National Provisioner Article: Dewig Meats promotes local food

(Article originally written by Sam Gazdziak and published on the National Provisioner website under Independent Processor’s Prime Cuts.)

Many small processors in this country run a meat market and sell a variety of products besides their meats. Along with ham, bacon, sausages and meat snacks, shoppers can pick up things like jams and jellies, chips and, if the store has a liquor license, beer and wine. In many cases, shoppers can buy the same candy bars or the same sodas that they can buy in any retail store. In other cases though, processors stock their markets with products from other food companies in their community or state. These items, whether they’re local craft brews or snack foods or pastries, help add to the local appeal of these meat markets.

Dewig Meats, a multi-generation meat processor located in Haubstadt, Ind., produces a variety of award-winning meats. Along with its braunschweiger, bacon and other meats, it offers sodas, pies, pizzas, salsas, salads, seasonings and cinnamon rolls that are made by other Indiana food companies.

“We stock as much local products as possible,” says Darla Kiesel, part of the current generation of owner/operators. Those above-mentioned items, as well as many other Indiana-made products, “are all staples in our retail.”

In particular is the store’s array of local beer and wine. Kiesel says that Dewig has a 2-way permit, meaning that the store can sell only beer and wine, not hard liquor. Dewig is in a predominantly German community where beer and wine is prevalent, so the license is perfect for the company.

“One thing that we learned is that our Indiana customers are interested in Indiana wine. Our wine distributors laugh because the big-name brand wine companies don’t sell well at Dewig’s,” Kiesel says, adding that more than 90 percent of the total wine sales come from Indiana wineries.

“Customers are loyal to local wines, and in the past few years Indiana has really became a big wine producing state,” she explains. “Customers also enjoy visiting the vineyards. They will continue to purchase wine from us at Dewig’s based on their familiarity with the vineyards that they have personally visited or heard about from their friends.”

Dewig Meats works with distributors throughout Indiana that specialize in local products — some have whole sections of locally made items. Kiesel says that the company knows many of the food companies that are located close to Haubstadt. For other items, distributors have been very beneficial in increasing Dewig’s supply of Indiana-made products.

“We have benefited from using the larger distributors for the products that are located further away from us. There is so much to offer throughout our state that we didn’t know about prior to using the larger distributors,” she says.

Indiana has a program called Indiana Grown that showcases all locally made products throughout Indiana. Meat companies are able to join this association, which is free and subsidized through the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.

There are cross-promotional benefits to these types of relationships. Dewig Meats advertises the local products that it sells, and the producers of those products promote that fact that their food items are available at Dewig’s market.

“Working together helps both of us,” Kiesel says. “Social media is a great avenue for cross promotion.”

Even more importantly, Dewig is supplying products that its customers want.

“We have found that if the customer has the option to pick between two products they will almost always choose the local product,” Kiesel notes. “They will even pay a bit more for it just because it is from a local company.”

One of the reasons that shoppers buy local meat products is the story behind them. They can pick up a cheap pack of bacon anywhere, but a more expensive bacon made from a local processor with ties to the community has appeal to them. The same logic applies to local jellies, wine, soda or bread. The packaging on those products may include tidbits of information that tell a little about the history of the company, and consumers like knowing more about the companies that they support.

“It appears to me that ‘locals’ trust ‘locals,’” Kiesel adds. “I don’t think that concept always holds true when customers are contemplating buying from a national brand.”

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