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Although meat department tonnage was up significantly in 2009, profits are lagging as shoppers opt for less expensive value-oriented cuts, according to results revealed in the fifth edition of the joint “Power of Meat” study.
Consistent with recently released results of Progressive Grocer’s 2010 Annual Meat Operations Review that found grocers rustling up respectable meat department sales during 2009 at the expense of premium-priced proteins, the latest installment of the “Power of Meat” study, which was released earlier this week at the Annual Meat Conference in Orlando, Fla., found the lingering economic downturn continuing to affect food purchasing and consumption behavior, including the meat department.
Forty percent of shoppers polled in the study said they’ve made changes with their meat and poultry purchases vs. before the recession, down from 51 percent in 2009 and a significant decline from the 50 percent who reported spending less on groceries overall, signifying the strength of meat and poultry in total food consumption. However, 62 percent of shoppers who reported a significant drop in household income have most dramatically altered their meat-shopping purchase patterns, according to the study, which also found increased meat purchases made at supermarkets and other retail outlets during the past year, when more customers turned to cooking at home instead of eating out.
The American Meat Institute (AMI) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), in tandem with sponsor partner Sealed Air Corp.’s Cryovac Food Packaging Division, once again spearheaded the national consumer supermarket meat department research study, results of which were gathered from an online poll of 1,174 consumers in November 2009.
Among the top ways shoppers are save money in the meat case, bulk purchasing, buying on deal and trading down are most prevalent, as is advance research conducted in advance of grocery shopping trips, which has become routine for many shoppers. According to the meat consumer survey, 78 percent read grocery flyers to find the best price per pound, 73 percent buy cheaper cuts of meat and poultry, and 74 percent take advantage of sales promotions. Others are finding ways to stretch their meat dollar by cooking casseroles and pasta dishes as well as meatless meals.
When customers were asked to rate six factors that influence their purchases, price ranked first, with a score of 4.5 on a six-point scale, well ahead of appearance. Using circulars and newspaper advertisements, 66 percent of shoppers compare meat and poultry prices at different stores, and 86 percent compare prices of different brands and cuts once in the store.
As a result, in-store signage and in-store promotions are enormously important sales drivers of meat and poultry. While nutrition information and recipes play a role in the purchasing decision, price is the factor that for many shoppers ultimately decides where they shop, what they buy, how much they buy and whether the meat purchased is natural/organic or conventional. Additionally, the share of shoppers to whom brand is unimportant is up to 74 percent for fresh meat and 62 percent for processed meat.
In an average week, shoppers prepare four evening meals that include a meat item. These meals may range from frozen entrees to meals cooked from scratch. Chicken and beef continue to dominate the American dinner plate, with pork and fish a distant third and fourth. The vast majority of shoppers (78 percent) prepare fresh meat at least once a week, and most even three times a week (53 percent).
With 73 percent of all shoppers aware of case-ready meat, many believe the quality of pre-packaged meat and poultry is equal to, or better than, items cut and packaged in the store. This high level of trust in case-ready meat translates into a median of 90 percent of meat and poultry purchases originating from the self-service case. More than one-quarter of shoppers buy case-ready meat exclusively.
Reasons prompting shoppers to use the full-service counter include specialty cuts, special occasions and quantities not available in the meat case, most frequently for family gatherings, holidays, barbeques and other special occasions for using the full-service counter.
Despite the economic factors, health and well being are still highly valued in today’s society, and food plays a major role. Almost two-thirds of shoppers put some (45 percent) or a lot (25 percent) of effort into eating healthfully, but the rate of success is much lower. Despite best intentions to eat better, 42 percent say they succeed in doing so less than half of the time.
Shoppers’ most popular healthy-eating strategies are to cut back on meat/poultry portion sizes or second helpings, followed by selecting low-sodium processed meats and eating fish or seafood more regularly. Some shoppers are cutting back on their meat intake, both from a savings point of view and as a strategy to improve their diets. In terms of ingredients, shoppers’ focus is back to fat, sodium and calories.
While some shoppers say that quality and variety would prompt them to increase their meat purchases at their primary store, the most frequently mentioned suggestions in this year’s survey involve price. Shoppers are asking for sales promotions, meal deals and price cuts, and once again stressed the importance of price in the meat department.