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High energy costs, the credit crunch, weak housing market, and recessionary climate are changing how and where consumers shop and dine, including more home meals and an increased concern over the cost of meat, according to new research on consumer attitudes toward meat.
The research results highlight a report called, "The Power of Meat -- An In-Depth Look at Meat Through the Shoppers' Eyes," released yesterday during the 2008 Annual Meat Conference in Nashville, Tenn.
The report, which details the findings of a national online poll of 1,147 of consumers conducted in November 2007, was published by The American Meat Institute (AMI) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI). It was sponsored by Sealed Air's Cryovac Food Packaging Division.
Supermarkets remain the top outlet for meat, with 90.5 percent of supermarket shoppers buying their meat there, the report found. The number of shoppers buying meat at supercenters dropped from 24.9 percent to 20 percent, while the number buying meat at club stores rose from 2.7 percent to 5.7 percent.
The study revealed that nearly 79 percent of shoppers have access to a full-service meat counter at their store, with 70 percent reporting that all of their meat purchases were selected from the self-service area.
The study found that 30 percent of shoppers would increase meat case purchases even more if the packaging were leak-proof.
The study also found that meat continues to be a staple at American dinner tables. According to the findings, the average family has five dinners at home per week, with an average of 4.2 of these meals including a meat item. Chicken and beef are the top meat choices, with more than 80 percent eating chicken and beef at least once an week and more than 34 percent eating chicken and beef at least three times a week.
Consumers ranked price per pound as the most important factor when selecting meat -- averaging a 4.6 on a scale from 1 to 6. This was up from 2006 and 2007 and may be linked to rising food prices, the report suggested. The vast majority of consumers surveyed said they compare meat prices before selection and purchase. Once in the store, more than half of consumers seek the best value among different cuts and types of meat every time they shop.
The report notes that energy costs are having an increasing impact on shoppers' disposable income. "Large numbers of shoppers already have made changes, ranging from eating out less, purchasing less expensive products while in the store, and even switching primary stores," the report notes.
Meat sales promotions using in-store signage followed by meat advertisements in direct mail sales flyers or newspapers had the most influence on the type and quantity of meat purchased.
Other features important to consumers when selecting meat included product appearance (4.3); package size/total package price (3.8); nutritional content (3.4); knowledge of how to prepare (3.0); and preparation time required (2.8).
Shoppers are also looking for reasonable pricing of natural and organic meat, with more than 80 percent saying organic meat and poultry is more expensive either by a lot (32.8 percent) or a little (50.8 percent). Of those surveyed, 73 percent of occasional organic shoppers would purchase more if prices were lower, up from 63 percent in 2007.
The most frequently purchased natural/organic meats were chicken (73 percent) and beef (49 percent).
The share for natural meat packages grew by 7 percent in 2007, while the share of organic packages remains small.
According to respondents, better quality and more variety would prompt an increase in meat purchases. Many people suggest that retailers offer more information on where the meat is produced and the nutritional content of fresh meat and help them learn more about the taste of the cuts and types of meat.
Other suggestions for improvement include reduced portion sizes, cleaner service counters, and having a professional, trained staff.