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Meats and Poultry

D’Artagnan: An Obsession with Quality

By Lorrie Baumann

Ariane Daguin thinks that the way forward for brick-and-mortar grocers is to focus on selling their customers better food rather than more food. As the CEO of D’Artagnan, which distributes high-quality meat and poultry products to fine-dining restaurants as well as to grocers across the U.S., she has a bird’s eye view of how the American grocery business is evolving to try and meet the challenge of online grocers.

She notes that over the past decades since the end of World War II, grocers have been offering their customers more and more – more food, greater variety, year-round supplies of products once thought of as strictly seasonal. “You cannot have quality if you offer too many flavors of too many different products,” she said. “We have created a market for a lot of things we don’t need but that are pushed to us.”

The tide of consumerism inspired by modern marketing and the media’s obsession with what’s new and different has led inexorably to bigger stores and growing costs to operate those bigger stores. Those higher costs and the consumer expectations that caused them are now creating greater competitive burdens for brick-and-mortar grocers struggling to survive against online retailers. “The grocer has a big conundrum – which is the rent,” Daguin says. “It’s survival – they need to pay the rent. The problem is that it doesn’t work any more, because e-commerce has taken over. The consumer has so much more convenience and choice with e-commerce that the grocer has to really worry.”

Daguin suggests that the way to deal with this problem is to follow the lead of those successful grocers who now emphasize quality and who are creating a sensory and educational experience in their stores instead of just pushing volume. “To bring new clients in the store, you need to propose experiences that they cannot get online: true education from knowledgeable store employees, personalized custom fabricating, butchering and cooking in store, tastings…” she said.

Focusing on quality rather than variety is the approach she has taken in her own 33-year-old company. “What we did from the beginnings of D’Artagnan was to thrive towards excellence in all facets of the company, pushing farmers to very strict animal husbandry rules, slaughterhouses to process and butcher with more care, to stop bloating meats with water, controlling temperatures from loading docks to trucks to store … for one reason only – the quality of the product at the end,” she says.

D’Artagnan’s Green Circle chickens provide a handy example – they are raised free-range and fed a diet of actual vegetables, are certified-humane and air-chilled. They’re also antibiotic free. “We were the first ones, and we’re still pretty unique in that we demand that all animals be antibiotic free from birth,” Daguin says.

The chickens are processed in small slaughterhouses rather than in industrial-scale facilities, chilled with air rather than water and brought daily to a D’Artagnan warehouse in Georgia, Texas, Illinois or New Jersey. The air chilling reduces their weight, raising the cost per pound, but it means that there’s no dilution of flavor. “We get our deliveries from the chicken slaughterhouse every night,” Daguin says. “So every day, they get the one-day-old chickens. Nobody else can say that.”

From the warehouse, the chicken is put on a truck that has extra temperature controls to ensure that the chicken arrives at the market as fresh as possible, with the longest possible shelf life for the retailer. “We take this totally to the need of the retailer. They need the maximum shelf life for the products, and minimum quantities in each case,” Daguin says. “These are not corn flakes that fly off the shelves.”

Bayonne Ham Council Consortium Markets to Consumers

There is ham and there is Bayonne ham. After successfully launching a large-scale trade-focused campaign in 2017, the crown jewel of French cured ham continues its conquest of the US market by seducing Americans’ palates.

“Bayonne ham addresses American foodies’ search for authentic, premium and traceable craft products,” says Pierre-Yves Alifat, head of the Bayonne Ham Council Consortium. “The launch of our campaign coincides with a growing demand for charcuterie in the U.S., thus making today the perfect time to try this delicacy.”

