Meat is the calling card for most grocery stores, according to Anne-Marie Roerink of 210 Analytics, who for 14 years now has prepared the Power of Meat report on behalf of the Annual Meat Conference, sponsored by the Food Marketing Institute and the North American Meat Institute. This year’s edition, like those in the past, is an in-depth look at meat through the shoppers’ eyes. The survey was conducted in December 2018.
At $67 billion in sales, meat is the largest of the perimeter departments. It has the power to lift the average basket from $45 to $87.
“In terms of our own financial contribution to the store, we did grow sales a little bit, up 0.6 percent, according to IRI, Roerink said. “But we were down a little bit in volume. And we continue to see that year after year where we do have some volume pressure.”
That is an issue for increasing meat sales, she said. Shoppers are focusing more on health & wellness and moderating what they’re eating. Meat has moved from the center of the plate to more of a side dish to stretch the “meat dollar.” People are eating out more often as well.
Seventy-four percent of respondents said they have a routine set of meals that they draw from. Roerink said that is an important challenge for brands and retailers.
“How do we make ‘routine’ into something a little bit more exciting?” she said. “But at the same time, there is inspiration everywhere.”
The survey found that sources of inspiration for non-routine meals vary widely, including:
- Friends and family, 47 percent
- Recipe websites, 39 percent
- Cookbooks, 32 percent
- Cooking shows, 31 percent
- Facebook, 29 percent
- Pinterest, 26 percent
- YouTube 24 percent
- Instagram, 14 percent
“Food culture is changing. What we found is folks that were using two to four different social media platforms for meal inspiration cooked and shopped very, very differently. A lot of them were already involved in online shopping, for instance. They have a higher interest in branded items and a higher interest in promotion, but they were also very engaged with animal welfare,” Roerink said. “More than anything, they are more likely to buy meat one meal at a time.
“So, let’s make sure that when we’re having them in the store we continue to sell more than just that one meat, and really be present where the inspiration happens,” she added.
She shared examples of grocers that have blended social media into their brick-and-mortar locations. Food Lion has an interactive board where shoppers can hook up a smartphone, “instantly changing inspiration into a sale,” she said.
Dorothy Lane Market has an Instagram wall where shoppers share images of food they have cooked.
Central Market has framed recipes all throughout the store with a little “Snap-It! Recipe” sign above them encouraging shoppers to take a photo of it with a smartphone and then shop for the ingredients in the store.
She had other examples as well, like a Canadian grocer who has formed a Facebook cooking group. All of the ingredients for a meal are on sale. Everyone in the group cooks the meal. The group then talks about it and shares different ways to make it.
As for cooking shows, Roerink said, “So many of us have chefs in our stores. How about letting our chefs be the celebrity chef instead of the one on TV?”
In terms of actual preparation, the stove and oven continue to be top choices, with nine in 10 saying that is how they prepare fresh meat and poultry. But four in 10 use an Instant Pot and two in 10 use an air fryer. There are Facebook communities surrounding these relatively new methods.
Seventy-four percent of respondents who own an Instant Pot sometimes or frequently prepare meat in them. Among people who own air fryers, 59 percent sometimes or frequently prepare meat in them. Pinterest recently reported a more than 1,800 percent increase in the number of people looking for air fryer recipes.
Roerink suggested thinking about how to change merchandising and marketing to “get in on the ground floor” of changing routines and preparation methods.
Market to need states
In the survey, 86 percent of respondents said they were meat eaters. Beef and chicken remain the most popular, with pork, turkey and lamb coming in third, fourth and fifth.
While, as previously stated, sales in the meat department total $67 billion, Roerink pointed out that there also are significant meat sales in other departments. In fact, shoppers typically purchase meat from three places in the store in a given month.
In 2018, deli meat sales totaled $13 billion. Frozen meat sales account for another $6 billion. In grocery, consumers spent $1 billion on products like canned meats and jerky.
“It is very important in my mind that we stop thinking just as a department and start thinking from the ‘occasion in,’ instead of from the ‘department out’ to solve shoppers’ varying need states,” Roerink said.
She was referring to National Pork Board research that suggests retailers should think from the occasion backward. The pork board found nine different meal occasions ranging from solo dining to celebrating with extended family.
Roerink suggested using the same type of marketing/merchandising tactics that retailers do so well at Thanksgiving and Christmas for other occasions.
“We have so much opportunity to solve issues and solve the dinner dilemma for the consumer all throughout the year,” she said. “It might be tailgating. It might be St. Patrick’s Day.”
When the approach is to solve an issue for the shopper, the marketing and merchandising should follow. If a consumer wants to make soup, for example, give them all of the components they will need for it in one place.
“What is behind all of that is this enormous focus on convenience that is driving dollars and profits—and certainly driving dollars for meat,” Roerink said. “Whether we looked at value-added, fully cooked, frozen—because don’t forget the prime reason to buy frozen is convenience—or meal kits, every single one of these is driving growth.”
A greater number of consumers seeking convenience are engaged with value-added meats, but the core consumer skews younger with a bit higher household income. Sales of value-added products for all meats increased last year, with dollars up 5.1 percent.
More people are buying them. In 2016, 17 percent of those surveyed said they never bought value-added products. That fell to 13 percent in 2018. In 2016, about 37 percent said they bought value-added products frequently or sometimes. That has increased to 52 percent.
People who buy value-added products as often as possible said in the survey that they want more variety. They want more rotation in the choices. They also want to know when and where it was prepared.
Meal kits attracted 34 percent of respondents who said they purchased at least one at a retail location; 13 percent had ordered one online.
“Ninety percent said the quality of meat that I find in my meal kit, that I find in my deli, determines whether I will buy it again. That was true whether it was a retail kit or a delivery kit,” Roerink said. “We tend to be a little bit on the safe side in the retail kits in terms of the meat that we merchandise in it. But if you look at the number of people that are willing to try something new, I think some extra rotation there can really help gain in the long term.”
Meal kits are not all about convenience, but the combination of convenience, variety and adventure, she said.
“How are those three components being delivered today? Do we bring in true convenience or do we just have the components of convenience?” Roerink said. “Those are very important questions to ask ourselves.”