Will new campaign lift pork sales?

March 18, 2011

As pork prices rise, the National Pork Board unleashes a new campaign meant to make the meat part of more eating occasions.

Double-digit price increases for pork in recent months might not be conducive to pork sales in 2011, as people keep looking to save money on their food baskets. So far, retailers have absorbed the majority of these hikes, passing along only about 3% to consumers (the same price trend as beef) in order to compete within their trading areas.

So is it coincidence or smart strategy that the National Pork Board announced at its annual meeting a new brand identity for the meat, “Pork: Be Inspired.” The campaign’s targets are 82 million Americans it identifies as “creative, flavor-seeking home cooks who already prepare, eat and love pork.” Some 28% of United States households account for 68% of in-home fresh pork consumption, the Board says. The campaign’s goal is to make pork part of more eating occasions, beginning with its March-April rollout.

Pork is the most popular meat in the world and third in the United States behind chicken and beef, reports The Wall Street Journal, citing the U.S. Department of Agriculture. U.S. per capita pork consumption slipped by 2.2 pounds to 48.0 pounds in 2010, the lowest annual figure since 1997, reports TheBeefSite.com, attributing the drop to lower output, higher exports and population growth. By comparison, U.S. per capita beef consumption dipped by 1.4 pounds to 59.7 pounds in 2010, the lowest level since 1955. Chicken rebounded in 2010 to surpass 80 pounds per capita.

Bacon (refrigerated pork) is the king of pork products in U.S. food, drug and mass merchandiser stores (including Walmart), according to Nielsen data for pre-packaged, UPC-coded products only in the 52 weeks ended February 19, 2011. Its dollar sales rose 5.1% to $2.62 billion in this latest period, albeit on a 9.5% decline in equivalized unit volume (16-ounce basis).  In the prior year, bacon dollar sales were up 3.6% on an 8.1% EUV gain.

By comparison, the fresh ham and pork segments were collectively flat in the most recent 12-month period. Dollar sales stayed even at $204.7 million on a 5.2% EUV decline. A year earlier, figures showed a 6.2% dollar rise on a 10.2% EUV increase.  All of these fresh segments combined pale against the bacon figure in size; they’re less than10% of what bacon rings up.

Consumers stepped on the sales brakes in fresh ham, which dropped 6.3% to $136.0 million on an 11.8% EUV falloff in the latest year, the Nielsen data show. A year earlier, fresh ham dollar sales were up 7.8% on an 11.5% EUV increase. Fresh ham accounts for 66% of the total fresh ham and fresh pork segment sales.

By comparison, practically all of the fresh segments representing different cuts of fresh ham and pork meat were up—but were too small in scale to offset the decline in fresh ham.
Refrigerated canned ham and deviled canned ham also posted dollar sales and EUV declines in this latest year.