Power of Meat Report Reveals Consumer Purchasing Tendencies

by Brandi Buzzard Frobose, MS, Manager, Issues Communication, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff

Summary

The American Meat Institute annually publishes the Power of Meat report  that explores and explains consumer perceptions, attitudes and behaviors regarding meat and poultry purchases. This year’s report, the ninth in the series, shows shoppers exhibit an increased interest in health and wellness when purchasing meat, as well as more focus on the natural and organic segments. Not surprisingly, the report also indicates that ready-to-eat products and the ease of preparation are two large factors when shoppers consider meat and poultry purchases. 

Background

The intertwining of several factors including price, quality, brand loyalty and convenience yield interesting – though sometimes predictable – consumer purchasing patterns. The Power of Meat report provides insight to some of these trends and, in addition, explores interest in marketing and sales techniques, the role of meat and poultry in meal planning and the importance of nutritional profiles to purchasing patterns. 

Discussion

The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) compiled an informative summary of the Power of Meat report, titled “Top Findings of the Power of Meat 2014.” Listed below are FMI’s conclusions as well as additional commentary regarding critical components of the report.

  • First indications of a return to higher spending – While still below the pre-recession average, home-cooked dinners featuring a portion of meat or poultry recovered from 3.6 to 3.8 in a typical week. Additionally, among those who changed their meat purchase in 2013, 36 percent increased their spending, up from 9 percent last year. 
  • Customer service is key in shopper satisfaction – Shoppers are highly satisfied with their meat department. Not price, but good quality, customer service excellence, in-stock performance and good variety are the main drivers of meat department satisfaction. This underscores the notion that few companies, if any, can compete on price alone.
  • Twenty-seven percent of shoppers switch channels when buying meat/poultry – The primary beneficiary of channel switching are supermarkets, with the three top reasons being quality, variety and the presence of full-service counters.
  • Price remains important, but loses dominance – While price per pound and total package price remain the number one and two factors in the meat and poultry decision-making process, the dominance of price is waning in favor of higher rankings for nutrition, knowledge and preparation time.
  • Natural/organic segment continues growth – Up from 26 percent, 34 percent of respondents have purchased natural or organic meat/poultry in the past three months. The growth outlook is accelerating, with 38 percent of current users expecting to increase purchases. Full-service supermarkets currently capture the largest share, but the purchase is becoming increasingly scattered across formats due to wider availability.
  • Health and wellness is coming out of hibernation – The share of shoppers who care about making healthful meat and poultry decisions is increasing following a recession plateau, even though the majority of shoppers still only put “some” effort into nutritious choices (47 percent) versus “a lot” (31 percent).
  • Brands gain ground – Outright preference for national and private brands rose over 2013, leaving a smaller share of “switchers” – consumers who are brand neutral. However, for both fresh and processed meat, switchers remain the largest group, at 57 percent and 47 percent, respectively. National and private brands can enjoy mutual growth by providing a balanced assortment, targeted at the store level, through strategic collaborative initiatives.  
  • A planned purchase – For most shoppers, meat and poultry are very much a planned purchase. In general, 85 percent of shoppers create shopping lists before heading to the store. Forty-three percent list specific species and cuts, such as chicken breasts or pork chops, and an additional 34 percent list meat and poultry generically. The grocery circular is shoppers’ most commonly used tool to research meat and poultry promotions.
  • The mealtime opportunity – In a typical week, one-third of shoppers are undecided at least half the time whether they will cook or eat out as little as two hours before dinnertime. Likewise, when shoppers have decided to cook, 38 percent do not know what they will prepare two hours out. Currently, food service wins the majority of last-minute diner decision trips, even though the consumption of heat-and-eat and ready-to-eat meat and poultry increased.
  • Convenience is a rising star – Heat-and-eat and ready-to-eat items are being consumed at higher frequencies and more shoppers are buying them. This desire for convenience is also reflected in the types of meals people cook more. One-pot meals increased a net 22 percentage points compared with five years ago. Accelerated growth is also seen for pastas and casseroles and international/ethnic dishes.

One of the more noticeable takeaways from the Power of Meat report is the attention the natural and organic segments are receiving from shoppers. In addition to the increased number of shoppers who purchased organic or natural meat and poultry, 38 percent of current shoppers expect to purchase more in the coming months. The sector continues to grow, although it is important to clarify that while the number of organic and natural users increased over the past year, this does not necessarily mean an increase in organic and natural sales. This may be attributed to the fact that many shoppers only purchase natural or organic meat and poultry for certain occasions, kinds or cuts, and previous years’ research confirms the trend. 

Another noteworthy component is the amount of planning and preparation that goes into a meat or poultry purchase. The Power of Meat states that 85 percent of shoppers create shopping lists before heading to the store, and 24 percent look at meat promotions to create a dinner plan accordingly. However, 28 percent tend to buy the same items they prepare routinely without a specific meal in mind. This indicates that routine and comfort level are highly important with consumers and shoppers.

Conclusion

The results of the Power of Meat report indicate growth opportunities for the meat and poultry industries. The beef industry, specifically, has the opportunity to expand and attract more consumers by developing more ready-to-eat and easily prepared mealtime options. These factors, combined with beef’s great taste and high-quality nutrition profile, provide the foundation for growth in the meat market.

Additional Resources

Tags: Beef Issues Quarterly, Research Findings, Summer 2014

June 16, 2014