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Extensive research conducted by the National Pork Board and the Beef Checkoff Program indicates that today’s consumers are as confused as ever when it comes to purchasing fresh meat.
To drive purchase intent, retailers need to help consumers better understand how to shop for and prepare fresh cuts available in the grocery meat case. This cross-industry effort – unveiled Monday at the 2013 Annual Meat Conference in Nashville, Tenn. – was established to increase consumer confidence by working to simplify common names for meat and create consistent, easy-to-follow preparation instructions.
The results of consumer research have culminated in changes to the Uniform Retail Meat Identification Standards (URMIS) nomenclature, the development of better on-pack label information and other educational tools, all designed to help retailers stimulate meat case sales.
This new initiative was presented at the Meat Conference in a two-part educational session.
“We believe this is a real game-changer for our industry,” said Patrick Fleming, director of retail marketing for the National Pork Board. “The update to URMIS nomenclature will be more consumer-friendly by removing redundancies and using familiar terms that are more consistent across multiple channels. Pork will specifically benefit by the ability to utilize some consumer-friendly beef nomenclature, allowing customers to recognize cut names more easily.”
“Our goal is to simplify the meat case, and consumers told us that consistency is key. We now have an aligned perspective and consumer-directed approach that will make it easier for shoppers to buy and prepare beef,” said Jim Henger, senior executive director of B2B Marketing for National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program. Every beef farmer and rancher and every beef importer contributes to a fund called the beef checkoff, which is used to support retail merchandising efforts.
(Henger, scheduled to present at the conference, was unable to attend due to the snowstorm out west that impacted travel over the weekend).
In the first conference session, Fleming and Michael Uetz, principal with Midan Marketing, which conducted the study, outlines the new qualitative and quantitative consumer research that identified key consumer issues with meat cuts and set the stage for the development of a more simplified, consumer-friendly URMIS.
New cutting edge in-store and in-lab eye tracking research results provide insights as to what draws consumers’ attention and motivates their fresh meat purchases. Online research results provide insights into effective message development for shopper communication, point-of-sale and more.
The goals, as outlined by Fleming, were to decrease consumer confusion and, as a result, boost their satisfaction along with meat sales. Focus groups conducted in Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C., queried multiple generations of meat shoppers on how their ideal fresh meat package would look. As revealed in video footage of the focus groups, consumers are confused about the terminology for various meat cuts - such as “top,” “arm” and “mock tender” – as well as how to prepare it.
“URMIS was really designed to be a back-of-house system,” Fleming said of the 40-year-old nomenclature. “Across our own industry, we’re not consistent,” he added, noting differences among meat packages, store circulars and restaurant menus.
The study found that shortening the cut names was effective in improving consumers’ understanding, as well as utilizing terms common for beef to comparable cuts of pork, along with including preparation guidance on the label. “We can make it easier for them,” Fleming said. “If we don’t change, we’ll have fewer people eating our products.”
Uetz discussed the results of eye-tracking studies of consumers conducted in lab as well as in store, to learn what labeling elements capture the most “gaze time.” Study results showed that shoppers are attracted first by the product itself, then by the product label, followed by the cooking tip label.
“We have very little time to engage them and encourage their purchase,” Uetz said.
Overall, the new labeling techniques were found to “provide variety and confidence to shoppers,” Uetz said. “If you offer this in your store, you’re going to connect with your customers.”
The second session provided a detailed review of the new nomenclature and educational information and tools for putting it to use.