By: Rick Stein, Vice President, Fresh, Food Marketing Institute

20161208-FMI-0534_ed-WEBShoppers are on a power trip when it comes to meat and poultry. And that’s not a bad thing.

People continue to enjoy power-packed protein in their diets, usually in the form of meat. Shoppers are taking the power on themselves to shop for and buy meat products that fit their schedule, eating plan, mood and taste, not just in the meat department but all over the store and beyond it to a lesser extent, on a retailer’s e-commerce site. They are empowered to make decisions on what types of proteins to buy based on information they find and that is delivered to them.

For the past 14 years, The Power of Meat report has provided insight into shopper preferences and behaviors when buying meat and poultry, focusing on the appeal of meat. The newest report, The Power of Meat 2019,focuses on the changes – some subtle, some remarkable -- in the overall food culture and the resulting implications for food retailers.

According to The Power of Meat 2019, today’s food culture reflects the powerful, ongoing evolution in the way people eat, shop and live. The report also reveals opportunities in leveraging the new food culture to provide solutions to consumers shopping for meat.

Overall, meat-eating is still the norm, with 86 percent of shoppers reporting that they eat meat. In this $67 billion category with a household penetration of 98.9 percent, two-thirds of shoppers mainly prepare fresh meat and poultry. 

That said, there have been enough changes in the marketplace for a deeper dive into how retailers can continue to grow the category and better serve their meat-eating shoppers. Many consumers, for example, are more adventurous in what they eat: 74 percent of shoppers are looking for ways to turn routine meals they already know how to cook into different culinary experiences.

Another hallmark of change is the marked rise in flexitarian lifestyles and interest in plant-based foods. While six percent of Baby Boomers eat flexitarian diets, 13 percent of those in Generation Z consider themselves flexitarian. In general, women are also more likely than men to be flexitarian. A significant number of meat eaters say they do or would buy plant-based products, including blended products with meat and plants. So bring on that mushroom burger… or should I say a burger with mushrooms!

This interest in plant-based foods is one example of the growing connection between what people eat and how they live, something which food retailers should take into account as they offer and merchandise meat products to their shoppers.

The never-ending quest for convenience also exemplifies the lifestyle-driven nature of meat purchases. Sales of value -added meat and poultry that provide shortcuts of some kind have risen five percent over the past year. Meal kits introduce shoppers to new types and cuts of meat. The Instant Pot – literally named for convenience – is gaining traction, with 37 percent of shoppers saying they sometimes or frequently use their Instant Pots to prepare meat or poultry.

Meanwhile, the way people shop also continues to shift, and underscores the importance of thinking out of the box – at least out of the meat department – when navigating the new food culture. 

The meat department is still one of the largest areas of the store and, in that way, an anchor for fresh meat and poultry.  But, as The Power of Meat 2019 shows, shoppers are now browsing the full meat offering, throughout the store, including the meat department/case, frozen aisle, deli and prepared foods area. Even the meat snack section is a destination for animal-based protein.

As retailers expand meat merchandising beyond the meat case, they also use more tools to communicate with shoppers. For the first time, The Power of Meat 2019 reports that the printed circular is not the most frequently used promotional platform, usurped by in-store promotional signage. Digital, social and mobile media are other popular ways to reach shoppers. Giving shoppers ideas where they are is crucial, as only 23 percent decide what they will buy before their trip the store and 52 percent make purchase decisions in store.

Food retailers who work with their suppliers to align their thinking with shoppers, who view meat as a meal occasion and not a commodity in one department, can reap benefits in broader interest and sales. Indeed, if shoppers are altering the way they eat, live and shop, retailers can take a fresh look at what they sell, how it relates to today’s lifestyles and how to make it convenient for people to buy and use.

You can download The Power of Meat via the FMI Store here.