Consumers would like to find more variety — variety of species, cuts and package sizes — in their supermarket meat departments, Food Marketing Institute's Power of Meat 2007 research study has revealed.
The study, sponsored by Cryovac, a division of Sealed Air Corp., also showed that customers want more convenience provided in the meat department — conveniences such as cross-merchandised spices and marinades — as well as value-added products that would enable them to put a meal on their table more quickly.
One respondent to the study summarized the shopper's challenge, noting that “we working women are always looking for ways to simplify our grocery shopping. Less walking down the aisles looking for condiments and spices would speed up the process. Get us out of the store and into our kitchens to prepare the evening meal.”
One of the most telling comments about today's shopper reflects the fact that we have more dual-income households than ever, and harried lifestyles that fuel the interest in time-saving, convenient solutions, explained Anne-Marie Roerink, director of research for FMI.
Indeed, one veteran of the supermarket industry, Terry Roberts, said she has seen a switch of attention from fully prepared food programs to a profitable combo of prepared, ready-to-heat and ready-to-cook items that encompass value-added cuts of fresh meat.
“There's been a big shift to kitchen-ready, and some retailers are merchandising meat and seafood by the number of minutes it takes to prepare the item,” said Roberts, who is president of Merchandising by Design, a Carrollton, Texas, consulting firm.
Other respondents said they wanted greater variety in the department, including requests for more lamb, buffalo, wild game and organic meats. But consumer concern about packaging took higher priority.
The volume of comments about package sizes was surprising, said Roerink.
Consumer research has long taught us that the traditional family of four “is not as prevalent as before, but the dozens of requests for smaller portions in case-ready meats drove home the impact of the increasing number of one- and two-person households,” she said.
Consultant Bill Pizzico, commenting on FMI's findings, told SN he thinks a lot of retailers have lost sight of what their customers really want in their zeal to become more efficient.
Meat departments are operationally efficient, using a lot of case-ready product. And packaging in large packages costs less, said Pizzico, president of Prizm Group, a Blue Bell, Pa.-based consulting and marketing firm that works with supermarkets.
Pizzico said that in customer intercepts he's done recently, he found that several shoppers who were insisting they wanted more variety were actually putting package size under their definition of variety.
FMI's Roerink told SN the need for more convenience became very apparent as the study results were analyzed. She said researchers expected comments on price and quality, since those are the two biggest factors in meat purchasing decisions, and there were, indeed, a lot of those.
SN examined nearly 300 consumer comments collected by FMI and saw that “better quality” and “lower cost” did stand out. Of the respondents who wrote descriptions of what they meant by “better quality,” more than a handful said “less water added,” and many said “less fat” and “better labeling.”
Roerink, looking at the results garnered from the Power of Meat 2007 study, suggested retailers could act on some of the data to gain the loyalty of consumers who put a high value on their time.
“[Retailers] could change layouts, packaging and product bundling. There are also inexpensive adjustments that could be made relatively quickly,” Roerink added. “Providing bags for leaking packages, for instance, and more information about cuts of meat — including the different names for the same cut — and preparation guidance and recipes.”