Limited-time offerings (LTOs) are no longer only centered on holidays and seasons. They are showing up all times of the year and are proving to be successful for marketers who choose to invest in rapid turn-around innovation. Through creative formulating, processors and foodservice operators can make meat and poultry offerings more exciting, appealing to today’s curious consumers who want to explore the world through cuisine.
The concept is classic supply and demand. Shoppers and diners recognize if they don’t purchase the LTO when it hits the store shelf or appears on menu boards, it may not be available the next visit.
When a product is only available for a short period of time, consumers feel more adventurous and are willing to take the chance and give the product a try. The urgency to purchase provides permission to explore. An LTO invites current consumers to try something new, and at the same time, it may bring in lapsed users or new users of the brand. An LTO also may simply create excitement for a brand, ultimately building brand recognition to attract the consumer at another time. It also serves as a testing ground, to gauge consumer feedback as to if the product should become a regular offering.
Just this month, the Hofmann Sausage Co., Syracuse, New York, teamed up with the New York State Maple Association to create a maple syrup-infused link sausage for The Great New York State Fair. The maple breakfast sausage is about the size of a standard hot dog and will be sold on a bun for $3 in the Horticulture Building at the New York State Maple booth. Plans are to make the maple breakfast sausage a regularly produced Hofmann foodservice item after it receives US Dept. of Agriculture approval, although the size will change to more of a traditional breakfast sausage link (1.5 oz.).
“This sausage will be a must have at the fair this year,” said Pat Favalo, the innovation project leader at Hofmann Sausage. “It is just so incredibly good. We love taking what we know about making sausage and creating something new but staying true to our tradition of using quality meat and spices. This item is mildly spiced and slightly sweet.”
The meat-centric fast-food chain Arby’s is known for its LTO menu offerings. One of its biggest hits was also a disappointment for some loyal Arby’s customers. It sold out too quickly.
The chain ran out of its limited-edition venison sandwich within hours after rolling out in five select hunting-centric states in 2016. A year later, the company reoffered it again nationwide, with an increased LTO inventory.
The sandwich featured a thick-cut venison steak and crispy onions topped with a juniper berry sauce on a toasted specialty roll. The venison is marinated in garlic, salt and pepper and then cooked sous-vide for three hours to juicy, tender perfection. The juniper berry sauce is a Cabernet steak sauce infused with juniper berries, giving the already unique sandwich another signature twist.
The chain also has a secret menu in certain locations, offerings that are only available to those who know to ask for the item. Availability is pending ingredient inventory. One such item is the Meat Mountain Sandwich, the biggest sandwich Arby’s has ever sold. It’s stacked ridiculously high with almost all the meats Arby’s serves. There are two chicken tenders, slices of roast turkey, pit-smoked ham, corned beef, 13-hour smoked brisket, USDA-Choice Angus steak, roast beef and pepper bacon. Somewhere in between all that meat there are slices of cheddar and Swiss cheeses.
Earlier this year, City Barbeque, Columbus, Ohio, introduced an LTO to help diners warm up during the winter chill. The new brisket chili was a made-from-scratch dish featuring the restaurant’s slow-smoked beef brisket, jalapeños, black beans, green chilies and a secret seasoning blend. The bowl entrée got topped with shredded sharp cheddar, a dollop of sour cream and a bright slice of fresh jalapeño.
Hormel Foods Corp., Austin, Minnesota, makers of Spam, teamed up with more than 30 restaurants across the country to create LTOs all featuring Spam. The August 2018 promotion includes Musubi at 808 Poke Shack, San Francisco. This dish features Spam marinated in miso teriyaki sauce for over 24 hours and then grilled until caramelized. It is served on rice mixed with honey, rice vinegar and gold furikake. At Belly Bombs in Los Angeles, guests are able to enjoy Spam-crusted jalapeño mac poppers, which are macaroni and potato jalapeño popper balls, crusted in Spam breading and fried until crispy. This gets topped with jalapeño cilantro ranch, chipotle relish and micro cilantro. In New York City, Flip Sigi developed a grilled cheese burrito where Spam is the main attraction.
In June 2018, KFC Corp., Louisville, Kentucky, introduced the pickle fried chicken sandwich. The LTO combines two savory staples America loves — fried chicken and pickles — to create the ultimate comfort food mashup.
“People are crazy about pickles, and pickle-flavored products are becoming today’s trendiest menu item,” said Andrea Zahumensky, chief marketing officer. “Pickles and fried chicken are a match made in heaven, with tastemakers everywhere pairing these flavors.”
Instead of simply adding a few more pickles on its chicken to satisfy pickle-passionate customers, KFC went full-on pickle and took its extra crispy chicken and coated it in pickle sauce. In addition to classic dill and vinegar flavors, the sauce features onion and garlic notes, buttermilk and a white and black pepper blend.
Tyson Foodservice, a unit of Tyson Foods Inc., Chicago, is introducing an assortment of meat and poultry products that are readily adaptable to condiments, coatings and toppings. These products enable chefs and operators to arm themselves with a base protein for creative LTO menu development in order to match the ever-changing tastes of the consumer across many dayparts. The new products include waffle breaded chicken fries, bone-in and boneless wings and jalapeño pepperoni.