There’s the point of sale, and now there’s the touchpoint of sale.

Thanks to a convergence of trends and technology, fresh poultry brands are using what was once a commodity package as a way to not only attract but engage consumers at the retail case and beyond, in their home kitchens. In a crowded marketplace driven by shifting lifestyles and buying behaviors, consumers are looking for more information about the meat they buy, and are seeking ways to help prepare and serve it, starting with the actual package.

Research under-scores the role that on-pack information can play in sealing a purchase and encouraging future purchases. According to the 2018 Power of Meat study published by the Food Marketing Institute and Foundation for Meat & Poultry Research & Education and prepared by 210 Analytics LLC, 36 percent of shoppers say that on-pack recipes influence their meat purchase decisions. Those likely to be influenced “a lot” include shoppers who often buy value-added products, those who have higher weekly grocery store trips, urban shoppers, supercenter shoppers and older millennials.

In addition to basic details like nutrition facts and cooking information and tips, poultry packaging can serve as a marketing tool by providing some kind of promotion or offer to shoppers. Although on-pack coupons aren’t new, digital connections are a newer way to provide savings and value.

Brand Buy-In

As the classic foam tray and basic plastic overwrap have given way over the years to branded products and store brands with better graphics and user-friendly packaging, processors have increasingly delved into this area of engagement. With 2019 approaching, some poultry companies are investing even more in on-pack information and promotions.

Foster Farms, Livingston, California, recently launched a new on-package QR code dubbed DORI. Described as a virtual assistant, the DORI code can be scanned by smartphone for real-time access to a database of more than 500 recipes, coupons and poultry information, including labeling terms and descriptions. Exclusive discounts are also available.

According to Ira Brill, director of marketing services, the QR virtual assistant was created to make shopping for fresh chicken easier. “We see DORI as an opportunity to provide information to consumers that they want, and hopefully they will make a purchase decision in Foster Farms’ favor. On top of that, our goal was to put it together in a fun way,” he explains. In addition to providing information on where the chickens were raised and explaining poultry lexicon, the code can be used to find lists of food festivals in area. A fun DORI emoji/icon lends some character to the package.

Although millennial-age and younger consumers are practically synonymous with mobile devices and technology, this new package will engage with all kinds of shoppers, Brill adds. “I think some people underestimate to a degree that consumers outside the millennial group are digitally savvy. There are a lot of Baby Boomers retiring and who have portfolios on their phone every day. So, we think there will be broad appeal to this platform,” he says.

Just unveiled this fall on Foster Farms’ Fresh and Natural, Simply Raised and Organic chicken packages, DORI will be part of Foster Farms turkeys this Thanksgiving, too. “In 2019, we’ll be expanding this to our added value products, and then we’ll have the entire Foster Farm portfolio of products carried on the platform,” Brill adds. The on-pack DORI is being supported, in turn, by traditional promotions, including flash sales, in-store signage and social media.

Perdue is continually improving everything we do, and that’s why we’re introducing new packaging for our fresh chicken. — Jim Perdue

While the Foster Farms’ QR code is unique in the industry, smart labels are being used on other poultry packages. Packages of case-ready Just BARE chicken, for example, include a unique family farm code that allows users to trace the products back to family farms where the chicken inside the package was raised.

Developers are also working to add value to smart labels, using them as visual freshness indicators for consumers to easily determine the quality and safety of fresh chicken products.

Other leading poultry brands have focused on engaging with consumers with packaging that provides more than the basics. This fall, Salisbury, Maryland-based Perdue Farms rolled out its first packaging redesign in 17 years, with vibrant new colors, a new blue cartoon chicken icon named Pearl and a clean design that conveys the brand’s focus on no antibiotics ever, no animal by-products and improved animal welfare. Chairman Jim Perdue confirmed that the times are a-changing.

“Fifty years ago, my dad put our family name on chicken. It was more than a label, it was his personal promise of quality,” he said at the time of the redesign launch. “Over the years, our look has changed and so have we. Perdue is continually improving everything we do, and that’s why we’re introducing new packaging for our fresh chicken.” For consistency, the Perdue website and other digital platforms will also carry the new look.

Finally, looking to other marketplaces, the term “value added” doesn’t just cover the type of poultry in the package. The Sainsbury’s grocery store in the UK recently added a new type of packaging that addresses younger consumers’ apparent reluctance to handle raw poultry, due to concerns about bacterial contamination or the “ick” factor. Sainsbury’s touch-free package – touted on the label -- enables users to cook chicken straight from the package: the plastic pouch has a rip-and-tip feature that allows the meat to be opened and put into a frying pan without hand contact.