By Michael Uetz, managing principal, Midan Marketing
Through all the ups and downs of the last several years, shopper demand for meat products has remained strong. But as consumers continue to navigate economic pressures, health and sustainability concerns, the meat industry and retailers will need to collaborate to ensure they are meeting consumers’ evolving needs.
Meeting those needs as a retailer means two things – understanding and carrying the products your consumers are looking for and providing information on how these products will provide value to your shoppers. In the past few months, Midan Marketing has released two pieces of proprietary research to help the industry do exactly this: Beef Attributes Research Report and Pork Attributes Research Report. These studies each dive into where today’s consumers are purchasing beef and pork, what claims and attributes are most important to them and what factors go into their purchasing decisions.
Consumer definitions of quality
Keeping meat at the center of the plate is sometimes as simple as having the products shoppers are looking for. Doing this, though, means having a good understanding of your shoppers. The majority of today’s consumers just want the best bang for their buck and to take home fresh meat products they see as being high quality.
We know that price is the top driver in shoppers’ purchase decisions and that quality claims also sway behavior. For beef, it seems recognizing quality is easy for consumers – they rely on USDA Grades to tell them the quality of a cut of beef.
Over half (52 percent) of beef consumers see a USDA Prime grade and assume the product is high quality, and a similar number (47 percent) associate a USDA Choice grade with quality. “Product of the USA,” “All Natural” and “No Added Hormones” claims are also quality designators for more than 40 percent of beef consumers. When shoppers see these labels on beef products, they are more likely to purchase them because they regard them as high quality.
On the pork side, there isn’t a standardized quality metric to help shoppers determine quality. This means consumers are relying on subjective package claims even more to help them choose one pork package over another. “No Added Hormones” and “All Natural” claims rose to the top as quality claims with 56 percent and 55 percent of pork consumers, respectively, believing those signify a high-quality product. All the top quality claims were actually production claims for pork, with “No Antibiotics Ever,” “No Growth Promotants” and “Product of the USA” each signaling quality to about half of pork consumers.
Opportunities for education and storytelling
Many modern meat consumers want to know where their food comes from, make healthy food choices and purchase from companies with strong animal welfare platforms. Each of these goals is essentially centered around better understanding the meat industry. When they’re looking for this information, consumers don’t have a single source as their go-to. Forty-five percent of shoppers say they search online for information about transparency/traceability, health/nutrition and animal welfare policies.
The second most popular sources are on-pack information and social media, each with a third of shoppers saying they consult these sources looking for information about the meat they purchase. A quarter of consumers seek information directly from the meat brand’s website and even fewer (20 percent) say they would ask a grocery store associate for more information.
There are still opportunities to help educate consumers – in-store signage, point-of-sale materials, product descriptions on retailers’ websites or in their weekly ads, in-store demos, working with in-store dietitians and helping to better train in-store associates are all additional ways we can tell meat’s story and help give consumers the information they are seeking.
As part of the pork attributes research, Midan asked consumers about their familiarity with a number of terms related to fresh pork and found that, across the board, consumers aren’t following a lot of current meat industry conversations.
For example, a hot topic in the pork industry is gestation/farrowing crates and state legislation that seeks to discontinue use of these tools. “Prop 12 Ready” was found to be the term that pork shoppers were least familiar with – only 12 percent felt like this was a familiar term. Less than a quarter of consumers said they were familiar with “farrowing crate free” or “gestation crate free” terms.
However, as pork that complies with California’s Prop 12 or Massachusetts’ Question 3 is introduced in the meat case, along with pork products that comply with retailers’ specific animal welfare requirements, retailers and the meat industry will need to be prepared to answer questions about these new package claims.
There’s also the question of education – are there topics that consumers want to learn more about but perhaps don’t know where to look? Midan’s research found that a third of consumers wanted to better understand each of these terms: “Certified Duroc,” “Disease-resistant,” “Climate-smart pork,” “Prep 12 ready” and “Question 3 ready.”
Interest often varies by consumer group, with Millennials and Gen X consumers more interested in learning about disease resistance while shoppers with kids at home were more interested in learning about carbon neutral pork. As always, knowing your store’s shoppers and preparing your meat department associates to answer questions about these important topics will go a long way in ensuring shoppers feel confident in their decision to keep meat at the center of their plates.
We know that consumers want to continue eating meat – they largely think beef and pork are fresh, healthy and flavorful proteins that they cannot imagine giving up. But they also want to trust they’re making the best purchase decisions for their families, the earth and their wallets. For the meat industry and grocery retailers, that means continually working to tell our story, providing the products consumers want and educating them on the things they care about most.
For more information about Midan Marketing, visit midanmarketing.com.
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