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Meat Conference 2014: Improving economy helps meat category

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Attitudes about meat are starting to shift as the economy improves and convenience and nutrition gain importance in consumers’ decision-making process, panelists said during a presentation of the latest Power of Meat study.

Nearly 50% of shoppers surveyed said they are changing how they shop for meat and poultry based on the economy, a large increase from recent years. However, in contrast to previous surveys, this year a large percentage of those (36%) said they are spending more in the meat department.

“They’re starting to buy stuff in our meat department again. Mostly driven by our higher income folks who are looking for convenience, those value-added products, are still hurried for time and are looking for solutions to make the day work,” said Anne-Marie Roerink, principal, 210 Analytics, who led the study.

Similarly, the factors behind the purchasing decision have changed somewhat.

“Price per pound still rules the day, and I think it always will,” said Roerink.

Eighty-three percent of shoppers keep an eye out for meat promotions at the supermarket.

Yet, price was not as important as in previous years, consumers said.

Factors that carried more weight with consumers this year than in previous years included nutritional content, knowledge of how to prepare, and preparation time required.

Roerink said it is also higher income shoppers who are leading these shifts.

As a result, when it comes to luring customers to the store, it can’t be just about price, panelists agreed.

“It’s really a mix of every one of those things,” said Nancy Chagares, SVP of fresh, Bi-Lo Holdings. “You can’t put all of your eggs in one basket. So you have to do a little bit of the recipe, a little bit of knowledge about nutrition, and as sustainability gains ground you have to do that as well.”

The study found that 27% of shoppers have a different primary store for meat than they do for general groceries. Customers switch between supermarkets, club stores and butcher shops. Thirty-three percent of shoppers surveyed said they would absolutely use meat preparation and recipe tips.

In addition, more consumers are looking for a branded meat product, whether it be a national brand or private label. Consumers started buying national brands last year as the economy improved but private label items also gained ground.

Private label in the meat department is “still a work in progress” at Associated Food Stores, said Kelly Mortensen, director of corporate meat, seafood and deli.

“But our branding has seemed like it’s on an uptick right now. We have a lot of our stores going to premium beefs, branded beefs and pork and chicken as well… we’ve seen a real uptick in that arena.”

According to previous research from Midan Marketing, one third of shoppers pick a store because of the brand offered in the meat department.

“One way or another, you’ve got to get a brand in there,” Michael Uetz, principal, Midan Marketing, said at the Power of Meat panel.

The 9th annual Power of Meat report surveyed 1,400 consumers who have primary or equally shared responsibility for food shopping.

The report was prepared by 210 Analytics in partnership with the Cryovac Brand for the American Meat Institute and Food Marketing Institute.

Editor's note: This blog post has been updated with additional information.

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David Orgel is executive director, content & user engagement, of Supermarket News (SN) and its website, SupermarketNews.com. Orgel delivers his opinions on industry trends through a bi-weekly...

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