There are numerous shifts influencing food preferences, including in the fresh meat and seafood departments, where premium, convenience, bold flavors and customization are operative words. To gain perspective on the some of the top selling proteins and the ways retailers are putting their own stamps on them, we break down seven sizzling trends to chew on, so let’s dig right in.
Midstream during the year, when the National Restaurant Association declared “new cuts of meat” a top trend, the Beef Checkoff program’s culinary center chefs and scientists seized the moment, rightly so, to tout the top five innovative cuts of the moment: Shoulder Tender, Sirloin Bavette, Coulotte, petite Sirloin and Tri-Tip Roast.
Other cuts that are coming on strong in meat cases are chuck short ribs, flat iron and Denver steaks, while Kowalski’s Markets, which operates 11 stores in the Twin Cities area, has been showcasing cuts from its Naturally Raised meat line this the summer. One such item included USDA Choice Teres Major Steaks, also known as shoulder petite tender, which can be sliced into beef medallions. Kowalski’s, which has long been admired for its quality position and customer education, explained in an email promotion that the uncommon cut offers similar mouthfeel to filet mignon but even more flavor.
In recognition of America’s love for burgers, retailers are increasingly playing up burgers as a go-to choice for both everyday meals and special occasions. Consumers are increasingly open to exploring different infused flavor combinations in ready-to-grill burger options alongside the likes of superpremium “ultimate steakhouse burgers.”
Wegmans Food Markets is among the leaders of the burger pack in the grocery world, as evidenced by its signature gourmet Burger Bars at 11 stores. The outposts feature a beefy lineup of half-pound specialty burgers such as Maple Onion, “Danny’s Favorite” (quarter-pound beef burger, American cheese, ketchup, mustard, dill relish and “hometown” meat hot sauce on a toasted classic bun), Santa Monica Turkey and South of the Border Veggie burgers.
Perhaps even more telling of Wegmans’ reverence for burgers is its adherence to using irradiation on all of its fresh ground beef to prevent the risk of pathogenic E. coli or salmonella. Earning the gutsy distinction as the sole retailer in the nation to do so, Wegmans has offered irradiated ground beef as an option since USDA approved the process for meats in 2000.
If it’s true that everything tastes better on a stick, tasty, easy-eatin’ kabobs have got it going on. In their native Middle Eastern lexicon, kabob, which means “grilled meat,” have long been embraced for their quick, versatile and colorful appeal, especially during the grill-crazed summer months. These days, however, kabobs have migrated into year-round meals, thanks to many grocers regularly featuring skewered meat and vegetables among their value-added and service-case selections.
Though beef is most readily considered kabobs’ mainstay protein, the mix of meats on retailers’ ready-to-cook skewers has shifted dramatically, in part with the beef-to-chicken trend and also with alternate mashups featuring the likes of hot dogs and seitan. Bethpage, N.Y.-based King Kullen, which operates 32 stores and five Wild by Nature markets on Long Island, has taken the kabob craze one step further with store-made kabob kits, which it suggests is the ideal and crowd-pleasing choice for hosts of large gatherings. King Kullen’s pre-made kabob kits include seafood, chicken and veggie options, all of which are seasoned and ready for customized skewering and grilling.
While consumers’ affinity for the beloved burger seems to be everlasting, a fresh wave of nontraditional meat grinds is certainly causing eyes to wander. Retailers are moving beyond ground beef to enhance their meat cases with new grind varieties such as turkey, chicken, pork and even plant-based alternatives, ranging in formats from patties to sausages and meatballs to loaves. Sprouts Farmers Market touts a selection of handcrafted chicken sausage links in diverse flavor combinations, such as spinach and feta cheese, chicken basil and French apple. Wegmans offers ground veal under its private brand, and it was among the first adopters of Beyond Meat—producer of plant-based burger patties and sausages—offering a selection of grinds that appeal to not only vegan and vegetarian consumers, but also those who are health-conscious or crave diversity in their traditional meat-eating routines.
Experimenting with unfamiliar cuts of meat and filets of fish is undoubtedly more approachable—not to mention convenient—when they’ve been preprepared with seasonings, marinades or side pairings. Stuffed meat and fish dishes combine all of these factors into one complete, ready-to-cook meal, offering a forkful of both protein and accompaniments in each bite. Retailers are stuffing their meat and seafood cases with stuffed specialties to inspire shoppers to explore new items that are quick and easy to prepare at home. Best Market, for instance, offers a ready-to-cook Rolled Stuffed Salmon Filet filled with crab meat, and a Bruschetta Stuffed Tilapia with diced tomatillos, jalapeno, plum tomatoes, red onion, garlic, cilantro and fresh spices—both ready to eat after just a few minutes in the oven.
Ribs. Sausage. Shrimp. Chicken wings. Whichever their preference, one thing is certain: Americans love barbecue—so much so that barbecue ranked No. 2 for the perennial favorites for the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot 2018 Culinary Forecast. But as consumers, especially younger generations, increasingly seek adventurous flavors and varieties, retailers are spicing up their meat cases with nontraditional cuts of meat—such as shoulder tender, oyster steak, Vegas Strip Steak and Merlot cut—to inspire unique barbecue occasions. With pork particularly hot this year, Albertsons Cos. offers several creative barbecue pork recipes, such as Pork Tenderloin With Grilled Apple Disks and Szechuan Pork Baby Back Ribs.
In light of consumers’ affinity for barbecue, smoked meats and seafood are increasingly appearing on food menus and shopping lists. Seven in 10 U.S. adults own a grill or smoker, according to the 2017 consumer survey commissioned by the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association. Although grilling is most common, retailers are touting their finest smoked cuts and recipes to encourage shoppers to experiment with home smokers. Food City’s traveling “Q” smoke pit brings the art of smoked meats to different store locations each week, offering shoppers fine cuts of meat such as Boston Butts, ribs and chicken, slow-smoked and seasoned with the retailer’s secret blend of herbs and spices.