NASHVILLE, TENN., March 10, 2008 — High energy costs, the credit crunch, weak housing market and recessionary climate are changing how and where consumers shop and dine, including more home meals and an increased concern over the cost of meat, according to the third annual report titled The Power of Meat — An In-Depth Look at Meat Through the Shoppers’ Eyes.

The report, which details the findings of a national online poll of 1,147 of consumers conducted in November 2007, was released today at the 2008 Annual Meat Conference, March 9-11, 2008, at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, Nashville, Tenn.

The American Meat Institute (AMI) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) published this consumer research, which was sponsored by Sealed Air’s Cryovac Food Packaging Division.

Supermarkets remain the top outlet for meat, with 90.5 percent of supermarket shoppers buying their meat there as well. The number of shoppers buying meat at supercenters dropped from 24.9 percent to 20 percent, while the number buying meat at club stores rose from 2.7 percent to 5.7 percent.

The study revealed that nearly 79 percent of shoppers have access to a full-service meat counter at their store, with 70 percent reporting that all of their meat purchases were selected from the self-service area.

The study found that 30 percent of shoppers would increase meat case purchases even more if the packaging were leak-proof.   Jerry Kelly, National Retail Account Manager for Sealed Air’s Cryovac Food Packaging Division, noted that the 2007 National Meat Case study shed light on case ready packaging trends.   "The case-ready product share increased in 2007 to 64% of fresh meat packages. The formats that lead the increase were vacuum and MAP packaging, increasing 3 and 4 percentage points respectively," according to Jerry Kelly, National Retail Account Manager for Sealed Air’s Cryovac Food Packaging Division

The study also found that meat continues to be a staple at American dinner tables. According to the study, the average family has five dinners at home per week, with an average of 4.2 of these meals including a meat item. Chicken and beef are the top meat choices, with more than 80 percent eating chicken and beef at least once an week and more than 34 percent eating chicken and beef at least three times a week.

“Consumers know that meat delivers protein and other essential nutrients,” said AMI Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Professional Development Janet Riley. “Processors are offering an increasing variety of convenient meat and poultry products in a wide array of nutrition and flavor formulations that are being well-received.”

Meat Shoppers Looking For Best Value
Consumers ranked price per pound as the most important factor when selecting meat —averaging a 4.6 on a scale from 1 to 6. This was up from 2006 and 2007 and may be linked to rising food prices. The vast majority compares meat prices before selection and purchase. Once in the store, more than half of consumers seek the best value among different cuts and types of meat every time they shop.

The report notes that energy costs are having an increasing impact on shoppers’ disposable income. “Large numbers of shoppers already have made changes, ranging from eating out less, purchasing less expensive products while in the store and even switching primary stores,” the report notes.

Meat sales promotions using in-store signage followed by meat advertisements in direct mail sales flyers or newspapers had the most influence on the type and quantity of meat purchased.

Other features important to consumers when selecting meat included product appearance (4.3); package size/total package price (3.8); nutritional content (3.4); knowledge of how to prepare (3.0); and preparation time required (2.8).

More than One and Five Consumers Now Purchase Natural and Organic Meat
Shoppers are also looking for reasonable pricing of natural and organic meat, with more than 80 percent saying organic meat and poultry is more expensive either by a lot (32.8 percent) or a little (50.8 percent). Of those surveyed, 73 percent of occasional organic shoppers would purchase more if prices were lower, up from 63 percent in 2007.

Despite price concerns, consumers continue to show strong demand for natural and organic meat, with one-fifth purchasing these products.

The top reasons for buying natural/organic meat include positive long-term personal health effects; better nutritional value; and better treatment of the animal where the meat came from.

The most frequently purchased natural/organic meats were chicken (73 percent) and beef (49 percent).

The share for natural meat packages grew by 7 percent in 2007, while the share of organic packages remains small.

How Shoppers Would Improve the Meat Department
According to respondents, better quality and more variety would prompt an increase in meat purchases. Many people suggest that retailers offer more information on where the meat is produced and the nutritional content of fresh meat and help them learn more about the taste of the cuts and types of meat.

Other suggestions for improvement include reduced portion sizes, cleaner service counters and having a professional, trained staff.

Dave Ray, 202.587.4243

Bill Greer, 202.220.0667      

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AMI represents the interests of packers and processors of beef, pork, lamb, veal and turkey products and their suppliers throughout North America. Together, AMI's members produce 95 percent of the beef, pork, lamb and veal products and 70 percent of the turkey products in the United States. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Institute provides legislative, regulatory, public relations, technical, scientific and educational services to the industry. Its affiliate, the AMI Foundation, is a separate 501(c)3 organization that conducts research, education and information projects for the industry.

FMI conducts programs in research, education, industry relations and public affairs on behalf of its 1,500 member companies — food retailers and wholesalers — in the United States and around the world. FMI’s U.S. members operate approximately 26,000 retail food stores with a combined annual sales volume of $680 billion, three-quarters of all food retail store sales in the United States. FMI's retail membership is composed of large multi-store chains, regional firms and independent supermarkets. Its international membership includes 200 companies from more than 50 countries.