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Consumers do not enjoy shopping at the meat case. They are bored, uninspired and consider it a necessary evil. When asked to give a metaphor for the meat department, participants compared it to going to the dentist or being alone in a cave.
That’s according to the findings of a study conducted late last year by Midan Marketing and Shugoll Research, and unveiled at last week’s 2011 Meat Conference in Dallas. “The opportunities that exist for you are huge,” Midan principal Danette Amstein told retailers at the conference session, “Translating Trends Into Sales.”
The study was aimed at understanding the needs of today’s consumers when shopping for fresh meat, current perceptions of the fresh meat department and shopping behaviors, and identifying problems and testing solutions to excite consumers and increase revenue.
Researchers conducted four, 45-minute shop-alongs with shoppers in Washington, D.C., and four, two-hour mini focus groups in Bethesda, Md., and Chicago. One group in each city was conducted with consumers in the 21-29 and 30-54 age groups. Subjects were the primary shoppers and meal preparers in their households, and ate dinner at home at least twice a week.
- Consumers find it difficult to get their meat related questions answered while shopping and are often forced to figure things out for themselves. As a result, they end up buying the same fresh meat cuts over and over again.
- Consumers also believe there is a lack of information at the meat department. They don’t know enough about preparing fresh meat, and they are often confused, overwhelmed and intimidated while shopping there. They are fearful of ruining a cut of meat, as it is the most expensive item in their grocery cart.
- When asked which section of the grocery store is their favorite, all respondents agree that the bakery and produce sections are most appealing. They enjoy the full sensory experience that engages them while shopping. Conversely, the meat department lacks any stimulation to the senses and is cold and flat.
In response, researchers proposed several solutions:
- Enhancing the sensory experience: Prepare samples for tasting in the meat department, so customers can always smell something delicious cooking. Aromas are seasonal, from hearty crock pot roasts to burgers sizzling. Make cooking tips and recipe ideas on “what’s cooking” available to provide dinner ideas for the evening. Respondents across all ages and genders strongly like this idea.
- Getting questions answered: Have a “customer liaison” on site during key shopping hours to answer customer questions related to meal solutions, preparation and food safety. The liaison would be the go-to person for all things related to buying and cooking meat. Respondents across all ages and genders strongly like this idea. “There’s something about a white butcher’s coat that says ‘expert,’” Amstein said.
- More information: Retailers should post recipes and video demonstrations on their websites, with an option to “text me” the ingredients. Men age 30 to 54 and women age 30-54 like this idea. Researchers also proposed cooking demonstrations, which some retailers are already doing. “There’s so much to learn and consumers are afraid to screw it up,” Amstein said.
- Variety: To many shoppers, variety means more portion sizes, not more cuts, to better fit different family sizes and lifestyles. Researchers also recommended setting up meal centers featuring all the ingredients needed for one meal, anchored by fresh meat. “When all you put out is breaded or frozen items, you’re missing the boat with Mom,” Amstein remarked.
Researchers advised retailers to commit to customizing solutions to finally resolve these issues in order to capture more of their customer’s food dollar. “We could lose what we just gained from foodservice [during the recession] if we don’t sit up and take notice,” Amstein said.