Shoppers place high importance on value, quality and variety when making purchasing decisions in the meat aisle, according to the Power of Meat survey published by American Meat Institute (AMI) and Food Marketing Institute (FMI). The ninth annual report, conducted by 210 Analytics in partnership with The Cryovac Brand, a part of Sealed Air’s Food Care Division, was unveiled at the FMI/AMI Annual Meat Conference in Atlanta this week and explores purchasing, preparation and consumption trends through the eyes of the shopper.
As the number of home-cooked meals containing meat or poultry increased slightly from 3.6 to 3.8 dinners per week, consumption of heat-and-eat and ready-to-eat items also increased. With one-third of shoppers undecided whether they will cook or eat out as little as two hours out from dinnertime, value-added products offer tremendous opportunity to capture more of the mealtime dollar.
“The meat and poultry industry is continuously responding to consumer demands,” said James H. Hodges, AMI president and CEO. “The variety of convenient fresh and processed products on the market today offer easy, nutritious meal solutions that are indispensable at that critical, ‘what’s-for-dinner,’ decision hour.”
Although it remains the leading factor, the Power of Meat suggests that shoppers are trending away from a focus strictly on lower prices when making meat purchasing decisions. Even so, 83 percent of shoppers check promotions across stores, with the paper circular being the most commonly used research tool. These weekly sales promotions are an integral part of meal planning and, for some, channel choice. For 27 percent, the primary store for meat and poultry is different from their primary store for groceries in general. Supermarkets, club stores and butcher shops are the primary beneficiaries of channel switching.
Shoppers cited quality, strong customer service, in-stock performance and variety as the main drivers of meat department satisfaction. As an imperative to departmental satisfaction and shopper retention, customer service largely focused on having knowledgeable meat managers available for questions. Shoppers not only value service, but cite they would absolutely (33 percent) or maybe (53 percent) use hands-on preparation and recipe tips.
“With shoppers looking for even more convenience and value across all channels, food retailers are well positioned to better serve the changing needs of customers and be an integral provider to the mealtime experience,” said Mark Baum, SVP and chief collaboration officer for FMI. “Because of the breadth and depth of their offerings and services, food retailers can offer personalized and authentic experiences to shoppers that make the best use of their time and fulfill their protein preferences.“
As consumers shop, the report also found that health and wellness continues to represent a growing trend in decision-making in the meat aisle. Thirty-one percent of shoppers put “a lot” of effort into nutritious choices, specifically regarding meat and poultry. The data further suggest a study-high of 78 percent of survey respondents agreeing that fresh meat nutrition information is readily available.
Top findings of the Power of Meat 2014
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Price remains important, but loses dominance: While price per pound and total package price remain the No. 1 and 2 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.
5. 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.
6. 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) vs. “a lot” (31 percent).
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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. This presents an enormous opportunity for food retailers to increase their share of mealtime. Currently, foodservice wins the majority of last-minute dinner decision trips, even though the consumption of heat-and-eat and ready-to-eat meat and poultry increased.
10. 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.
Find photos from the 2014 Meat Conference, which wrapped up Tuesday in Atlanta, here.