Fresh Food

How Shoppers Are Responding to Meat Inflation, Out-of-Stocks

Almost 9 in 10 grocery shoppers have noticed changes in the meat department, FMI's 2022 Power of Meat report finds
Photograph: Shutterstock

Almost 9 in 10 U.S. consumers have noticed changes in their grocer's meat department of late, FMI–The Food Industry Association's recently released 2022 Power of Meat report finds.

Those changes, consumers say, are taking the form of both lingering out-of-stocks and smaller meat assortments overall, and most meat shoppers say they've adjusted their purchases in response. According to the 2022 Power of Meat report, 58% of meat shoppers have changed up an anticipated meat purchase, with stockouts of first-choice items being the primary driver of their shopping switches.

Nearly half of consumers (47%) said that lack of availability of the kind of meat they wanted to buy (beef, pork, chicken, etc.) had prompted a purchase change. A somewhat smaller share, 41%, said they couldn't find the cut of meat they were looking for. Four in 10 said they chose an item different from the one they had planned to buy because they wanted something less expensive, and the same share said the package size they had sought was out of stock.

Experimentation, which drove shoppers to change up their planned purchases in the early days of dining at home during the pandemic, was a minor driver of purchase shifts in the past year: Only 10% said they bought something different from what they had planned to buy because they decided they wanted to try something new.

Inflation led U.S. grocery shoppers' list of concerns in January, market researcher IRI reported last month, and IRI President of Client Engagement Krishnakumar "KK" Davey told WGB in January that some deceleration in the early-pandemic-era "premiumization" trend was being seen, with consumers opting for less-expensive cuts of meat or less-expensive labels, for example. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in its February consumer prices report, released March 10, noted that beef prices were up more than 16% year over year, and chicken prices were up more than 13%. 

In response to inflation, 41% of consumers polled by FMI said they buy what meat/poultry they can find that is on sale. Roughly even shares said they buy only what they need at one time (39%) or stock up when items are on sale (38%). One in 3 seek out cheaper cuts of meat, and 31% said they're eating more meals without meat. 

Against the backdrop of inflation anxiety and concern about out-of-stocks, how can retailers respond? 

"While the industry is doing everything in its power to minimize the impact of the supply chain disruption on the consumer, the reality is that out-of-stocks and inflation have been driving changes in meat purchasing behaviors," FMI stated in its report. "Providing suggestions for other options in case of out-of-stocks, clear communications about the why and what, and providing a platform to have two-way communications between the shopper and store/brand can be helpful to build consumer understanding for marketplace challenges."

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