27 February 2017 10 min read

Specialty butcher Hudson Meats marries old-fashioned service and know-how with innovative and sustainable products and an ex-chef’s approach to their selection and preparation.

Jeff Winfield and Colin Holt, a former two-hatted chef, are the owners of Hudson Meats, founded in August 2007. Today Hudson Meats has six stores cross NSW and Victoria including one in the Stockland Cammeray shopping centre that has been successfully trading since 2008.

Jeff and Colin are ambassadors of the paddock to plate philosophy and liaise with local farmers to source premium Australian produce for their stores. Communicating the story of where their produce comes from is at the heart of their success. 

Jeff shares his tips on how Hudson Meats caters to increasingly discerning customers and how to remain competitive in what is a changing marketplace for fresh food retailers.

Hudson Meats has been in business for a decade now. How do you shape your business to remain relevant? 

I think our customers appreciate our paddock to plate philosophy. It’s about telling them a story about the provenance of the meat and the welfare of the animals so they know that they were raised and processed ethically. I like to say we tell our customers the farmer’s name and the name of the farmer’s dog. We also respond to what our customers want and that means tapping into food and health trends by providing pre-prepared meals, charcuterie, stocks and sauces, ready to cook meats as well as artisan meats such as rare breed pork products and salt bush lamb. We also believe in establishing strong community ties and actively support local schools in our stores’ communities. 

Food is constantly evolving, what are some of the exciting food trends you’re seeing? 

Right now it’s all about American BBQ cooking and southern fried chicken, which means we’re selling more brisket, rib racks and free-range chicken. Gourmet burgers are also big. Smoking meats is also on trend with many of our customers wanting to try it for themselves at home so we help with the right cut of meat. There’s also a real preference for homemade and artisan products. Customers are more prepared to try new preparation techniques and new products such as bone marrow than in the past. 

How does Hudson Meats stay ahead of these trends? 

Our customers are foodies and they are always looking for new and different products, many of which filter down from TV shows or from magazines. We excel in never saying no to our customers. If they ask for something, a particular cut of meat, we will source it for them. We spend a lot of time educating our customers on the meat we sell. Increasingly, customers are willing to spend more for high-quality food from local suppliers they know and trust. We understand the craft of butchery and we have a knowledgeable chef across the counter, which is definitely a bonus. 

We excel in never saying no to our customers. - Jeff Winfield, co-owner of Hudson Meats

How do you see technology influencing food retailers in 2017? 

Competition in the food retail market has certainly increased so retailers are creating more intimate and innovative shopping experiences that are tailored to their customers. Technology is also helping retailers to find ways to bring customers to their stores. I think fresh food retailers have more information available to them to showcase their fresh food and differentiate themselves in the marketplace. For us, technology helps us to understand customer preferences but we don’t want to let automation take over from good old-fashioned customer service. 

Customer personalisation is growing in apparel retail, but how do you see this trend evolving for fresh food retailers? 

We use technology – a customer relationship management system – to help us to build the authenticity of our product and to personalise our business to our customers. At the end of the day what really drives personalisation for us is our team knowing what our customers want because they have a personal relationship with them. Customers want to develop a relationship with their butcher. We are focused on personalising the customer experience so we offer hands-on butchery and cooking classes and events. 

What are customers looking for in 2017? 

I think fresh food customers are looking for quality, value for money, great customer service and a retailer that excels at what they do. The growth of the food culture and people’s interest in food means customers are connecting more with the quality of the food they are buying. Customer expectations around sustainability and animal welfare have driven the growth in local and artisanal food products. They want transparency in the supply chain. I think more customers are seeing the advantages of shopping local. 

Customers want quality, safety and great taste and flavour. What are some of the challenges ahead for fresh food retailing? 

As always, marrying increases in costs with our ability to provide products that our customers want and will buy. Fresh food retailers have to find the balance between the transaction and fulfilment and a lot of fresh food retailers will focus on convenience or inspiring products to stay head. The challenge will be to improve innovation in our products, responsiveness to customers, and the quality of service.

Jeff's top five tips for 2017
  1. Go the extra mile with customer service – make it familiar, friendly and engaging 

  2. Personalisation – find new ways to know your customer 

  3. Promote quality and sustainability – tell them more about what they’re buying 

  4. Give your customers choice and value 

  5. Specialise in something – better in-store experiences or curated offerings