Fresh Food

Consumer Demand for Premium Meats Can Increase Retail Profits

Trend toward premiumization exists across income categories.
Photograph: Tyson Foods, Inc.

Even as consumers feel the pinch of inflation, they haven’t backed away from premium brands—or at least not all of them.

One place where they are willing to splurge is at the meat case, specifically on premium beef and pork brands.[1]

A closer look at the research identifies a detail that may surprise retailers: Consumers from all income levels, including lower income households, are willing to pay more for premium products, particularly in the fresh category. [2]

Here are four things retailers should know about the premiumization of meats.

  1. The perception of premium matters.

When it comes to the meat case, premiumization isn’t just about high-priced cuts.

According to the Fall 2021 Beef Consumer Monitor, 41% of consumers purchase USDA Choice beef at least once a month and 26% purchase Angus beef. Thirty percent said they associate USDA Choice with quality beef and 54% consider “Platinum” the highest quality.[3]

These stats show that there is demand for quality beef programs that extend beyond USDA Prime’s price tag.

  1. The shift to premium brands crosses income categories.

Shoppers from low-income households now make up 23% of consumers who are purchasing premium brands, a very similar percentage to shoppers from middle- and high-income households.[1]

Both low- and high-income households are trading up on food and beverages, as well as in categories including personal care and cleaning.[1]

  1. Premiumization and value can matter more to consumers than price.

Across income levels and age groups, shoppers are trying to achieve a balance between affordability and premiumization.

How they reach that balance can vary by income level, age or both, but in all cases, it comes down to value. What does that mean? According to IRI, for today’s shoppers, “value is about price (and) competitiveness but also convenience, occasion and needs.”

For millennials, value is in experiences, and they will purchase premium products for the experiences they provide.[1] As a subgroup, millennials who are from low- income households may place higher value on products that provide convenience or are specialty items.[2]

Even the most economically challenged shoppers are influenced by more than an item’s price. According to IRI, lower-income shoppers will purchase premium foods to reward themselves, to celebrate a special occasion or because they believe that the quality and value of food they cook themselves provide greater value than food prepared outside the home.[2]

  1. Even as inflation began to rise, the demand for premiumization remained strong.

The trend toward premiumization accelerated in 2020 as people spent more timing cooking at home. As their cooking skills improved and their confidence grew, shoppers sought to elevate their at-home dining experiences. Their interest in premium foods grew.

When IRI published its webinar, The Balance Between Premiumization and Affordability, in October 2021, this shift in behavior ranged from noticeable to remarkable for several top sellers in the meat department.

The effect is even more pronounced in the meat case itself. In 2020, sales of prime beef increased 52% compared to 2019. In the first nine months of 2021, the trend continued, with a 28% increase in prime beef sales.[2]

The Chairman’s Reserve®Meats Advantage

As part of the Tyson Fresh Meats brand portfolio, Chairman’s Reserve Meats is a brand that meets consumers’ expectations for elevated quality proteins, offering both Chairman’s Reserve Platinum™ Angus Beef and Chairman’s Reserve Prime Pork.

This dual-protein advantage allows retailers to customize their meat case to fit the demands of their consumers, backed with name-brand recognition and expert marketing support.

For more information about Tyson Fresh Meats premium offerings, visit

[1] The Premium Opportunity, IRI, November 2020

[2] The Balance Between Premiumization and Affordability, IRI, October 2021

[3] Fall 2021 Beef Consumer Monitor, Tyson Fresh Meats, 2021

This post is sponsored by Tyson Foods, Inc.