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Two-Thirds of Meat Shoppers Seek ‘Better-for-Me’ Items

Power of Meat 2019 report reveals growing demand for meat, poultry carrying production claims
AMC 2019 stage
Anne-Marie Roerink, Power of Meat 2019 presentation at the Annual Meat Conference in Dallas; Photograph by WGB Staff

Transparency continues to play a major role in meat-purchasing decisions, with two-thirds of shoppers seeking “better-for-me” items and around three in 10 shoppers seeking products that are better for the environment, animals, farmers or workers, according to the Power of Meat 2019.

Presented on March 3 at the ongoing Annual Meat Conference in Dallas, the 14th annual report by the Food Marketing Institute and the North American Meat Institute’s Foundation for Meat and Poultry Research and Education explores the significance of the $67 billion meat category and how retailers and suppliers can best optimize its role in today’s food culture, analyzing topics from plant-based eating to shopping channels to health and well-being strategies.

“We decided to take a break from the usual more operationally-focused trend lines,” Anne-Marie Roerink, principal at 210 Analytics, told WGB. “Instead, the report seeks to understand how meat and poultry fit into the changing food culture, the way America eats, shops and lives.”

Production Claims Drive Growth

Among those changes is a shift toward a flexitarian diet, or a mostly plant-based diet with limited amounts of meat and poultry. While 86% of shoppers interviewed identified as meat-eaters, 10% of consumers self-defined as flexitarians. Among Generation Z, 13% eat a flexitarian diet versus 6% of Baby Boomers, and women (15%) are also more likely to be flexitarians than men (6%).

The survey found that this group shows an above-average interest in their own health, environmental impact and animal welfare, with particular importance around production claims such as organic, grass-fed and antibiotic free.

“Making sure shoppers are aware of your assortment along with consumer-friendly explanations of the various production terms can be an important way to keep flexitarians engaged in meat,” Roerink relayed. “Highlighting benefits for the livestock, the environment and consumers’ health will be powerful messages to underscore the importance of meat in the diet.”

Meat and poultry items with production claims saw sales increase an above-average 4.8% over the last year, driven by grass-fed (12.2%) and organic (13.1%) items. The report found that shoppers tie many production attributes to not only having benefits for the animal but also their own health. Seven out of every 10 shoppers believe humanely raised, free-range, grass-fed and hormone free benefits the livestock, yet seven or more also believe hormone-free, all natural, antibiotic free, grass-fed sustainably raised and organic benefit the consumer’s own health.

Interestingly, meat does not seem to benefit from increased consumer interest in protein as many are unaware of meat’s high protein content. The report found that shoppers are open to blended alternatives such as beef and mushroom burgers as 63% said they would “maybe” or “definitely” purchase blended meat and plant items. By integrating plant-based items into the meat department, retailers have an opportunity to engage health-focused and flexitarian consumers and convert their purchases into a sell for meat and poultry items, as well.

“The meat industry has used many digital tools such as its MyMeatUp app to help shoppers choose products that fit their lifestyle and interests,” Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts said in a statement. “The findings underscore the need for ongoing efforts to not only share the many choices available in the meat case, but also continuing to innovate and focus on areas for improvement to further grow consumer trust.”

Rise Above Departmental Lines

As shoppers increasingly purchase meat across the store—from the meat case to the frozen aisle to the deli—the analysis suggests that retailers and suppliers should align their thinking with the shopper who considers his or her meat purchase as a meal occasion rather than relegating to one area of the store. Across all departments, convenience-focused meat and poultry saw robust growth in 2018, including value-added (5.1%), fully cooked (2.5%) and frozen (2.2%).

The report urges retailers and suppliers to consider new ways to help shoppers plan multiple-meal meat purchases, as four in 10 shoppers currently buy meat or poultry for meals to cover several days; 35% buy more than they need to freeze and use over time; and 23%, particularly Gen Z and younger millennials, purchase meat and poultry for one meal at a time.

“This means it is important to rise above departmental lines and think from the occasion in, versus the department out to meet consumers’ varying need states,” Roerink said. “By thinking across all meat solutions and how they may fit together to create a week’s worth of meals, everyone wins.”

Embrace Digital Communications

Additional highlights from the Power of Meat 2019 include the shift to in-store promotional signage as the top platform for discovering meat and poultry sales. After a 13-year run, the printed circular read pre-trip is no longer the most frequently used promotional platform, suggesting a need for considering creative new ways of engaging the meat shopper. Digital, social and mobile platforms are growing, including a digital version of the traditional circular (up 38%), in-store apps (up 24%) and social media deals (up 12%).

According to the survey, while 52% of shoppers decide on what they’ll purchase in-store, 23% decide long before they arrive in the meat department.

“The trends point to opportunities for retailers and the suppliers to collaborate on ways to both educate and inspire our shoppers,” added FMI's VP of Fresh Foods Rick Stein. “The onus is on us to turn the ordinary into extraordinary, as 74 percent of shoppers are looking for something as simple as flipping routine meals that they already know how to cook into a different culinary experience.”

The Power of Meat 2019 was conducted by 210 Analytics and sponsored by Sealed Air’s Food Care Division. A full copy of the report can be found here.

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