The checkoff has been building and implementing a comprehensive marketing effort to help build demand for beef among retailers, foodservice operators, reporters and consumers despite current economic conditions.
This plan not only addresses the current economy, but also the resurgence of in-home cooking, and somewhat weaker overall sales of cuts from the rib, loin and sirloin subprimals, such as ribeye, tenderloin and top sirloin steaks. Still, beef retail sales overall are up nearly four percent compared to this time last year, according to beef checkoff-funded Fresh Look retail pricing data. This has created the opportunity for checkoff dollars to be directed toward further middle meat promotional efforts in advertising, food communications, foodservice and retail programs.
"The consumer public relations program efforts have been dedicated to helping consumers find new ways to shop for beef, learn preparation techniques, explore the versatility beef offers and showcase how beef brings family and friends together for a great eating experience," says Ann Bruntz, chair of the industry's Joint Public Relations Subcommittee and beef producer from Friend, Neb. "We're also maximizing beef's visibility online by expanding the presence of beef recipes and cookery information through BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com, social networking sites and food blogs."
The checkoff coordinated a blog campaign to showcase how beef takes center plate in healthy family meals through a grocery shopping challenge. Five of the top "mommy bloggers" across the country were selected to prepare lean beef recipes from BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com and The Healthy Beef Cookbook, then share posts about their experiences using the variety of resources on the site – from shopping tools, preparation tips and recipe results. This engagement is part of ongoing effort to establish the checkoff-funded BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com as the go-to resource for healthy family mealtime needs. Unique visitors to beef's primary recipe site increased by 73 percent during the course of the blog campaign compared to same five week period in 2008. Many of recipes used in this challenge featured lean middle meat cuts.
"Through public relations efforts such as these, our checkoff is helping people understand that beef brings great value to the dinner table," says Bruntz. "This grocery shopping challenge led to tremendous results for beef producers by increasing the awareness and visibility of beef checkoff recipes and preparation tips."
Steak prices have dropped, just in time for prime grilling season, and the checkoff capitalized on that opportunity by sharing this good news with food writers at the top 250 daily newspapers and targeted food bloggers. The press release and pitching efforts have already led to significant positive news for beef, encouraging consumers to stock up on the steaks they love.
"And there's more to come. The checkoff is being proactive in their marketing efforts of middle meats. We're working closely with reporters who are starting to cover grilling season, creating new how-to videos for online placement and more. I don't know if other producers out there are 'Twittering' or staying connected on Facebook, but that's where our consumer interest is – online social media networks," concludes Bruntz. "Our checkoff leadership has really buckled down and we're constantly adjusting in order to do what's best for producers."