First Fresh Foods CEO: Chicken sausage category sales boost as number of health­conscious consumers rise

By Adi Menayang for Food Navigator USA

There’s a growing demand for lean protein, and according to CEO of First Fresh Foods, consumers are increasingly looking at value­-added chicken products to mix up the meat in family meals.

Sold at Publix in Alabama, The Carolinas, Tennessee, and Georgia, where the 3­-year-­old company is based, the brand is readying itself for wider distribution after success in the region.

“[When] we started doing our research, talking to the buyers and the marketplace consumers, we found two things are working in our favor; Generation X and Y grew up with a lot of chicken,” William Jennings, CEO of Georgia-­based First Fresh Foods , told FoodNavigator­-USA about the company’s success so far. “Second, the Baby Boomers, because of certain health reasons, have to move away from certain meats, and gravitate to others,” such as poultry.

Jennings criticized past chicken sausages on the market as subpar, so the founders of First Fresh Foods, including Alan Habbeger, wanted to create something “with a bite and flavor” that would compete with the more abundant pork sausage on the market. 

Serving diverse communities

Jennings said that the company is currently in talks with retailers and distributors around the nation. He believes a great selling point is the big audience that chicken sausages can bring, not just the diverse age groups that find the product appealing, but also consumers adhering to many dietary restrictions, religious or otherwise.

“A lot of poultry sausages still use natural casing, and it’s made from pork intestines,” he said. “Our’s is made with collagen, which is a beef byproduct.” Because of this, their products can pass as halal and kosher , and some of their SKUs already have halal designation.

Keeping the texture, and keeping it fresh

Jennings said that one reason the company’s chicken sausages have the bite that pork sausages have is that it only uses whole muscle breast meat instead of a mix of dark and white meat.

“We’re targeting the consumer that wants the flavor and bite of a pork sausage, but wants a healthier option,” he said.

Additionally, Jennings said that there is some proprietary processing to keep the sausages firm and have shelf­life without nitrates and nitrites, but most of it comes from sourcing and scheduling.

“We only use chicken two days from ‘harvest,’” he said, adding that that this gives the products 13 to 16 days more shelf life. Processing into sausage form is done quickly so that the products can ship out to retailers as soon as possible.

According to Jennings, being in Gainsville, the Poultry Capital of the World (yes, it
is an official designation and they do have a chicken monolith as a monument to this), allows the company to get the best meat in a short amount of time.

But how about when the product goes national?
“We’ll count on direct shipments,” he said. “We know this will affect our freight costs, but our whole objective is to deliver the freshest product possible.”

At Publix, the products retail for around $4.49, a price-­point which Jennings said allows the company to offer “affordable products in the premium category.”

Originally published here