The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the Foundation for Meat & Poultry Research and Education, the foundation for the North American Meat Institute, released the 14th annual exploration into how to best optimize the role of meat and poultry in today’s food culture: the way people eat, shop and live. The “Power of Meat 2019” explores the financial prowess of the $67 billion category and meat’s overall role in supporting a food retailer’s reputation.
One of the key findings from the most recent analysis was that consumers are increasingly shopping across the full meat offering, from the meat case and counter to the frozen aisle and the deli. In fact, the study showed that across all departments, convenience-focused meat and poultry saw robust growth in 2018, including for value added (up 5.1%), fully cooked (up 2.5%) and frozen (up 2.2%).
Presenting the results of the study at the 2019 Meat Conference in Dallas, Texas, Anna-Marie Roerink, principal at 210 Analytics LLC, said the industry needs to stop focusing on the departments and start thinking about the meal occasion backwards. In other words, food retailers and their meat supplier partners should align their thinking with the shoppers who consider their meat purchase as a meal occasion and not necessarily relegated to one area of the store.
The report urges retailers and suppliers to consider new ways to help shoppers plan meat purchases for multiple meals. Currently, four in 10 shoppers buy meat/poultry for meals to cover several days; 35% buy more than they need to freeze and use over time, and 23%, particularly Generation Z and younger Millennials, buy meat and poultry for one meal at a time.
Embracing digital communications
After a 13-year run, reading the printed circular pre-trip is no longer the most frequently used promotional platform; checking in-store promotional signage has now surpassed the print ad, according to the latest findings. Digital, social and mobile are growing as well, such as a digital version of the traditional circular (up 38%), in-store app (up 24%) and social media deals (up 12%).
What these results suggest is a need for considering creative new ways of engaging the meat shopper. The survey found that while 52% of shoppers decide on what they’ll purchase in store, 23% decide long before setting foot in the meat department.
“The trends point to opportunities for retailers and the suppliers to collaborate on ways to both educate and inspire our shoppers,” said Rick Stein, FMI vice president of fresh foods. “The onus is on us to turn the ordinary into extraordinary, as 74% of shoppers are looking for something as simple as flipping routine meals that they already know how to cook into a different culinary experience.”
Shopping for health
Shoppers are also increasingly turning to food to help manage health and well-being, the survey results showed. Consumers are seeking to understand what is in their food, who made it and how it was produced. Meat is no exception, the results showed, with two-thirds of shoppers looking for better-for-me items and around three in 10 looking for products that are better for the planet, farmers, workers or animals.
Eighty-six percent of U.S. shoppers interviewed described themselves as meat eaters, but the data suggest that a younger generation is increasingly reporting a flexitarian regime, which is categorized as a mostly vegetarian diet with occasional meat and poultry consumption. For instance, 13% of Gen Z eat a flexitarian diet versus just 6% of Boomers. Women are also more likely to be flexitarians than men, at 15% versus 6%.
Roerink told Meat Conference attendees that the data signify that “eating meat is still the norm.” Five percent of shoppers identified as vegan/vegetarian, which Roerink said has remained steady with past data. However, she said the industry should be more concerned about the 10% of shoppers who identify as flexitarians because they are essentially the “swing voters.”
Interestingly, however, the data showed that meat does not seem to be benefitting from the current protein craze. This is due to many being unaware of meat’s high protein content. Shoppers also reported to being open to blended alternatives such as beef and mushroom burgers, with 63% saying they would “maybe” or “definitely” purchase blended meat and plant items.
Roerink emphasized to attendees the necessity of the meat industry telling its “good nutrition density story,” especially to the flexitarians.
Managing challenges to the category
The report provided educational opportunities for both the supplier and food retail industries as Americans take a variety of meat purchasing considerations into account, including environmental, animal welfare and their health.
“The meat industry has used many digital tools, such as its MyMeatUp app, to help shoppers choose products that fit their lifestyle and interests,” Meat Institute president and chief executive officer Julie Anna Potts said. “The findings underscore the need for ongoing efforts to not only share the many choices available in the meat case but also continuing to innovate and focus on areas for improvement to further grow consumer trust.”
Overall, there is a lot of disruption in the marketplace right now, Roerink said, adding that “we need to be a part of it.”