MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

December 4, 2012

Couponer asks ‘Where’s the beef?’

By Jill Cataldo
CNHI

— Dear Jill: I’m tired of finding mostly coupons and discounts in the papers for women’s beauty products, toys for kids and junk food. What gives? In this economy we need food coupons! Where are the meat and produce coupons? Just to buy some vegetables and fruit, let alone any fresh meat or chicken, can break my bank account. How does the consumer get the attention of the producers/distributors and sellers to offer more coupons on ‘real’ food? – Fred T.

Dear Fred: It’s important to think about why companies issue coupons. While many shoppers believe coupons exist to help them reduce their grocery bills (and it’s true that they do!) the manufacturers’ goal is to influence you to buy a certain product – period. The coupon is a financial incentive for us to try something new, continue buying something we like or to choose one brand of a product over another.

You probably know that manufacturers reimburse stores for the coupons shoppers use. If I use a 75-cent coupon for cereal, the cereal’s manufacturer reimburses the store. The manufacturer has an interest in getting me to choose its brand of cereal over a competing brand and may offer a steady stream of coupons to encourage me to continue buying that cereal month after month. In order for any coupon to exist, there must be a company behind the product willing to put money forward to help ensure people continue buying it.

This may help you understand why we don’t see as many coupons for meat or produce. If a coupon exists for fresh green beans, who reimburses the store? Someone trying to influence people to buy fresh green beans must back that coupon financially. Unless the green beans are being distributed by a specific brand, vs. being supplied to the store by local growers, it’s not likely that you’ll see coupons for them. The last time I purchased fresh green beans, my store had a large basket of them. I bagged what I wanted and paid. There was no brand name or manufacturer’s logo on the beans.

The same is true for most meats. If my store’s in-house butcher shop wraps up a package of ground beef, in whose interest is it to provide a coupon for that meat? Unless the meat bears a specific brand, you’re not likely to find a coupon for it.

The exceptions to both of these examples, of course, are when a farm, grower or council offers coupons for fresh produce and meat – and we love those! Where I live, a berry grower often offers 50 cents and $1 printable coupons online for fresh strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. Again, the packages of berries are also branded with this berry grower’s brand and logo. The berry company has an interest in getting me to choose its brand over another company that’s also selling berries.

Now, frozen and canned vegetables are easier to save on. Many manufacturers regularly offer coupons for these products. Note that both types of products usually bear a specific brand name (Del Monte, Libby’s, Green Giant) and competing brands in the  same category vie for your business.

During specific times of the year, you may also see coupons for general meat purchases. Each October, I check the meat counter at my supermarket and look for brochures from the National Pork Producers Council. Why? October is National Pork Month! In the past, these brochures have contained a coupon for “$1 off any pork product.” That’s when I do enjoy some savings on fresh pork: when the pork council decides to run a campaign encouraging people to eat pork, and reimburses stores for coupons incentivizing the purchase.

During the rest of the year, I look for coupons on popular brands of meats (Hormel, Perdue, Jennie-O) to reduce the price of my meat purchases, too. As always, I pay close attention to the per-pound price to get the best deal.

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com