George Foreman is beefing up his line.
The boxer turned grill creator starts selling steaks online March 1, followed by a summer debut in retail stores. A catalog is slated for the fourth quarter, by which time Foreman already will have spent a few months plugging steaks and meats on infomercials and TV appearances.
“George Foreman is very connected with beef grilling, and going into steaks was a natural extension,” said Steven Krane, president of GreatMeals USA Inc., the Washington, DC, company that has the direct marketing rights to George Foreman Foods' steaks business.
The site at georgeforeman.com will sell marinated cuts of steaks, filet mignons, hamburgers, chicken breasts and ribs. Four to six portions of those products in 6 oz. to 16 oz. packages will sell in the $30 to $50 range. ConAgra Foods, maker of frozen foods, will supply the meat.
Foreman's entry is bound to create ripples in the estimated $600 million direct-to-customer steaks market. Omaha Steaks sells half of all steaks sold online and via catalog. Others Foreman will compete with include Pfaelzer Brothers, Stockyards and Kansas City Steaks, which built its reputation on QVC.
Foreman has proven his sales ability with the success of his self-named grills. Nearly 41 million George Foreman grills, generally priced at $20 to $80, have sold since the brand's debut in 1996. Foreman a few years ago sold the rights to the grill brand to appliance maker Salton.
Krane said Foreman hopes to replicate his success with grills in the steaks business. Add to that GreatMeals' pedigree as a cataloger and online retailer of chef-created entrees until it exited that business in 2001 for private-label product development and fulfillment.
“You're not going to buy a chicken breast from mail order,” Krane said. “You'll buy a steak. My experience with home shopping is that steak is always the No. 1 category in direct mail.
“I'd say, without a doubt, Omaha has done a great job in differentiating their products from the others available at traditional supermarkets. I think supermarkets are not known for selling quality. With respect to beef, supermarkets are known for selling on price, and direct marketers of beef differentiate themselves by selling on quality.”
The Foreman site will start by selling 15 SKUs, expanding to 60 by yearend. The products will be listed alongside grills and Foreman's cookbooks. Fulfillment will be handled from GreatMeals' Windsor, WI, distribution center.
Short-form infomercials will air in May. So will TV shopping on Home Shopping Network or QVC. Both will share the same order-taking infrastructure as the site.
The one unresolved business is catalog. Frequency, page count, SKUs, paper stock, list, creative and promotions are undecided. GreatMeals does not want to enter this area alone.
“For the catalog fulfillment, we're looking to partner with an established catalog company to handle the catalog component of this business,” Krane said.
“We're right now in discussions with a couple of catalog companies, so we're looking to find an existing catalog company to partner with on the processing and distribution of catalogs — somebody who currently distributes a lot of catalogs, perhaps is not in the frozen food end and is looking to enter that brand extension.”
Krane said he will discuss any type of partnership deal.
He is confident that Foreman's charm will rapidly win new customers. The Houston-based Foreman is to appear the week of Feb. 24 on NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno. This will be followed by live appearances on home shopping channels, infomercials and media interviews.
At georgeforeman.com, newsletter subscribers are asked to enter their name and e-mail address in a sweepstakes to win their weight in George Foreman steaks. Visitors also are encouraged to register for the steaks newsletter as well as getting on the mailing list. They also can e-mail their favorite steak recipes.
Foreman's ad agency for the steaks business is Lighthouse Strategy Group, Reston, VA. Hartman Media Group, Tampa, FL, handles public relations on the account. The catalog partner will decide with GreatMeals how to handle direct marketing pitches to consumers.