Owners of Dewig Meats and Hermann Wurst Haus discussed the value of marketing during the American Association of Meat Processors annual convention.

The owners of Dewig Meats and Hermann Wurst Haus described the methods they use to attract consumers during a presentation at the American Association of Meat Processors’ annual convention in July. During a joint presentation, titled “Retail Space Marketing, ‘Putting Lipstick on a Pig,’” the owners of each company shared their meat processing company’s history and described how they have increased their retail sales.

Darla Kiesel, the co-owner of Dewig Meats, headquartered in Haubstadt, Indiana, opened her presentation by giving attendees some background on the family business. She discussed how the company has focused on growing its retail presence throughout its 102-year history. The company has expanded its retail space four times since it was founded, and its retail case has grown from 10 ft. to more than 102 ft. during the most recent expansion.

Kiesel said a retail focus has always been a priority for the business and a dream of her dad, who is still alive today. She added: “Retail is where our best margins are.”

Kiesel went on to emphasize what she called the “golden rule of retail,” which is to keep retail areas clean. The cleanliness of a meat retailer will impact how consumers view the quality of a store’s products. One suggestion Kiesel made to give shoppers a good first impression is to create a foyer leading into the store. She said it makes for a good place to put nice-looking floor mats and prevents dirt and dust from entering the rest of the store. In addition, the inclusion of a foyer provides space for retailers to display plaques, trophies and other awards, which helps demonstrate the quality of the store’s meat products. Dewig also has installed several 14-ft. ceiling fans, which not only keep guests cool, but also deter flies because Kiesel claims they dislike moving air.

Kiesel then highlighted that having a clearly distinguishable theme is essential for one’s retail shop and plant. For example, the Kiesels, being of German heritage, originally contemplated promoting a German theme throughout the store only to settle on a “country modern” motif. This design is evident in the store’s oak pillars, rocking chairs, potted flowers and large windows.

With its use of striking black and silver colors throughout the store, Dewig proves that having a distinct color scheme is also an effective way to stand out to customers. Kiesel pointed out that a retailer’s signature colors can also be utilized for more practical purposes. For example, the store’s black ceiling is designed to get consumers to focus on the store’s meat case. Dewig also uses black butcher paper to make its products more appealing, because when meat “bleeds” on black paper, it looks like water instead of blood, which makes Dewig’s products look more attractive to some customers.

Mark Reynolds (left), owner of Country Meat Shop in Moberly, Missouri, recently won best in class for his round bacon product.

Mike Sloan, owner of Hermann Wurst Haus, a meat processor and retail business based in Hermann, Missouri, shared his company’s consumer-friendly practices with attendees. During his portion of the presentation, Sloan made suggestions of how he has been able to meet and exceed customer expectations.  

Sloan stressed the importance of ensuring visitors have memorable experiences during visits to his retail store. He said, “People will pay more for the experience than what they will for the food.” He implied that even if a retailer’s goods aren’t drastically different from another store’s products, if consumers enjoy their visit to a shop, they’re more likely to return. “We all make good sausage products, right? We know that; we strive for that; we all do,” he said. “But what can you add to it? How can you make it better? Add an experience to it,” Sloan said. Hermann Wurst Haus creates part of this experience for customers by proudly displaying its state, regional, national, and international awards on its walls.

Sloan also offered ideas for in-store marketing to ensure shoppers’ satisfaction and to make each customer’s visit memorable. Such marketing includes promotional signage in the store and decorative wine barrels to promote the retailer’s wine offerings. Other proven marketing methods Sloan has utilized include creating a mascot, like the company’s “Hermann the Bratwurst,” or selling logo-embossed products, such as packaged sandwiches and meat packages.

Sloan then posed the question: “Are you catching customer feedback to improve your existing product services?” He suggested that, by obtaining consumer feedback, retailers can be more responsive and better meet customers’ needs andwants.

Sloan also relies on customers’ taste buds as feedback for current and new products in the store. He described this campaign as an, “organized sample taste-testing station,” which allows consumers to preview what Hermann Wurst Haus’ products taste like. If there’s something about a given product that a customer dislikes, the retailer can then add value by modifying some aspect of the product to win over consumers.

Best of show

During a presentation at the American Association of Meat Processors’ American Convention of Meat Processors and Suppliers’ Exhibition, attendees heard from award-winning American Cured Meat Champions about the factors contributing to their blue-ribbon meats. During a session titled “Creating a Best of Show Product,” Gary Bardine, owner of Bardine’s Country Smoke House Inc., Crabtree, Pennsylvania, shared some of the keys to his winning ways:

  • Tumble the bacon before trimming – Bardine’s bellies are tumbled for 90 minutes; left to rest overnight; and then retumbled before storing them in plastic bins.
  • Trim the bacon in a uniform shape – “I like a belly two and a half times long as it is wide,” according to Bardine.
  • Sourcing matters – A quality belly supplier is critical to ensure consistent quality. Bardine said his go-to belly supplier is Premium Iowa Pork. He said for companies that don’t slaughter hogs partnering with a solid supplier isessential.
  • Distilled water – Bardine purchases distilled water to process the company’s bellies. “I think the water is critical,” he said. Among other things, Bardine uses the water to rinse the bellies after trimming.
  • Smoke schedule – The smoke schedule should include a fast dry at 130°F for up to two hours for bellies being entered in a cured meats competition.

Jake Sailer, owner of Sailer’s Food Market & Meat Processing Inc., based in Elmwood, Wisconsin, has won best-of-show awards for the company’s smoked beef, hams and pepperoni products. His advice for succeeding includes:

  • Listen – Advice and input from others in the industry is valuable. “It might not seem like something specific to your product, but if you listen to what everyone says when they’re making their products, you’re always going to pick up something,” Sailer said.
  • Learn from scorecards – “If you’re seeing the same comments year after year, try something different. For example, talk to your seasoning supplier,” he said.
  • Be a judge in other contests – “You’ll totally see so many other things and you’ll learn what it is you might change in your product.”
  • Quiet time – Sailer said he takes time to concentrate and prepare before putting product in the smokehouse. “When I do my smoked beef, I want no one else around,” he said.
  • Purchasing – Sailer buys inside rounds for cured and smoked beef rather than targeting Choice grades. “I prefer Select so we don’t get a lot of fat in them and sometimes cow insides,” he said.

Mark Reynolds, owner of Country Meat Shop in Moberly, Missouri, recently won best in class for his round bacon product. His tips include:

  • Spices – Reynolds says it’s important to know the exact content in every spice packet his company uses.
  • Batch sizes – Use consistent sized batches and the same load of product in smokehouses, “so you get the same heat-load transfer, which is why you don’t cook three hams in there when you normally cook 30,” Reynolds says.
  • No-no – Never use reworked product in contest product or frozen meat in any product, Reynolds advises.
  • Grinding – Reynolds says using a 1/8 grind initially to enhance particle definition, followed by a 3/16 grind to also prevent product smear.
  • Vacuum – Reynolds says to put all contest product batter through a vacuum chamber machine to get all the air out of it followed by running the stuffers at slower than normal speed to eliminate as much air as possible.