Gilbert's Craft Sausages are sold in 16 packs and the links are packaged individually so customers can open them as needed. 

Just as the marketplace has been splintered by consumers who shop a variety of channels based on their needs at the time, meat and poultry products are also split – sometimes literally – depending on usage type and time.

One example is the subcategory of bulk and larger-portion products sold in club stores, along with supercenters and some traditional supermarkets.

Value, of course, is the driver behind larger packs of protein. “The reason members go to club stores is because they are looking for value, and stores that sell such products have a commitment to provide value to their customers,” says Jared Peterreins, vice president of the sustainable business unit at Swedesboro, New Jersey-based Rastelli Foods Group Inc., which provides products to club stores like Costco and Sam’s Club.

In the post-recession era, shopper interest in value remains, even as specialty stores and online buying have increased. “Club stores continue to see great strength in shopper loyalty to their meat offerings. Meat and poultry, at competitive prices and sold in large pack sizes, is a point of differentiation for them with more consumers shopping club stores for meat  than they do for groceries in general,” reports Anne-Marie Roerink, principal at 210 Analytics, LLC in San Antonio, who reports and presents annual Power of Meat studies.

According to Roerink, club shoppers tend to have more discretionary dollars to buy in bulk and seek volume-based discounts. “While the profile of the club shopper changes slightly over time and depending on the economy, the strength in meat has been very constant,” she adds.

Breaking it down demographically, people with families – including larger families – tend to buy more bulk packages and multipacks. Millennials, as one might expect, favor small portions for immediate use, Roerink says. She cites the 2016 Power of Meat study, which showed that 31 percent of one-person households demonstrated interest in bulk portions at a discount versus 73 percent of households of four or more. “On the other hand, 66 percent of singles are interested in smaller packages or portions versus just 36 percent of larger households. This shows definite potential for success among stores located in areas catering to families, particularly in more affluent areas,” she remarks.

The Power of Meat study revealed other aspects of meat purchases in club stores. For instance, those who frequent club stores typically have incomes over $100,000 (18 percent), households greater than four people (16 percent) and are Baby Boomers (15 percent).

Michael Uetz, principal at Chicago-based Midan Marketing, says that value and price remain drivers in the fresh case at club stores, particularly among Boomers. “Club stores have traditionally been known for bigger package sizes and that continues to be a mainstay. Our research shows that consumers like to have a packaged-in-store feel to fresh meat in club stores, too,” he reports.

That said, many club store shoppers are also open to more convenience-driven meat and poultry products. “They are more comfortable with alternatives, because that gives them no-mess, no-leak and better food safety, too,” Uetz adds. “There is opportunity in adding more case-ready products or some different types of packages.”

On that point, along with delivering value, many meat and poultry companies offer products with flexibility to be consumed all at once or at different eating occasions. According to Roerink, as many as 58 percent of shoppers in the 2016 Power of Meat study expressed interest in packaging that portions the product into meal-size quantities.

Breaking it Down

In the marketplace, there are several examples of larger-portion packages that can be broken down into meal-sized quantities or even single-serve portions.

Rastelli Foods Group sells its Pure Land line of grass-fed organic ground beef at Sam’s Club in two 1.5-lb. packages in a saddle-pack format. “Members are looking for value and a lot of times they use one and freeze one,” says Peterreins, adding that Rastelli also provides multi-packs of portioned cuts, including 10-oz. ribeye steaks, 10-oz. New York Strip steaks and 8-oz. filets, to Costco customers.

The Sausages by Amylu line from Chicago-based ATK Foods offers similar versatility. “While some consumers purchase large quantities for special events and use all of the products at one time, like at cookouts, tailgates and parties, others tend to use what they need for the moment and then store the rest for later use. That is why our packaging is so convenient – you use only what you need at that moment. Anything not used can be wrapped and stored separately,” explains Tom Schaffner, spokesman for ATK Foods. The company’s chicken sausages, chicken meatballs and chicken burgers are vacuum sealed in high grade packaging film, and each sleeve can be separated from one another for easy storage by the consumer.

Chris Salm Jr., founder of Gilbert’s Craft Sausages in Wheaton, Illinois, points out that often, club store shoppers aren’t necessarily looking for larger quantities. “Rather, they’re looking for unique, interesting items at a lower price than traditional retailers. The way the club stores achieve a lower price point is by selling larger pack sizes at smaller margins,” he says. “The value we offer club shoppers is our package of individually wrapped links. This offers both the price advantage of a larger pack size with the convenience and value of single-serve portions.” Gilbert’s currently offers a 40-oz., 16 single-link pack configuration to club stores.

Ensuring the taste, quality and freshness of meat and poultry products sold in larger bulk packages is pivotal, no matter when that product is consumed.