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  • Miranda Reiman, senior associate editor

Solving the Consumer Puzzle: CAB, Sysco and an Angus Producer Talk About Win-Wins

Beef consumers want more than just a quality eating experience; CAB introduces ‘humane’ claim.


Jonathan Perry, Deer Valley Farms

Taste, flavor and tenderness used to be the gold standard for beef and would command a premium in the marketplace. However, today’s consumers expect more than the generations before them, says Nicole Erceg, director of communications for Certified Angus Beef (CAB).

“It's beef beyond flavor. It's the story that comes with it. It's the claims that come with it. [Consumers] know it's good, they know it tastes good and they want to buy it, but they feel like they need a permission slip to buy it,” she notes.

From left are Jessica Willingham, Sysco; and Nicole Erceg, Certified Angus Beef.

Beef marketers, from foodservice to retail, are working hard to provide that.

Erceg guest co-hosted a recent episode of The Angus Conversation where she discussed the evolution in consumer preference with Jessica Willingham, who leads the beef purchasing team for Sysco, and Jonathan Perry, who wears two hats as manager of Deer Valley Farms and as a restaurant owner at Hickory House.

Starting in January, CAB will carry a “dedicated to humane animal care and climate friendly practices” claim on their products, Erceg says.

“It’s not meant to hit home with the Angus breeder, it's meant to hit home with that millennial, younger consumer who cares about the climate, cares about animal welfare…” she says. “So, it's one way that they can see on that label of beef, ‘Hey, this is a brand I know, this is a brand I trust and this is a brand that I can feel good about.’”

The statement and other similar actions are more than just marketing fluff, Perry says, who chaired the CAB board from 2021-2022. The effort includes a Cut the Bull campaign to encourage Angus breeders to become Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) certified and a Working Grassland Conservation Initiative that allows the brand to gather data and help ranchers improve their grazing land at the same time.

“We as breeders, absolutely think integrity is the number one ingredient in everything we do, and Certified Angus Beef has done a tremendous job of mirroring that and taking it into the marketplace,” he says. “The thing that Certified Angus Beef has done for farmers and ranchers is take that integrity and put it into a story that is real and makes sense and takes it to our partners.”

Willingham represents the largest broadline distributor in the world, and says those actions are exactly what she needs to arm her salesforce with to be able to sell more beef.

“From our perspective, we've got investors that are looking for it. We've got the consumer who's looking for it. They want to know how it was raised, they want to know where it came from, all of those things, and so we have to do it. It's not going away,” she says. “The consumer is demanding it. And so we've got to exactly what you said, we've got to drive the bus, not be on the bus.”

“Solving the Consumer Puzzle: CAB, Sysco and a Producer Talk About Win-Wins,” went live on all major podcast platforms today. Listen to the whole discussion by searching for The Angus Conversation in any podcast app, or by following this direct link: https://www.angusjournal.net/episodes/episode/7bfdb679/solving-the-consumer-puzzle-cab-sysco-and-an-angus-producer-talk-about-win-wins


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