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Beef Remains Popular, Even with Plant-Based Proteins Proliferating

Beef demand continues to rise despite the buzz around meat substitutes
Photograph: Shutterstock

There’s been a lot of hype lately surrounding plant-based foods—after one meat substitute’s IPO, stocks for the company surged 163%, according to the Washington Post[i], but despite the buzz surrounding these new plant-based meat substitutes, sales for beef haven’t taken a hit.  Rather, retail demand for beef is higher[ii]; according to Season Solorio, senior executive director of brand marketing & communications for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contactor to the Beef Checkoff, retail beef demand was 15% higher in 2018 than in 2012[iii]. The increase in demand is being driven by consumer willingness to pay a robust price for the increasing supplies of available beef.[iv]

Better beef and an unmatched experience

Beef is a high-quality protein that is authentic, real and raised responsibly. It’s hard to beat the nutrients provided by a serving of real beef. With more than 150 cuts of beef available, including a variety of ground beef options such as 90%, 93% and 96% lean ground beef that are all lower in calories, fat, saturated fat and sodium and higher in high-quality protein than meat substitutes, shoppers have a variety of real beef options to choose from. And with those 150 cuts comes a delicious and nutritious beef eating experience.

Additionally, beef is an authentic source of high-quality protein and 10 essential nutrients that support a healthy lifestyle, including protein, zinc, iron and B vitamins with just one ingredient—beef—without added sodium or other ingredients.

As beef demand has continued to increase, beef farmers and ranchers have responded by producing more high-quality beef more sustainably than they have in the past[v]. Beef farmers and ranchers are continuously improving the way beef is raised to ensure a sustainable beef supply and as a result of enhancements in in cattle breeding and feeding, today they raise the same amount of beef using 33% fewer cattle compared to the 1970s.[vi] Improved efficiency and animal well-being also mean a 16% lower carbon footprint and fewer natural resources used for every pound of beef produced[vii].

Today, more than 80% of beef is graded Prime or Choice, the highest available USDA quality grades[viii]. In order to continue great sales records for beef, it’s important for retailers to highlight this quality, as well as promote various cuts of beef, including the more than 60% of whole muscle cuts found in the supermarket which are considered lean when cooked with visible fat trimmed[ix] . Research shows that shoppers typically only purchase a few cuts of meat, but with more knowledge, they may branch out to other options[x]. So how can stores do that?

Click here to enlarge infographic.

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Promotion means bigger sales

Boosting beef sales has a direct correlation with boosting retailers’ bottom lines. With strong demand in place, Solorio says, retailers are smart to feature popular grilling cuts such as Ribeye Steak, Strip Steak and T-Bone Steaks. Beyond featuring those popular cuts, pilot tests have shown that placing Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. ads at points of sale in the online grocery experience can lead to increased beef purchases[xi].  Moreover, retailers can promote Chuck Knows Beef, the beef virtual assistant, at the meat case, on packaging labels and across social media channels. Chuck inspires shoppers with hundreds of triple-tested recipes and educates them on how to prepare cuts they may not be familiar with. More knowledgeable shoppers purchase a greater variety of cuts and increase store loyalty, spending and trips.[xii]

Beef sales also impact far more than a retailers’ meat department’s bottom line, as baskets with steak and ground beef produce higher sales across the entire store. Baskets containing steak have an average ring of $91.89 and baskets with Ground Beef average $88.95, while carts with beef substitutes average only $81.84.[xiii]

In fact, Ground Beef sales accounted for 40% of all dollar sales, and half of last year’s pound sales[x], with data showing that Ground Beef sales gravitate heavily toward lower lean products, with 51% of dollar and 56% of pound sales having a lean content of 84% or less[xi]. With sales of Ground Beef being so consistent and reliable, retailers can count on those sales dollars—particularly during grilling season—even if plant-based options remain popular.

Beef demand hasn’t stagnated or taken a dip in years—even with competition from meat substitutes and plant-based alternatives[xiv]. For retailers who want to continue enjoying the increased beef sales—and the increased bottom line that comes along with those sales—promotion and education is key.

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[i]https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/05/02/beyond-meat-plant-based-food-company-readies-ipo/?utm_term=.199ef7cf5ed4

[ii] Tonsor, Schroeder, Creating and Assessing Candidate Food Service and Retail Beef Demand Indices, January 2017.  IRI/Freshlook, Total US MULO ending 4/28/19; Categorized by VMMeat System

[iii] Tonsor, Schroeder, Creating and Assessing Candidate Food Service and Retail Beef Demand Indices, January 2017.  IRI/Freshlook, Total US MULO ending 10/26/18; Categorized by VMMeat System.

[iv]https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/sales-data-channel-insights/retail-insights/beef-demand

[v]https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/LSmn05gradingsummary.pdf and https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/LSMNCY14gradingsummary.pdf

[vi] https://www.beefresearch.org/sustainability/q01/index.html

[vii] Capper, J.L. 2011. The environmental impact of beef production in the United States: 1977 compared with 2007. J. Anim. Sci. 89:4249-4261.

[viii]https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/LSmn05gradingsummary.pdf and https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/LSMNCY14gradingsummary.pdf

[ix] IRI/Freshlook, Total US MULO, 52 weeks ending 5/21/17; Categorized by VMMeat System

[x] The Power of Meat: An In-Depth Look at Meat and Poultry Through the Shoppers’ Eyes 2018, Food Marketing Institute, Foundation for Meat & Poultry Research & Education

[xi] 2018 Digital Pilot Test with Instacart

[xii] The Power of Meat: An In-Depth Look at Meat and Poultry Through the Shoppers’ Eyes 2018, Food Marketing Institute, Foundation for Meat & Poultry Research & Education

[xiii] IRI Panel Data, All Outlets, 52 weeks ending 1/6/19, Market Basket Study, February 2019.

x IRI/Freshlook, Total US MULO ending 12/30/19; Categorized by VMMeat System

xi IRI Panel Data Market Basket Study, February 2019

[xiv] Tonsor, Schroeder, Creating and Assessing Candidate Food Service and Retail Beef Demand Indices, January 2017.  IRI/Freshlook, Total US MULO ending 4/28/19; Categorized by VMMeat System

This post is sponsored by National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to The Beef Checkoff

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