By Steve Markenson, Vice President, Research & Insights, FMI

meat aisle shopper

Despite rumors of its demise, the state of the meat category in grocery retail remains strong. As shared with the almost 2,000 attendees at the Annual Meat Conference last week in Dallas, the Power of Meat report, conducted by FMI and the Meat Institute’s Foundation for Meat and Poultry Research and Education, provides an in-depth look at the meat department through the shopper’s eyes.

Meat Category Overview

Despite some external headwinds, the meat department held on to its strong gains in dollar and unit sales from 2020 and 2021 in 2022. While dollar sales grew from 2021 to 2022 (+5.7%), unit sales were down slightly (-3.2%). But compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic, the meat department continues to remain strong in unit (+0.8%) and dollar (+28.2%) sales. The meat department continues to be the largest department in terms of sales and a key driver of store choice. A strong meat department in terms of the freshness and quality of the product, along with a clean and well-stocked department, continues to be important to help generate store traffic.

The Impacts of Inflation on the Meat Department

However, inflation did impact some key shopper behaviors. Shoppers are evolving their channel choices from traditional grocery stores to supercenters, club stores and online options. Not only is the where of their shopping changing but what they are buying is changing. Acceptance and purchases of case-ready meat is at a record high, but shoppers continue to be influenced in their perceptions of a store by the presence of a full-service meat counter. And, as in other categories, private brands have seen growing popularity and sales. This is also the case for meat, whether that be fresh or processed meat and poultry.

Changing Meat Shopper Behaviors

One of the impacts of inflation is the growth in the planning of shopping trips. The result is a more prudent and practical shopper who is avoiding or limiting impulse purchases and ultimately buying fewer products or smaller packages. Meals continue to be home-centric coming out of the pandemic with many seeing this as a great money-saving measure. Another outcome from the pandemic is the focus on health and well-being. This trend generates interest in leaner or healthier meats/cuts, smaller portion sizes, meatless meals and eating fish and seafood.  

The Power of Meat provides tons of data and insights on all of these issues and so much more regarding the meat department.

Download Power of Meat 2023