Butcher appeal

by Joel Crews
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Oscar Mayer's Butcher Thick Cut Bacon
Oscar Mayer has kept the flavors of its Butcher Thick Cut Bacon consistent: Hickory smoked and Applewood smoked.

About three years ago, Oscar Mayer, already a leader in the bacon category, introduced its Butcher Thick Cut Bacon to a retail market that has proven the demand for bacon was nowhere near being saturated and apparently still isn’t. The marketing strategy was laser-focused; the processing steps and packaging distinctive and purposeful. And the results have exceeded the expectations of officials with the second-ranked refrigerated bacon brand in the US, with estimated sales of nearly $855 million in 2015.

Processed at a single plant in Coshocton, Ohio, Butcher Thick Cut Bacon was formulated and developed as an upgraded version of more pedestrian bacon for consumers who routinely purchased it but could be upsold, given the right opportunity.

“With Butcher Thick Cut Bacon, we are targeting meat enthusiasts who are already buying bacon regularly,” says Crystal Van’t Hof, brand manager for Oscar Mayer Bacon. “We’re focusing on those who not only want bacon, but want the best bacon available.”

Perception matters

Oscar Mayer developed packaging that closely resembles butcher shop paper.
Oscar Mayer used stack-pack format, thick slices and stark-white packaging to give the product the look and feel of bacon found at a traditional butcher shop.

In the bacon category, stack packed connotes a higher quality with many consumers and typically each package weighs more than the traditional 1-lb., shingle-packed varieties. How the meat is sliced, using a blade cutting perpendicularly to the belly, and hand stacked before packaging is intended to convey an old-school appearance to a mass-produced product.

“We wanted to present bacon in the same way you would get it from your local butcher shop. It’s an authentic, original cut for bacon that we wanted to present within our portfolio of real meats from Oscar Mayer,” Van’t Hof says.

Another goal of the new product was to deliver a flavor that would connote quality and a memorable eating experience. To stand out from competing brands and even to distinguish it from other Oscar Mayer bacon varieties, the processing formula utilizes sea salt, which R&D officials say offers a more balanced flavor as opposed to an overwhelming taste that overpowers the meat’s natural flavor.

Like most major brands, Oscar Mayer also offers thick cut bacon in the traditional, shingled format and packaging. This product is smoke flavored using a blend of hardwoods, such as birch and maple.

“Oscar Mayer Butcher Thick Cut Bacon has thicker slices and uses applewood and real hickory hardwoods,” says Van’t Hof, adding it is also smoked longer than the brand’s other bacons “for a heartier taste.”

Promoting with packaging

Oscar Mayer used stack-pack format, thick slices and stark-white packaging to give the product the look and feel of bacon found at a traditional butcher shop.
Holiday packaging positioned the product as a unique stocking stuffer.

As the name implies, the packaging of the Butcher Thick Cut Bacon was designed to resemble how bacon was purchased from throwback, traditional meat shops.

“We developed packaging that closely mimics butcher shop paper to resemble the way your grandma or grandpa would have picked up their bacon years ago,” Van’t Hof says. And, just like grandma and grandpa would expect, it is only available in stack-packed form.

Since the rollout of the product about three years ago, sales of the specialty item exceeded expectations, according to the company, which declined to provide specific sales information. One notable uptick in sales occurred as the result of a holiday promotional campaign. The promotion included adjusting the packaging to look more like a gift under a Christmas tree, wrapped and topped with a bow and gift tag. To keep the holiday buzz alive, marketers at Oscar Mayer launched a social media campaign. Van’t Hof says, “It reinforced the message that Oscar Mayer Butcher Cut Bacon is a much better stocking stuffer than other traditional holiday gifts, such as socks.”

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