Kwik Trip Stores Add Fresh Meat Section

LA CROSSE, Wis. -- Kwik Trip Inc. aims to be the one-stop shopping place for its customers' summer barbecue needs.

In early May, the La Crosse-based retailer rolled out a selection of fresh meats to its 414 convenience stores in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. Offerings include several cuts of steak, ground beef, pork chops, chicken breasts, ribs and a variety of hot dogs and bratwursts, according to the La Crosse Tribune.

Customers previously could buy buns, bread, potatoes, onions, salads, beer, chips and other summer favorites, "but then they had to go to another store for the meat," said Greg Scriver, Kwik Trip's procurement and marketing director. "The idea is to offer our guests what goes in the bun, too, so to speak."

Scriver declined to discuss overall numbers, but he told the newspaper that sales on Tuesday, May 13, were 25 percent above the previous Tuesday's.

Kwik Trip's addition of fresh meats is also helping boost other area businesses, such as Bakalars Sausage Co. and Reinhart FoodService in La Crosse. Bakalars has added eight employees and increased production 25 percent to provide brats, hot dogs and sausages under the Kitchen Cravings label to Kwik Trip, said Mike Bakalars, president of Bakalars Sausage Co.

"The Kwik Trip business has been a big increase in our business," Mike Bakalars said. "It's been a good opportunity for everybody involved."

According to Scriver, Kwik Trip CEO Don Zietlow has wanted to add fresh meats to the retailer's offering for some time. Scriver joined Kwik Trip Aug. 1 after working with Reinhart FoodService for 28 years.

Marketed as "big on fresh, low on price," the selection of products and vendors, including Reinhart for some steaks, came after extensive research, Scriver said. "We want to provide great products and value," he said. "Packaging must be perfect to provide shelf life."

Prior to launching the initiative, Kwik Trip representatives visited not only local plants, but also packers in Arkansas and Missouri. "Many were vying for our business," Scriver told the news outlet. "We had more samples than people could eat. We had 12 to 15 different packers trying to meet our criteria for high-quality and consistent packaging."

In addition to Bakalars sausages, bratwursts and dogs, Kwik Trip is stocking Klements brats, "a staple of Wisconsin products," Scriver said.

The proximity of Bakalars and Reinhart to Kwik Trip's distribution hub helps ensure a cost-effective, fresh supply, he added.

"We don't have the selection of a 30-foot meat display, but we've covered the bases," he said. "We didn't skimp. We've got all-natural USDA choice angus."

According to the report, the c-store chain is phasing in freestanding coolers for the meats, plus the addition of other products such as lunch meats, salads and, of course, sauerkraut to complement the brats. Kwik Trip also plans to add products such as macaroni and cheese, steak sauce, fresh green beans, peppers and mushrooms "to better accommodate full-meal solutions," according to Scriver.

"In a lot of rural areas where we are privileged to have a Kwik Trip, the grocery stores are gone," and the expanded options will help fill that gap, he said.

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