Pork demand in the U.S. has been sluggish for several years, but soaring retail meat sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic offer a renewed opportunity to grow market share, Angie Krieger, vice president of domestic marketing at the National Pork Board (NPB), said during a producer webinar this week.
“During COVID-19, sales have been very strong,” she said. Pre-pandemic, pork was falling behind last year’s pace, but as of midyear 2020, pork is up 25% in dollars at retail and up 17% in pounds at retail.
“We have more consumers today who have eaten pork in the last month than maybe at any time in history, and we are poised to take advantage of that,” Krieger said.
As part of its efforts to capitalize on the momentum, the pork industry will soon be launching a new masterbrand campaign: “Deeply rooted in insights and research.”
Research commission by NPB recently revealed that 73% of carnivores and 63% of omnivores agree that real meat is the best source of protein, while 38% of consumers want to know the farm where their meat was raised, and 60% say farmers are on their side when it comes to helping them stay healthy.
“We’re going to give them what they’re asking for,” Krieger said, unveiling the new “Real Pork” masterbrand, which will be integrated into everything NPB does.
The board will further be reimaging some of its former campaigns as well as working with its dieticians to create a nutrition strategy for 2021. Additionally, the organization is working to modernize its position by focusing on younger consumers.
“Researcher shows that consumers form most of their cooking habits when they’re in their late teens or young adult. You’ll see a different look and feel to pork.org this fall as well as we really try to target that consumer demographic,” she said.
All of these initiatives will help the industry meet its goal of being the top protein choice for consumers through converting consumer from other proteins, increasing pork consumption and creating a new consumer mindset.
What does all of this mean for U.S. producers? Krieger said she hopes producers will feel re-energized about this after a challenging year.
“We’ve worked very hard to keep products moving at a time that I know has been very difficult for you all on farm. We hope that ‘Real Pork’ will show you that the future is bright for our products,” she said.
The momentum demonstrated during COVID-19 can be continued, and NPB seeks to do just that, she added.
NPB also has created a very robust strategy around foodservice, as the channel has undergone a great deal of change since COVID-19 emerged.
“Certainly, foodservice has changed and will likely continue to change, so we’re talking about things like ghost kitchens and street food and delivery services that are different than how they’ve look in the past; we want to make sure that pork is on those menus,” Krieger said.
Ground pork gains new fans
According to Krieger, the ground pork category has been seeing fantastic growth since early March, with 22% growth still in recent weeks. Also, while the pork industry traditionally thinks of ground pork for pork burgers, she said consumers are thinking about it differently.
“The really great news is 45% of ground pork shoppers had not purchased it in the previous 12 months, and they’re likely to purchase the product again. So, we’ve got a bunch of new people to this category and just a fantastic opportunity for us to provide them with even more ideas for how they utilize ground pork at home.”
NPB is working with several retailers and packers right now to increase ground pork's share of the meat case for the rest of 2020 and into 2021.