Fresh Meat Is Grocers' Secret Weapon vs. Supercenters: Study

ORLANDO -- Conventional grocers hoping to defend their turf against supercenters should beef up their meat marketing programs, according to the results of a consumer study released at the Annual Meat Conference here yesterday.

The findings of the consumer survey, which Cryovac, a division of Sealed Air Corp., sponsored and the American Meat Institute and the Food Marketing Institute jointly published in report form, were presented at a workshop entitled "Power of Meat" at the conference. The survey offered an in-depth look at the retail meat case through the shoppers' eyes.

Some good news for conventional grocers: While more consumers are shifting spending to supercenters, they still prefer to purchase fresh meat products form traditional grocery stores, according to the survey.

Seven in 10 shoppers named a conventional supermarket as their primary location to purchase groceries, while just 23 percent of shoppers said they select supercenters.

However, that doesn't mean competition for fresh meat sales isn't out there. While the vast majority (89 percent) of supermarket shoppers said they make their meat and poultry purchases in that channel as well, many also said warehouse clubs or stand-alone butcher shops are the next likely destinations if they decide to go elsewhere to shop for fresh meat.

Meanwhile, four in 10 supercenter shoppers reported bypassing the meat department there all together, to instead buy their meat and poultry elsewhere--including 25 percent who said they head to a conventional supermarket, and another 7.4 percent who go to a warehouse club.

Most consumers said they don't buy meat at stand-alone butcher shops, although when they do head to a butcher it is for the level of quality and availability of cuts, and most often because they are buying for a special occasion.

Shoppers said they are in the main, extremely price and value driven when buying meat. Relying on circulars and newspaper ads, about four in 10 shoppers said they compare meat and poultry prices at different stores virtually every time they shop. An even higher proportion, 52.3 percent, said they always compare prices within the store, weighing their options across different brands and cuts.

While recipes, nutritional information and customer assistance each influence purchase decisions to a certain extent, price-related marketing techniques, including promotional events, ads/fliers, coupons and markdowns, were found in the survey to be by far the most important drivers.

In the end, the survey showed price determines where most shoppers purchase meat, and that even pertains to purchases of natural and organic meats, they said.
-- Meg Major
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