Meat: price takes the biggest slice

March 13, 2012

Shoppers show plenty of savings behaviors at the meat case - and they want better quality, variety and help in preparing meals.

America’s future with meat may look nothing like its past, if current trends continue. The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts we will eat 12.2% less meat and poultry in 2012 than in 2007. Beef consumption has declined for the past two decades, and chicken and pork for the past five years – even though high chicken supplies have led to lower prices than a year ago.

What’s behind the meat-buying stall? Is it the expense, concerns about food safety, inhumane treatment of animals, the presence of slime in ground beef, or a general notion that eating healthier means more varied protein sources such as seafood and plants?

Probably all of the above, says F3, noting the rising popularity of vegetarian diets and the Meatless Monday movement. As a nation, we still eat far more meat than our population would suggest, but a new consciousness is seeping in. A telephone Harris Poll conducted for The Vegetarian Resource Group shows that one-third of Americans eat a significant amount of vegetarian or vegan meals, even if they’re not vegetarian (no meat, fish, seafood or poultry) or vegan (no dairy or eggs either). Another 5% call themselves vegetarian.

Against this backdrop arrives a joint study of the Food Marketing Institute and the American Meat Institute, The Power Of Meat 2012:  An In-Depth Look at Meat Through the Shoppers’ Eyes. It examines the department through shoppers’ money-saving practices today, and challenges retailers and manufacturers to find new ways to profit in the current market.

??“For the first time this year, the share of shoppers simply opting to buy less (and spend less) equaled the share using lists, coupons and other saving measures,” the study said. “In terms of meat and poultry, dollar sales increased by 2.5%, but volume sales decreased by 5.3% as a result of inflation across proteins. Retailers and manufacturers alike will need to find ways to effectively address the ‘spending less by buying less’ trend, as traditional marketing and merchandising measures may not be effective.

”??The comprehensive report revealed a vast increase in the role of price, total package cost and sales promotions on the amount and kind of meat and poultry purchased. A shift to in-store purchase decisions makes “clear signage and effective operations all the more important. Price-related promotions are especially effective for steering people to a certain kind of meat or poultry, and slightly less effective for the amount purchased,” the study explained. Shoppers are less enticed by bulk and BOGO discounts because they want to avoid food waste that could come with large purchases. However, if these offers pre-configure into meal-size portions, nine out of 10 shoppers could be persuaded to buy more.

A few other highlights of the FMI-AMI study, sponsored by Cryovac:?

•    Price per pound remains the #1 decision factor, but total package cost is now #2, surpassing product appearance.

•    Shoppers are more willing to buy private-brand meat and poultry.

•    Full-service supermarkets remain a stronghold for fresh meat and poultry sales, and they have captured shoppers from supercenters.

•    Shoppers rate their own knowledge of meal planning, preparation and nutrition as “just okay” versus “great.”  Their interest in a ‘here is how it’s done” service in the meat department is moderately high.

•    Shoppers want departments to improve in quality and variety.