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    Live From MeatCon: Lessons in Meat Marketing

    Day 1 speakers take on retail branding, natural products

    By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ
    Clay Sayers and Mary Ellen Lynch of SPINS

    Supermarket marketing needs to talk about meals, not just ingredients.

    This excellent advice to grocers was one of the key points made by the opening general session speaker on the first day of the 2015 Annual Meat Conference, which opened Sunday in Nashville, Tenn., hosted by the North American Meat Institute and the Food Marketing Institute.

    “Meals should be a vehicle for great service,” said John Rand, SVP of retail insights at Kantar Retail, in his presentation, “Securing the Perimeter: The Red, White and Green of Retail Branding” - the colors representing meat, dairy and produce. Integrating fresh into these solutions creates cross-merchandising opportunities across the store and enables retailers “to move from item statements to meal concepts.”

    Rand noted that fewer and fewer consumers are shopping both the perimeter and center store, and only 43 percent shop both. Yet supermarket marketing has been “almost entirely co-opted” by center store suppliers with large marketing budgets.

    Grocers, he said, need to market meals, which are the solutions sought by consumers looking for a retail experience that solves their daily challenges. Such is the essence of branding: delivering on a meaningful, consistent, relevant promise.

    Concurrent lessons

    One of three concurrent sessions looked at “Navigating the Growing Demand for Natural and Organic Meat,” presented by Mary Ellen Lynch and Clay Sayers of SPINS. They urged retailers to stay ahead by watching natural consumers because they’re driving the trends.

    That’s definitely the case, especially where meat is concerned. While sales of conventional meat have been flat over the past three years, growth in natural meat products has been accelerating. While still a small part of the overall meat category, natural is driving a lot of the growth at retail, most of it coming in what SPINS calls the natural standard (brands that follow strict standards) and specialty natural (marketed as artisan, premium and ethnic).

    Of the overall $1.2 billion meat category, just $200 million is natural, but natural has grown nearly 24 percent, compared to 4.7 percent for conventional meats.

    Showing the most growth are products claiming “hormone-free” and “grassfed,” among other sales-driving claims including "antibiotic-free" and "humanely raised."

    Meanwhile, the latest top 20 food trends identified by the Natural Restaurant Association are dominated by natural, free-from and better-for-you concepts.

    Retailers can cash in by promoting premium extensions of conventional brands, clean labels and other trending concepts like gourmet, artisan and craft. Natural shoppers, the speakers said, prize honesty, transparency and compelling farm-to-fork stories.

    Other concurrent sessions studied the implications of the proposed 2015 Dietary Guidelines, which do not recognize consumption of lean meat as part of a healthy lifestyle; and a food safety focus on salmonella and on-farm food safety risks.

    Big fat surprise

    The day’s closing general session was led by investigative journalist Nina Teicholz, author of the recent best-selling book, “The Big Fat Surprise,” which tells how animal fats such as meats, cheeses, eggs and whole milk can be part of a healthy diet. Teicholz’s research reveals how studies that forged the common belief that saturated fat is bad for heart health were seriously flawed, and subsequent studies suggesting the opposite have been squelched.

    Follow me on Twitter @jimdudlicek for the latest reports from the 2015 Annual Meat Conference - #MeatCon

    By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ
    • About Jim Dudlicek As editor-in-chief of Progressive Grocer, Jim Dudlicek oversees daily operations of the magazine, spearheads its signature features, produces PG’s monthly Trend Alert newsletter on center store issues, moderates its regular webcast series, and writes and comments about a wide range of grocery issues. A food industry journalist since 2002, Jim came to PG in June 2010 after covering the dairy industry for 7½ years, during which time he served as chief editor of Dairy Field and Dairy Foods magazines. A graduate of Marquette University, Jim is fascinated by how truly progressive grocers inspire consumers to enjoy food, transforming the industry from mere merchants into educators that can take the most basic of all necessities and turn it into something profound and life-enhancing.

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