Building on a successful 2013, an executive with Loblaw Companies Ltd., is looking forward to an even stronger partnership with Ontario Corn Fed Beef this year.
“From our perspective, we have the best beef program – bar none – of anyone in Ontario…that’s the Ontario Corn Fed Beef program,” said Rodney Koning, vice president of meat and seafood procurement. “We are very pleased with the results so far.”
Koning told the annual Beef Industry Convention that the program continues to be a hit with Loblaw’s consumers across the province.
Ontario Corn Fed Beef is carried in 241 stores in the Loblaw, Real Canadian Superstore, Zehrs, Your Independent Grocer and Valu-Mart banners throughout Ontario.
A highlight of 2013 was the launch of a new traceability program. The OCFA, Loblaw and IdentiGEN teamed up to introduce DNA TraceBack for Ontario Corn Fed Beef. The process employs cutting-edge technology to provide the most advanced food traceability system available today.
It enables retailers to ensure only the best cattle meet the specifications of the Ontario Corn Fed Beef (OCFB) program while providing a great eating experience for customers.
“It reassures consumers of absolute traceability, guaranteed quality and ensures that the Canadian beef sold in our stores is exactly what we say it is,” said Koning, noting that the company plans to continue to promote the DNA TraceBack process.
In terms of product quality and taste, Canada’s largest food retailer and OCFB scored an impressive victory at a prestigious food event. Ontario Corn Fed Beef’s AAA Platinum Beef product achieved top marks at the International Taste and Quality Institute in Brussels, Belgium.
“The award is something we should be equally proud of,” said Koning, “The International Taste and Quality Institute consists of the most qualified taste jury in the world.”
The meat for the OCFB AAA Platinum brand comes from a densely marbled, high-quality cut of beef. The entry for the taste evaluation was produced at St. Helen’s Meat Packers in Toronto.
According to Koning, the judges base their scores on first impression, vision, smell, texture and taste. “We see this as a very powerful marketing tool that emphasizes quality, differentiates Loblaw from their competition, and reinforces delivering superior, fresh-tasting innovative products to the market,” he said.
Closer to home, Loblaw was pleased with another promotional tool. Once again, the annual summer BBQ tour was a hit with consumers and participating stores. During the tour, the eye-catching OCFB mobile kitchen was parked near the front of the stores.
As people entered the stores, they had the chance to taste the beef and learn more about the brand.
In 2013, the big rig made 60 stops at Loblaw stores throughout the province. “In my opinion, this is one of the most successful marketing tools that we have at our disposal today,” said Koning. “We receive huge amounts of positive feedback. Ask any store that was on the tour, and they want it back again this year.”
While pleased with the success of OCFB, Koning reiterated his challenge from the 2013 Convention. Loblaw needs a more consistent supply of the beef to meet the consumer demand throughout the year.
“This is one of our biggest areas of opportunity in the foreseeable future,” said Koning, noting a key challenge is having an available supply to meet the demand from May through August.
“Working internally with our processors, we need to strategically look at carcass utilization. However, this will only move the needle small amounts,” he said. “This is where we need your help along with the Ontario processors. How do we increase our premium supply to meet our customers demand?”
Koning said demand for a high-quality, regionally-produced product is an important strategy for reversing the downward trend in beef consumption.
It’s also a key part of Loblaw’s corporate social responsibility program that includes supporting local and regional Canadian vendors, including the Ontario Cattle Feeders’ Association and Ontario beef farmers.
“Our choice is always Canadian first, when and where available. It is also very important to our consumers,” said Koning. “Yes, there continues to be opportunities for all of us. We look forward to growing this business together to new heights.”