As the largest perimeter department, and arguably the most powerful in driving customer loyalty, fresh meat case success is crucial to total store success. With 98% household penetration, according to the Food Marketing Institute’s The Power of Meat 2018 report, the meat department has ample engagement but tends to lack diversity in terms of shoppers’ purchasing preferences.
From shank to sirloin to ribeye to chuck, the varieties of cuts are countless—not to mention the varieties of meat types—and can be intimidating to young or unfamiliar shoppers, resulting in the majority (eight in 10) sticking to just a few options. Yet 42% of shoppers said they are willing to explore new varieties, if advised, per The Power of Meat 2018.
Fresh, premium, prepared products not only offer consumers convenient meal solutions, but also provide an approachable introduction to new meat varieties and flavors. Rivaling their labor-intense, home-cooked forerunners, sales of value-added fresh prepackaged and random-weight meat reached $2.2 billion in the 52 weeks ending May 20, 2018, according to Chicago-based market research firm IRI, with a three-year compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.6% annually.
Retailers can use prepared offerings to satisfy consumer demand for convenience, as well as drive shopper confidence and loyalty, through the meat department. “While still a small portion of the overall the overall meat department offering, the step-savings for the consumer is a benefit many seek, and a way for retailers to tap into unmet home meal demand,” says Jonna Parker, principal with Chicago-based market research firm IRI.
Driven by shoppers’ desire to save time and effort, heat-and-eat and ready-to-eat meat products are experiencing greater household penetration and consumption frequency, says Larry Pierce, EVP of merchandising and marketing for SpartanNash, based in Grand Rapids, Mich. “We’ve seen an increased demand for ready-to-cook options, including robust and indulgent seasoned and marinated meats in both service cases and ready-to-purchase packages,” he says.
To help shoppers integrate convenience-focused meal solutions into their routines, SpartanNash offers a line of signature sausages made in-store daily, featuring locally inspired flavors that vary by location. For instance, the retailer’s recently remodeled Georgetown Family Fare store in Hudsonville, Mich., touts metwurst sausages that not only appeal to the surrounding Dutch population, but also are quick and easy to prepare. “We know many of our on-the-go store guests are looking to grab something from the store and have it ready to grill once they get home,” says Pierce.
Meat & Livestock Australia
Ready-to-cook dinner kits take convenient meal solutions a step further with the inclusion of premeasured ingredients and sides, to offer a complete meal in bold, adventurous flavors. Meat and Livestock, based in North Sydney, Australia, offers options like its grass-fed beef flank steak stuffed with spinach, mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes, or Korean BBQ Lamb with noodles, snow peas and cashews. “This shift goes beyond what was done previously with just meatballs or marinated steaks,” says Catherine Golding, business development manager for Meat and Livestock. “Grocers are striving to keep dollars within their footprint and are working even harder to innovate and deliver shopper value through culinary-forward options.”
To highlight prepared products’ features and usage, Golding suggests retailers use on-pack labels with clear tips, such as “Great for Grilling,” “Low and Slow” or “Skillet Ready,” to make the cooking process more approachable and build shopper confidence.
Exposure to Fresh Varieties
The increased use of ready-to-eat and heat-and-eat products is complementary, rather than competitive, for fresh meat purchases, as evidenced by research from The Power of Meat 2018. Retailers can use promotions of precooked and prepared meats and cuts to introduce shoppers to new varieties to create confidence in purchasing these cuts fresh from the meat case.
“Creating educational content and promotions around a variety of less familiar cuts creates interest in the category and goes a long way toward building confidence so that consumers will come back to the category and to our brands,” says Liz Moore, brand marketing specialist for Agri Beef Co., based in Boise, Idaho.
The company participates in various community and charitable events to promote Agri Beef’s Double R Ranch brand throughout the Pacific Northwest, including support of Beef Counts promotions with retail partners designed to raise awareness and provide high-quality beef to local food banks.
Retailers are also using social experiences to expose customers to the premium meat products they carry in-store. Hy-Vee, Jewel-Osco, Acme, Safeway, Shaw’s and Winn-Dixie recently launched Wahlburgers at Home, the retail product line from fast-casual restaurant Wahlburgers, to offer shoppers the same Angus beef they’ve experienced at the brand’s chain of restaurants. The line is available at more than 1,300 stores nationwide, featuring ground beef, preformed patties, preformed sliders and brick packs, made with the same proprietary Wahlburgers Angus blend of brisket, short rib and chuck, found in its restaurants across the country.
The partnership between Wahlburgers and retailers provides shoppers the opportunity to try prepared products in a social setting, and then purchase the fresh options from grocers’ meat cases to enjoy at home. “The brothers and I are all excited to bring a taste of Wahlburgers to stores and ultimately homes across America with our new Wahlburgers at Home product line, and we thank our great retail partners for their commitment to the launch,” said CEO Rick Vanzura in a statement.
To the Meat Case, and Beyond
While prepared offerings help draw shoppers from traditional proteins to more expanded varieties, such as bison, consumers continue to prioritize health attributes and brand transparency. “More and more, our customers are looking for clean labels when making meat purchases, including organic and grass-fed,” Pierce of SpartanNash says. “In fact, we’ve seen as much as a 40% increase in these sales year over year, depending on the store.”
But as consumers are increasingly aware of the nutritional content and environmental impact of animal products, demand for plant-based alternatives is also rising. Beyond Meat produces protein-packed plant-based burger patties—free of soy, gluten and GMOs— that look, cook and taste like real beef burgers. The company has experienced rapid expansion since its launch in retail stores, including Wegmans, Kroger, Safeway and Whole Foods, which display the meat imitator in their fresh meat cases.
“Beyond Burger has seen explosive growth over the past year as many retailers have embraced the need to offer quality plant-based alternatives in their fresh meat case,” says Chuck Muth, chief growth officer for El Segundo, Calif.-based Beyond Meat. “Since this is a new approach, it’s important for retailers to find ways to help communicate to their shoppers that this is not your traditional meat item.” In addition to its lineup of imitation burgers, Beyond Meat also recently introduced a line of convenient sausage links in Brat, Sweet Italian and Hot Italian varieties, available at Whole Foods stores nationwide.