Canadian Poultry Magazine

Beyond the Roast

By Treena Hein   

Features Production Turkeys Poultry Production

At the same time the food choices of many Canadians are being influenced by the economic downturn, poultry is still a popular choice for families for a variety of reasons, including health and taste. Building on this idea, provincial turkey marketing boards across the country are looking to boost traditional and new turkey products beyond their present sales. 

“Although the turkey market has been relatively flat [see sidebar Pg 16], and we’ve been able to maintain our market share, our goal is growth,” says Mark Davies, chair of the Turkey Farmers of Canada. “We’re working to get consumers thinking of turkey as an everyday choice, and not just as something to be served at holiday meals three times a year.”

Although some provincial turkey boards have collaborated in the past on various marketing items such as recipe books, each province mainly does its own thing. Turkey Farmers of Ontario (TFO) recently released a television commercial that they’ve received some very positive feedback about, although the ad was only shown on Ontario TV channels for six weeks. “It is, however, on our website and on YouTube, so [all] Canadians could have seen it,” says TFO general manager Janet Schlitt.


She says it’s too early to tell what the impact of the commercial has had on purchasing habits; TFO may also produce a new commercial in future. As a followup, TFO implemented an on-pack sticker program on fresh tray pack items for approximately one month in hundreds of retail stores across Ontario. There was also a $5 rebate program from August to October where consumers had to send in their turkey product receipt and the recipe used.

There are many other components to TFO’s current marketing strategy, including a new logo for Ontario Turkey, and a social media campaign that uses Twitter to post relevant stories, recipes and links. There are guest “Tweets” and Facebook posts from Emily Richards (cookbook author and more) and Leslie Gordon-Christie (personal trainer and life coach) about health, fitness and food. TFO has created six Youtube cooking videos featuring Emily Richards, is revamping its consumer site,, and also recently hosted a contest on that included ads, articles and recipes to encourage turkey consumption.

Research and report
In March 2011, TFO received a commissioned report by dietician/researcher Jane Dummer entitled “Innovating and improving fresh chilled turkey pieces to appeal to, and remain competitive in, the Ontario market.” It includes a look at products currently in Ontario and recommendations for new ones. Dummer suggests that a one-kilogram breast (bone in, skin on) could be sold with separate seasoning blends or stuffing (e.g., cranberry, oregano) as a meal kit with preparation instructions and a recipe, and that smaller portions of the full breast could also be offered in a similar fashion. “New, innovative and ethnic flavours and seasonings could be applied to fresh stir-fry pieces for uses in other recipes such as tacos, quesadillas, stews and casseroles,” Dummer asserts. “An interesting concept that could be explored is offering turkey options at the display-and-serve counter. A variety of flavoured schnitzel pieces are a great fit for this concept, where the consumer picks out the number and variety of pieces and the retail employee packages it on site.”

Dummer identified the top five poultry flavour profiles (considering the ethnic population of the Toronto area, where flavours were later tested): Asian (ginger, garlic and a low-sodium oyster sauce, or mandarin orange, ginger and green onion), South American-Peruvian (hot red chili and lime or citrus), Indian (medium heat curry blend and/or masala with a roasted flavour), Italian (balsamic fig and oregano or sage) and North American (apple wood smoked maple). These flavour profiles were tested with fresh turkey breast pieces in a formal consumer research taste panel (with Mild Italian and Indian Curry as the top choices), and then tested in a retail environment (Longo’s supermarket) during November and December 2010.

Four flavours of fresh, flavoured turkey pieces were offered at 14.99 per kilogram (approximately $9 to $10 per tray), with no marketing or advertising. The top two flavours purchased were Chili Lime with a 65 per cent uptake rate and Mild Italian with a 62 per cent uptake rate. This was surprising, as Chili Lime was not one of the top two in the original taste panel. An uptake rate of greater than 60 per cent is an acceptable outcome and would be considered a success with respect to the use of no marketing initiatives. Longo’s advertised and sold the top two flavours during spring and summer 2011, and will do the same in 2012.

Les Éleveurs de volailles du Quèbec (EVQ, Quebec’s marketing board for chicken and turkey) is also doing a lot of social media and Internet marketing to promote turkey. “We are very active on the Internet,” says EVQ marketing and communication director Christian Dauth. “Our French-language site ( features recipes, video clips of a chef demonstrating how to prepare turkey dishes, contests and information on how turkey is raised.” Consumers can also sign up for a weekly e-newsletter or visit the EVQ Facebook page (it’s only six months old but has over 4,000 fans). “We are also promoting turkey cuts to hospitals, cafeterias, schools and more through a broker,” Dauth says. “In retail outlets, we’re developing with our broker merchandising programs with major supermarket chains. We also book flyer ads, and make recipes and other point-of-sale materials available.” In addition, EVQ has a joint marketing program with processors. 

New products on the market
Maple Leaf offers a variety of Maple Leaf “Prime” turkey products, including thighs, breasts, boneless skinless breasts, breast fillets, breast slices, scallopini, stir-fry pieces, drumsticks, extra-lean ground, extra-lean minced, sausages (Bavarian, Hot Italian, Sweet Italian) and winglets-drumlets. Two other products are particularly health-oriented: Breakfast Grill Turkey’NBacon (turkey combined with bacon) and Natural Selections Oven-Roasted Turkey Breast (in pre-packaged slices and at the deli counter) containing turkey, water, sea salt, vinegar, potato starch, lemon juice concentrate, cane sugar, cultured celery extract and spice.

Granny’s Poultry Cooperative Inc. in Winnipeg, Man., has launched three new turkey products in the last 18 months. Granny’s now offers a stuffed turkey breast roast (with traditional stuffing) that is cooked from frozen, and a naturally smoked deli roast for store deli counters, both infused with flax oil (containing heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids) and carrying “Health Check” approval from the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation. Granny’s also offers “Omega-3” whole birds, which receive flax in their feeding program. “We believe omega-3 fatty-acid content is a good selling point,” says Jason Wortzman, Granny’s director of marketing and product development and a chef.

Being a co-operative owned by farmers, and the only turkey processor in Manitoba, not to mention supplying about half the Saskatchewan market, Granny’s also produces ground turkey and pieces for retail year-round. “Ground turkey sales have really picked up over the last few years,” says Wortzman. “It’s becoming an identifiable product outside of holiday meal whole birds, and fits well into existing family menu planning, for items like burgers, taco filling and spaghetti sauce. We’re also hoping to add pieces with specialty flavours in the future.” Granny’s promotes turkey through coupons, in-store features and online advertising.  Yorkshire Valley Farms, Canada’s largest organic poultry business, will be offering whole organic turkeys this festive season at Loblaws, Longo’s, Sobeys, Highland Farms and several quality independent food retailers in the Toronto area.

As Mark Davies, Chair of the Turkey Farmers of Canada, says, “It’s a challenging time, but a promising time, for turkey. There’s a world of opportunity out there for the industry to grasp and that’s exciting.”

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