketing makeover

by Joel Crews
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Tyson Foods Inc. entered the beef business and formed Tyson Fresh Meats with its 2001 acquisition of Dakota Dunes, S.D.-based IBP Inc. Two years later, Tyson Fresh Meats launched its Star Ranch Angus brand, which has become a sought after product line for its foodservice customers and at thousands of retail outlets, many of which have adopted it as a private label. Six years later, marketing officials have determined today’s consumers’ identify the product’s Angus breed and U.S. origin among the value attributes of the brand. The brand was due for a makeover, according to Rick A. Janke, brand manager with Tyson Fresh Meats, to accentuate what customers say are the most important attributes to consumers at foodservice and retail meat cases.

"The industry is evolving," says Janke, and the evolution was identified through the firm’s market research. "Retailers and foodservice accounts are demanding a nationally recognized Angus brand with consumer appeal and marketing support," he says. Part of the marketing support includes a supply of point-of-sale materials and educational data facts to retailers and foodservice operators. Part of the consumer-education campaign includes the development of a Web site dedicated to the revamped brand (www.StarRanchAngus.com), which provides consumers with beef shopping tips, recipe and preparation information, coupons and a retailer locator. The logo was also updated to include a more contemporary, patriotic look, in what Janke calls "an extreme makeover," along with an entirely new marketing plan. Many Angus brands across the industry have shifted toward a consumer packaged goods-like strategy, says Janke. "We didn’t want to be left in the dark. We decided we were going to start with this brand in this particular breed," he adds.

While the cattle herd, in general, is declining in the U.S. Tyson’s beef division has identified an ample supply of Angus cattle. "Even though the overall herds are down, the Angus count is up," says Janke, "and over the past few years the demand for Angus has increased," in part because many consumers connote Angus with higher quality.

Marketers of the new brand don’t overtly promote the Tyson name around the promotion of its beef brands.

Retail rigor

While some retailers are selling the products, which is available in all cuts under the Star Ranch Angus logo and brand, the number of private-label customers is considerable. "Many of brands will go in the back door with one name and come out the front door with another, and that’s the case with some of our Star Ranch Angus." Both programs are growing segments. With products at thousands of retail stores, Janke says he hopes all of the customers follow the lead of Pierce’s Market in Portage, Wis. "They put the [Star Ranch Angus] logo up on the wall of their store," he says, "and that logo is visible from the front of the store. It’s fantastic that they are behind it at that level."

Retailers such as the Affiliated Midwest group have more than 350 stores in 14 states that promote Star Ranch Angus. Additionally, more than 50 U.S. Armed Forces commissaries across the country promote the brand.

The Star Ranch line of beef products is available in all cuts and is graded on the upper end of Select and the lower one-third of Choice, whereas products in the Certified Angus Beef program is the upper-one-third of Choice and lower one-third of Prime. Based on consumer research conducted by Tyson Fresh Meats marketers, the Star Ranch brand is the No. 2-most-recognized Angus brand on the market, second only to CAB, which is respectable, "but also shows there is a lot of room to grow. We figure if they (CAB) can do it, we can too."

The value of beef grades, however, often is lost on consumers, many of whom may not know the difference between Prime and Choice, but are familiar with Angus. In fact, says Janke, "many consider Angus as a grade," Janke says.

"Our goal is to be the No. 1 packerowned branded beef program by volume with 50 percent consumer branded representation and 50 percent privatelabel raw materials application," adds Janke. Taking the reinvigorated product to market, the Tyson Fresh Meats team is implementing the marketing message to new and existing customers.

Tyson Fresh Meats also markets a "natural" Angus brand known as Star Ranch Natural Angus Beef, which is not a part of the latest campaign, but will soon be getting a marketing makeover as well. "It is currently being retooled similar to Star Ranch Angus," says Janke. "It will be getting a facelift, marketingwise." The Beef Marketing Group has, and will continue to, supply cattle for the natural program from its cooperative system of producers.

The product line is processed in five plants, including Pasco, Wash., Joslin, Ill., Dakota City, Neb., Amarillo, Texas and Finney County, Kan. Running Angus cattle isn’t without its logistical challenges. "The Star Ranch Angus brand requires our plants to add substantial complexities in procurement, carcass selection, fabrication runs and packaging," Janke says.

Janke adds the extra effort is evident during the eating experience, which comes at a slightly higher price than some lesser brands. "This brand is more reliable and consistent than others – quality and value are the focus. There is an overage to USDA reported pricing, but our customers feel it’s worth it to have quality and consistent Angus product to grow their business."

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