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    MeatCon Wrap-up: The Power of Meat

    Annual study affirms nutrition benefits and importance of Millennial behavior

    By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ
    Chris DuBois and Larry Levin of IRI discuss Millennials at the Annual Meat Conference

    Shoppers recognize the variety of nutrition benefits meat and poultry offer, and place a high value on convenience, variety and transparency when making purchasing decisions in the meat aisle, according to the "Power of Meat" survey released by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the North American Meat Institute (NAMI). 

    FMI and NAMI this week unveiled the eleventh annual report, conducted by 210 Analytics, in partnership with Sealed Air’s Cryovac brand, at the Annual Meat Conference in Nashville, Tenn.  The report examines meat purchasing, preparation and consumption trends through the eyes of the shopper.

    Supermarkets strengthened their position as shoppers’ primary destination for meat and poultry, though consumers increasingly chose alternative channels, like farmers’ markets, dollar stores, farm-direct and online stores, for certain meat and poultry purchases. This trend was particularly evident among Millennial consumers, who exhibited a higher propensity to shop at alternative outlets for meat products.

    Along with price, consumer desire for transparency in the product and production process drove sales gains, with segments such as “antibiotic-free,” “grass-fed,” “hormone-free,” “natural” and “organic” meat and poultry recording high growth percentages, despite remaining niche market segments. 

    But while interest in natural, organic and other clean-label identifiers has surged in the last five years, “interest does not always translate to actual usage,” said study presenter Anne-Marie Roerink, principal at 201 Analytics, noting that shopper likelihood of selecting natural/organic over conventional products drops considerably as the price gap widens.

    Cleanliness and freshness are the top attributes shoppers look for in their grocer’s meat department, Roerink noted, with staff knowledge and availability among the top opportunities for improvement.

    While inclusion of meat and poultry as a portion of a home-cooked dinner remained steady at 3.7 times per week, shoppers changed their purchasing patterns slightly and sought more variety in their dinner lineups, with upticks in pork, lamb, value-added and meat alternatives.  Convenience meats, which include heat-and-eat, ready-to-eat and value-added products, also experienced sales growth, particularly among millennial shoppers, who seek flavorful, fast and easy meal solutions.  

    “The meat department is a deciding factor for any grocery shopper, as evidenced by 27 percent of shoppers switching outlets when purchasing fresh meat or poultry compared with where they purchase the majority of their groceries,” said Rick Stein, FMI’s VP of fresh foods. “The research underlines how food retailers have an enormous opportunity to combine the knowledge and skills of the neighborhood butcher with the creativity and flavor inspiration of a culinary chef to earn loyalty, grow sales and differentiate.”

    Regarding purchasing-decision drivers, price per pound, along with total package price, emerged as the dominant factor influencing meat and poultry product purchases, with product appearance falling to third place. Total package price proved more important to small households and millennials, suggesting the future importance of package size variety and price ceilings.

    The majority of shoppers—more than eight in 10—affirmed the important role meat and poultry play as sources of protein and other key nutrients in a healthy, balanced diet.  The annual report series found consumers were most likely to say red meat, including beef, pork and lamb, were important to energy levels and provided nutrients such as iron and protein.

    Meanwhile, maintaining a healthy weight and receiving vital nutrients were factors associated with poultry.  The findings were consistent across generations, with millennials only slightly less likely to cite meat and poultry’s health benefits.      

    “Meat and poultry remain shoppers’ go-to source for protein and essential nutrients,” said NAMI President and CEO Barry Carpenter.  “The industry is working hard to respond to consumer demands for transparency, and is continuing to offer a variety of convenient, flavorful and nutritious fresh and processed products to an increasingly diverse consumer base, particularly with regards to millennial shoppers, whose influence is growing at retail.”

    The Power of Meat report is based on data collected through an online survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,360 U.S. consumers.  

    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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