|Beef meets chicken for a hamburger designed to make consumers Cluck ‘n Moo.|
For many years, the idea of tasty, healthy food has been an oxymoron. In order for food to be truly healthy, consumers have had to compromise on taste. This idea just didn’t sit well with Steve Gold, so he set out to develop a burger that could offer consumers the best of both worlds – and Cluck ‘n Moo burgers were born.
Gold is a food-business veteran, working on sales and marketing in the industry off and on for more than 40 years. During his last 22-year stretch, he worked on the launch and ongoing marketing of Murray’s Chicken. Gold is now the CEO of Cluck Inc., West Nyack, NY, working full-time making tasty, healthy burgers a reality.
“A burger can be healthy and taste good at the same time,” Gold says. “In the food arena, when it sounds too good to be true, it usually is, but in this case, we accomplished something that hasn’t been done before – we have a healthy product that tastes really good.”
Cluck ‘n Moo burgers are billed as the first and only half-chicken, half-beef burgers. The meat is sourced from antibiotic-free chickens and grass-fed cows. Cluck ‘n Moo burgers have 52 percent less fat, 34 percent fewer calories and 55 percent less saturated fat than a regular all-beef burger.
From concept to reality
Gold’s idea for a 50/50 chicken/beef burger was born from his desire to cut down on a traditional burger’s fat content, while still leaving plenty of flavor in the product. Gold says that burger substitutes, such as turkey burgers or non-meat vegetarian offerings, aren’t truly substitutes for burgers. “People eat them instead of real burgers, but no one is claiming that they taste the same or as good as traditional burgers,” he explains. “They just eat them because they want a healthier option.”
Gold decided that combining beef and chicken would be a great way to cut down on the fat content, while keeping the meat flavor in the burger (Cluck ‘n Moo burgers are 100-percent meat, no fillers or non-protein additives). “I knew no one had tried combining beef and chicken in a burger before so I decided to give it a shot,” he explains. “I went to a processor and when I told him what I wanted to do, he said I was crazy. But I’ve been crazy before.
“The processor started making the product, and I tweaked the formulation and the production process to the point that I really liked what we had,” he says. “Then I served it to my wife and she was happy. A happy wife is a happy life, and that’s how I knew we had a product.”
The next stage of the process was some unofficial focus groups – Gold served the burgers to his friends and neighbors while watching the Giants play in the play-offs on Sundays. “I never told them specifically what I was serving them, they just knew it was a burger. They loved them – some say it was the best burger they’d ever had,” he explains. “After the third week of serving friends my burgers, I finally told them what it was and they were pleasantly shocked and surprised and thrilled about how something so good tasting could be so healthy.”
Sweetsboro, NJ-based Rastelli Foods is processing and packaging the product. “I worked with them in the past,” Gold explains. “I had Ray Rastelli taste the product before he signed on to help me with the processing and he liked it. I definitely picked the right processor to partner with – he was quite excited to make the burgers.”
The product is made from a blend of 50 percent antibiotic-free dark meat chicken and 50 percent grass-fed 80/20 beef. “We call it a hybrid blend,” he says.
After the meat is ground, it goes through a process Gold calls the “smash burger method” to gently press the product into a patty – “similar to how you do at home,” he says. “The burger doesn’t taste as heavy as a beef burger does, and that’s one of the things that people like about it.”
Rastelli uses existing equipment, set up to Gold’s proprietary product specifications, to make the burgers.
Cluck ‘n Moo burgers are packaged in vacuum-packaged film and merchandised in a bright-green box featuring the Cluck ‘n Moo chicken and cow characters. Four, 4-oz. burgers come in one box. The price averages $6.99 to $7.99 per box. “Stores are selling it at a price similar to other grass-fed beef burgers they’re selling,” Gold says.
Sales and marketing
After getting USDA approval for the product, Gold’s next task was sales and marketing, which was where his years of working with Murray’s Chicken came in handy. He launched it as a test product in March with New York metro food retailers, such as Fairway Markets and King’s Food Markets. “We did demos in all the stores, and 80 percent of the people that tasted the product bought it,” he says. “That’s a little unusual for sampling.”
Week in and week out the supermarkets continued to buy the product without running any extra promotion thanks to the product sampling’s success. “Re-orders were even a success – people who bought it the first time they tried it were coming back and buying it again,” Gold explains.
In April, the product was launched in Publix stores in New York and some other independent retailers in the area. “We’re doing about 10 demos a weekend and five to six demos during the week,” he says. “Demos are the most expensive way to market a product, but it’s the most cost-effective way to get people to try it.”
Gold explains that there’s nothing tricky to cooking a Cluck ‘n Moo burger – you just grill it as you would any other all-beef patty. Because it does contain chicken, there is a USDA recommendation to cook the product to 165°F (instead of the typical 160°F for all-beef burgers). “No one really minds cooking it that extra 5 degrees to 165 because it still remains very moist,” Gold says. “It’s still napkin-wiping delicious.”
Currently, the burgers are sold as a fresh, vacuum-sealed product, but there are plans to merchandise nationwide, which will require the product be sold frozen. Frozen product is available now, but because it’s being marketed to consumers who are looking for a niche product (grass-fed beef and antibiotic-free chicken), Gold says customers prefer the product fresh.
Cluck ‘n Moo plans to produce and merchandise a commodity line of burgers soon (possibly as soon as September), as well as ground product sold in chubs, which should also be available in the fall. There are also plans to sell the product to colleges, universities, private schools and health-care facilities.
“I feel like there are a lot of options for this company and this product line,” Gold explains. “I’m hoping to grow the brand and want to launch new items as we move along – we want the Cluck ‘n Moo brand to end up as a household name.”