Currently, five Bayonne ham brands are available across the United States, from 20 different distributors and their presence is growing.  Aside from its delicate and subtle flavors, here are the top six reasons that make Bayonne ham so unique:

  1. An inimitable gem – Bayonne ham earned the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status in 1998, a label that guarantees the quality and geographic origin of a product. The ham is so inherently special and inimitable that it must come from southwest France to be called that way.
  1. Bayonne Ham, the taste of an outstanding terroir – Bayonne’s terroir is one-of-a-kind: the Adour Basin is influenced by the perfect combination of sea and mountains. Winds from the south known as “foehn” rise from the Pyrénées mountains and are balanced with the moist air flowing from the Atlantic to provide the ideal conditions for proper drying of the meat.
  1. Pigs, salt, air, patience and nothing else – Four ingredients are essential to the production of Bayonne ham: pigs, salt, air and patience. To qualify for production, pigs must be born and bred in the southwest France and fed with natural products. Even the natural salt from Salies-de-Bearn used in the curing is PGI-labelled, 100 percent natural, pure and rich in oligo-elements.
  1. An unequaled taste – The harmonious union between the freshest meat and natural salt gives this ham a truly unique and distinguishing flavor. “We have done many demos at our stores, and our shoppers, who are always looking for a new food experience, find Jambon de Bayonne to be just that! With a moderate saltiness and creamy finish, Jambon de Bayonne is unique and stands out among the rest,” said Richard Rosenberg, Director of Deli and Catering Operations at Fairway Market.
  1. An authentic craft delicacy – The history of Bayonne ham production is what sets it apart from other hams. True to tradition, Bayonne ham has retained its authentic medieval signature: hams are still branded with the “Bayonne” seal and the traditional Laburu Basque Cross.
  1. A guarantee of traceability and transparency – Bayonne ham producers’ philosophy is based on the complete control of the entire production cycle, from animal feeding to the distribution of the product. Every step along the ham’s journey to the dinner table can easily be traced.

Maison Agour, Delpeyrat, Mayte, Salaisons de l’Adour and Pierre Oteiza are some of the most beloved brands of Bayonne ham available in the United States.

Transparency, Convenience, Wellness among Megatrends Driving the Power of Meat at Retail

Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the Foundation for Meat and Poultry Research and Education, the foundation for the North American Meat Institute, released their 13th annual exploration into the meat planning, shopping and consumption habits of consumers. “The Power of Meat 2018” identifies megatrends influencing meat purchases, including transparency; convenience; value; personalization; customer service; and health and wellness.

Shoppers Desire Resources that Educate about Meat/Poultry

“More than 50 percent of shoppers say they have limited knowledge of meat and poultry, and the research demonstrates that shoppers who are more knowledgeable about meat tend to purchase an extensive variety of meats and cook with meat more often,” FMI Vice President of Fresh Foods Rick Stein, said. “The research makes me enthusiastic for the teaching opportunities the entire industry can embrace to forge better relationships with shoppers, offering resources for meat and poultry preparation methods.”

Shoppers Finding Nutrition Information; Seeking Transparency

While preparation knowledge can be lacking, consumers are finding the health and nutrition information on meat and poultry choices that they seek as 79 percent of shoppers feel there is sufficient information available to make educated decisions on the nutrition and healthfulness of various meat and poultry cuts. This is up from 69 percent in 2016 — the last time the “Power of Meat” tracked this question.

Nutrition is a key focus area for consumers, as seven in 10 shoppers are interested in a variety of package sizes for portion control as well as dietary callouts/information on pack, led by protein content, total fat and sodium. The research also shows that transparency is driving purchases as consumers seek products with more information pertaining to corporate and social responsibility practices among companies.

“Meat and poultry companies have responded to the demand for more information about their products, offering a range of options including natural, organic, hormone free and antibiotic free, which have proven popular with consumers,” said Meat Institute President and CEO Barry Carpenter. “The industry has also developed numerous resources to help educate consumers about how our products are made from our Glass Walls videos to Meat MythCrushers to the MyMeatUp app developed to help shoppers navigate the meat department.”

Shoppers Explore Convenience for the Meat/Poultry Purchase

This year, one of the most notable trends in channel choice suggested shoppers are more comfortable with the idea of purchasing meat online – with the share of shoppers who have bought meat online at least once up from four percent in 2015 to 19 percent in 2018. Other considerations are the increased pull from conventional supermarkets by both the premier fresh and value grocers.

Embodying the desire for convenience and opportunities in omnichannel and assortment, more shoppers are frequently purchasing value-added meat/poultry, increasing from nine percent in 2016 to 21 percent in 2018.

The Power of Meat was conducted by 210 Analytics and is made possible by Sealed Air’s Food Care Division.

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