CONSUMERS ranked Certified Angus Beef (CAB) not only as the most recognized brand but also as the best of any grade or brand of beef, according to recent extensive research conducted by Firebox Research & Strategy.
"The research takes a comprehensive view of the overall market for beef as well as consumers in the store as they are shopping, giving us excellent insight into consumer attitudes, preferences and shopping behaviors," said Michael Schiller, managing director of Firebox Research & Strategy. "The findings indicate that the Certified Angus Beef brand is both top-of-mind for consumers and highly regarded as their preferred beef."
Data collected from several different consumer surveys, which included online questionnaires and in-store interviews, yielded valuable information for retailers, restaurants and beef producers.
The new research revealed that 92% of those surveyed recognized the "Certified Angus Beef" phrase, while 94% immediately identified the CAB logo.
The research findings indicated that eight in 10 surveyed perceived restaurants offering the CAB brand as serving better-quality beef than those that do not. In addition, nearly half were willing to drive 30 minutes to eat in a restaurant serving CAB or to shop at a store carrying the brand.
Moreover, consumers also stated a willingness to pay $1 more at the retail level and $5 more per menu entrée for CAB.
At the end of fiscal 2013, CAB sales were at 865 million lb., which shattered previous records. The continuous record CAB sales year after year, especially when cattle inventories were the lowest since 1951, serves to confirm the research findings.
"The ability to significantly grow certified head in the face of reduced cow numbers really speaks to the focus (cattle producers) have on improving the quality level of their product," Mark McCully, CAB vice president of production, said.
Although cattle numbers have declined, the CAB cutout climbed higher over the last five years, rising from $147/cwt. in 2009 to $203/cwt. in 2013. As a result, $47 million in premiums were paid last year for cattle that earned the CAB brand — double the amount in 2010.
A focus on all aspects of the supply chain, from ranch to table, has been the key to success for the CAB brand.
"Our focus is providing premium quality and taking the guessing game out of buying beef," said Tracey Erickson, vice president of marketing for the brand. "These numbers show that consumers are willing to pay for quality and recognize it in the Certified Angus Beef brand."
Since 1978, CAB has been launching beef products that not only center on quality and flavor but also evolve with consumer trends and adapt to specialty markets.
Beyond the traditional beef cuts qualifying for the CAB logo, top-grade beef meeting nine additional standards can earn the CAB Prime label, while any beef raised without antibiotics or added hormones and fed a vegetarian diet that also meets the CAB standards qualifies for the Natural CAB label. In a recent addition, kosher CAB meat has joined the list of premium beef.
Last month, Prime Hospitality Group became the first-ever kosher restaurant group to serve CAB. In addition, shoppers can purchase the same line of kosher beef products in the group's Prime Butcher store.
All CAB kosher beef must meet two levels of certification in addition to the brand's standards, which include added production steps and costs.
Furthermore, the kosher beef, which can come only from animals that have never been sick and that are slaughtered using kosher methods, must meet the 10 carcass specifications for the CAB brand — a feat achieved by only about 22% of all Angus-type cattle. Beyond that, it must qualify for CAB Natural.
Still, in an era when consumers are asking more questions about their food, the CAB program offers transparency by tracking the entire beef production process, from the time the animal is born until it is purchased in a grocery store or consumed in a restaurant.
Over the years, the CAB brand has built trust with consumers, and its future success will lie in continuing to adjust to consumer demands.
"It's clear that we have a hallmark opportunity to drive taste to consumers," said John Stika, president of CAB. "Their increasing demand equals increasing trust in the brand. Our responsibility is to stay focused on providing flavorful, quality beef consumers want and to understand the value it has to them."
University of Missouri economist Scott Brown said, "The work invested over the year has resulted in CAB's position as a brand consumers trust for a consistent and great eating experience.
"The market advantage of CAB and that momentum will only be accelerated," he added.
However, Brown said it is important that CAB producers and affiliates pay close attention to the supply and demand balance.
"If demand for CAB products outstrips supply, consumers will begin to search for alternatives," Brown said. "It's clear that Angus producers' focus on genetics that include marbling has put money in pockets, but they must work to ensure there is adequate supply or risk losing those premiums."