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Webinar Panel Experts Discuss Mid-Year Meat Review

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By Jim Dudlicek / NGA director of communications and external affairs

From higher prices to hacking, 2021 has been a challenging year for meat. Increased demand and other factors led to shortages that put pressure on grocers’ traditional promotions as Memorial Day heralded another summer grilling season.

NGA recently hosted a webinar to analyze the current state of the meat market and offer a clearer view of what grocers and consumers can expect for the meat case as they look ahead to Labor Day, tailgating and the holidays beyond, with larger gatherings expected as pandemic restrictions are reversed.

The discussion was led by Anne-Marie Roerink, principal of 210 Analytics; Rich Chapman, president of distributor G&C Foods; and Rick Burzynski, meat director for Buffalo, New York-based Dash’s Market.

Here are some key takeaways from the discussion:

Meat is tracking above 2019: Meat sales surged during the pandemic, bolstered by stock-up shoppers and, with restaurants closed or with curtailed service, folks eating more frequently at home. Though down from their 2020 peak, dollar and volume sales for meat are still tracking well above 2019 levels, up nearly 16 percent and 3 percent in May, respectively. Roerink noted that with inflation, the lines between sales and volume likely will get even farther apart.

All proteins fell behind 2020 levels in May 2021 but remain well ahead of normal. At $2.9 billion, sales were still up by double digits over 2019 for beef, chicken and pork, and just shy of 10 percent for turkey. The total meat department YTD January to May is down 5.5 percent versus 2020 but still up nearly 17 percent compared to 2019.

Meat maintains high shopper engagement, enjoying household penetration exceeding 97 percent, with spending per trip up more than 6 percent.

Plant-based meat alternatives are gaining acceptance, but still account for only but 0.6 percent of sales, 0.3 percent of volume and 3 percent of total SKUs.

Steaking their claim: Claims-based meat, such as items with specialty or wellness positioning, are growing quickly storewide. More than 80 percent of shoppers look for at least one of the “better-for” options when buying meat and poultry, according to data from 210 Analytics, with health, animal welfare and sustainability among the leading choices.

High and dry: Labor is the biggest obstacle to supply, coupled with a drought that has boosted feed prices at the farm level, Chapman asserted. A shortage of employees is keeping meat processors from producing certain cuts that would otherwise boost margins. And though poultry producers require only six weeks from hatch to slaughter, “they don’t have the labor to increase production,” Chapman said.

Relief coming soon? Grocers are competing against each other to secure adequate supplies, Burzynski observed, noting that his stores are struggling to offer the top meat selections for which they’re known while keeping prices reasonable. Chapman speculated that some normalcy could return to the market in the coming months.

To view this complete webinar, click the following link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/1293539562369042444.

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