AHDB Beef & Lamb’s trade marketing team has recently completed in-depth research into thin cut beef steaks, looking at how they can to carve out a position as a versatile, everyday meal solution for families and young people alike. In this week’s guest blog Mike Whittemore, head of trade marketing, reveals the findings of that research and just what retailers need to do to ensure thin cut steaks are firmly on the menu.
Last year, AHDB Beef & Lamb launched the Steak Bar brand, which looked to ensure steak ranges are adapted to suit changing customer demands in foodservice and retail.
With convenience and versatility being key buying factors for modern shoppers, we wanted to look at products that could deliver this to include in the Steak Bar range. Thin cuts, being a quick-to-cook and adaptable option, offer a natural solution.
To understand why customers aren’t putting more thin cuts into their shopping baskets, despite the fact they meet so many of their cooking requirements, we undertook both product and consumer research.
What makes thin fashionable?
Our consumer research revealed that shoppers do not opt for thin cut steaks as a replacement for more traditional, indulgent steaks, for example sirloins, fillets and rib-eyes.
Instead, for many shoppers, thin cuts are the healthy ingredient they want to add to their diet as an alternative to chicken.
Why doesn't thin make the cut?
While the research showed thin cuts do have a unique place in the market, they face a number of obstacles in furthering their appeal.
We found that, though thin cuts might feature on a customer’s shopping list, they can be difficult to locate within stores. They might be placed somewhere that isn't obvious or moved from week to week, which makes finding the steaks a task in its own right.
Sometimes the name of the steak is also a cause of confusion. With names ranging from sizzle steaks to sandwich steaks, shoppers find it difficult to work out what they are buying and which meal options the products fit into.
In reviewing the range of products currently available to buy, the team also discovered variation in product quality, with inconsistencies in fat levels, cooking instructions and thickness. These inconsistencies can lead to varying eating experiences, and bad experiences result in people turning away from the product altogether.
Consistency is key
It is clear from the research that consistency is the key to getting the products right, delivering customer confidence and ensuring people continue buying the product.
Shoppers want consistent use of names for thin cut steaks to give them an idea of what to expect from the product.
They also want consistency in location. Customers don’t want their food shop to be a mission, therefore continually placing the range in the same position will encourage repeat purchases.
Attention must also be paid to the specifications and butchery techniques. We need to be working to universal specifications that deliver consistency. Our own controlled product testing has showed that the three best performing cuts that meet customer expectations are the Tri-Tips, Tender Tops and Escallops. We've developed butchery tips and specifications for all three cuts which we will be presenting to retailers and foodservice operators.
We’re hoping these three solutions will help the industry capitalise on the potential of thin cut steaks and successfully market them as quick and easy-to-cook cuts which suit the eating needs of so many people.