NASHVILLE, TENN. – In 2019, Coleman Natural Foods and Budweiser launched a product line of beer-infused barbecue sauces, pre-cooked pulled pork and St. Louis-style ribs in beer-infused barbecue sauce, and beer brats. Since then, a few things have changed with the products and at Coleman Natural Foods. MEAT+POULTRY caught up with Mel Coleman, Jr., at the 2020 Meat Conference held in Nashville, Tenn., in March.

In addition to a packaging refresh, Coleman said the addition of a case-ready line has presented the company with new opportunities to meet the needs of their retail customers.

Mel Coleman: On the product side, we’re trying to expand everything we do – new items because consumers want new items all the time. But the other thing we’re doing is new packaging. We’ve switched to in-house packaging now from Rollstock, Darfresh and modified atmosphere from Roll-Ox.

On the product side, people are just looking for new flavors, so we’re trying to expand that line and give retailers something new. And, we’ve got new packaging on some of the Budweiser products. We’re excited about it.

M+P: What was the idea behind the package refresh? What’s different now compared to the Budweiser packaging before?

Coleman: We were excited about the first packaging design, but when you got it into retail it blended in a little bit. What we wanted to do is refresh it a little bit. Now, it shows up well and consumers can find it a lot easier. That’s the main thing, consumers want it, but they’ve got to find it.

On the case-ready side, SiouxPreme Packing is a sister company of ours; we now call it Perdue Pork of Iowa. We have a slaughter plant there, we have a fabrication plant there. We did a $30 million expansion, and we put in the case-ready line. We can do grinds; we can do all different kinds of cuts and we can give our customers options on which way they want to package.

M+P: Case-ready is the current trend in meatpacking. When did Coleman Natural start thinking about case-ready potential?

Coleman: I can remember back in the early days when we started a case-ready line in the ‘90s. It was one of the first case-ready lines and it was new. The first case-ready was vacuum packed and it looked ‘purplish.’ That was our first foray into it.

We’ve done case ready in small amounts for some of our customers. We’ll take the product and get it done case ready – or consumer ready, really – in a different location. So, this is an evolving process of bringing it in-house. We have more control over it. We can give retailers options for the what they want. And really, it gives consumers options as well.

M+P: Are you seeing any new cuts of pork that benefit from being a case-ready product?

Coleman: Since we’re vertically integrated and we have commitments for every hog that comes in, and we pay a premium for all the things that we do – no growth hormones or antibiotics, crate-free – we have to sell every cut of that animal as does everybody. But we’ve got a higher cost into it. Now that we have our own capabilities, we’ll start migrating into marinating, different cuts. I remember back in the day some of everybody was doing kabobs, and I think with some of the technology today, items like that will come in again.