Fresh Food

Increase Fresh Grocery Sales Online by Promoting Beef

Digital test results in sales lifts of more than 25%
Photograph: Shutterstock

Grocery shopping carts are worth twice as much as the average retail cart, and carts with beef have more value than carts with chicken and beef substitutes1. It’s essential, then, that retailers don’t lose out on the added value of beef, especially as sales shift to digital channels. According to the Food Marketing Institute and Nielsen, online grocery spending is projected to grow to 20% of the market, or $100 billion, by 2025, so it’s crucial to engage shoppers both online and off.

Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. is executing digital tests to help retailers gain insight on the best ways to promote beef. Online shopping data under-represents the volume of fresh beef purchased through immediate delivery services such as Instacart. The data tends to only include online shopping services that provide delivery within a 48-hour window, whereas services such as Instacart deliver in as fast as one hour2.

The behavior of shoppers using services such as Instacart is different than those who are willing to wait a couple of days for their deliveries. Perishables, including meat, make up a higher percentage of ordered items when compared to other online shopping options. Services such as Instacart represent an opportunity for retailers looking to maximize value. But, in order to make the most of the services, retailers need to know the best way to reach and influence these consumers. What campaigns work? Is there room for physical media in a digital environment?

Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. executed two campaigns with Instacart—one digital campaign on the Instacart marketplace and one physical campaign with inserts in customers’ grocery bags. The tests were meant to measure the effectiveness of different marketing messages, techniques and strategies.

Two messages—one focused on nutrition and one focused on taste—were tested for the digital campaign and both performed well. The messaging was tested across all retailers on the Instacart marketplace. Each resulted in a sales lift of more than 25%, although the messaging related to taste was slightly (1% to 3%) more effective. Those test messages included:

  • Nutrition messaging: “Nicely done, beef. You provide the benefits of a protein bar. Without tasting like one.”
  • Taste messaging: “Nicely done, beef. Your burgers put buns in seats.”

During the eleven-week test, the campaign drove a weekly sales lift across all retailers. Instacart has more than 300 local and national retailer partners spanning nearly 20,000 stores in 5,500 cities in the U.S. and Canada. The campaign also successfully won new beef shoppers, with more than 30% of the purchases made by customers who hadn’t purchased beef through the marketplace in the last year. The campaign had “hero placement” on the Instacart Marketplace (on both the desktop site and the mobile app), ensuring it would be seen by users.

The physical test campaign with inserts also proved successful. Inserts were placed in grocery delivery bags in select markets to showcase recipes. Over 35% of customers who received an insert subsequently purchased beef on Instacart. And of those who purchased, more than half hadn’t purchased beef through Instacart in the past year—in other words, the insert campaign helped gain new customers for beef.

The insert test included:

  • Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. branded scratch and sniff recipe cards
  • Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. branded phone sleeves (which enable home cooks to use their phones while cooking without getting them wet or dirty)

Key takeaways

Although there was success across the board, taste-focused banner ads (rather than nutrition-focused ones) resonated more with consumers while shopping for their groceries on Instacart. Retailers should utilize a taste-focused message as that is most appealing while shopping for groceries. Additionally, use visually appealing campaigns at the “aisle” level to drive users into a beef-only product page.

From a physical insert perspective, retailers should identify market demographics and plan accordingly so that the message reaches a larger group of potential customers.

With sales of beef leading to higher overall basket size, it’s in retailers’ best interest to promote the popular protein. These insights are sure to impact retailers’ strategy in promoting fresh beef online.

1: IRI Panel Data, Market Basket Study, February 2019

2: U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2018: How Technology is Changing Shopping, From the Consumer Perspective



This post is sponsored by Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner., a program of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff