By Rick Stein, Vice President, Fresh Foods, Food Marketing Institute
Meat has been the traditional center-of-the-plate feature for years, but no one bothered to ask it where it’s from, how it feels or even who invited it to the party. Consumers must think they’ve been rude dinner guests – satisfied by a superficial relationship with their food without really getting to know it. As consummate hosts, food retailers increasingly seek opportunities to share more information about the proteins that their shoppers desire, and in the meantime, inspire sincere dinner conversations.
In Power of Meat 2017, an annual consumer insights study by FMI and the North American Meat Institute, the research validated that consumers are looking for a more engaging story of their meat purchase, with shoppers taking particular notice of attributes such as organic, antibiotic- and hormone-free, grass-fed and other special characteristics. Arguably, there’s no better time than during the current economic deflationary period to engage in a dialog with the shopper about their purchase when consumers have the opportunity to experiment with new types of meat and cuts.
The research showed how transparency in meat and poultry production practices and product ingredients are fueling double-digit growth. Shoppers report high interest in expanded assortment as well as claims relative to better treatment of the animal and the environment. For the first time in 12 years, shoppers who have bought natural or organic meat (48 percent) exceeded those who have not, at 41 percent. Just 10 years ago, that gap was 50 percentage points.
Undoubtedly the discussion among shoppers is changing, and therefore it’s critical for food retailers to ask themselves strategic questions as they engage with consumers, such as: Do you measure conversion rates or set goals? Are you aware of your true competitive set? Does your meat case match your core shopper? Are you striving for operational excellence? Are you telling your brands’ stories effectively?
As you evaluate your answers to these questions, consider your audience. We can all agree that the loyalty gained by telling a story behind the products in our aisles is priceless, but the power of the consumer dictates the power of the meat purchase – indicative of an average shopping trip without fresh meat equaling $33, versus an average trip with fresh meat tallying $83. Food retailers have every opportunity to change the conversation and the demand curve through both education and information.