Everyone knows that the U.S. consumer’s hunger for meat is changing.
Americans are switching up their protein game as they worry about the health implications of eating meat — not just their own health, but also the health of the planet. A 2018 Oxford University study contends that the most effective way for humans to reduce their environmental impact is to avoid meat and dairy.
- Globally inspired marinades paired with an app offering cooking directions make for a winning combination.
- Offer more exclusive cuts with easy prep instructions, as in meal kits.
- Don’t forget that shoppers are scrutinizing every ingredient on labels.
To wit, sales of meat substitutes and plant-based products are soaring. U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods have grown 11% in the past year, bringing the total plant-based market value to $4.5 billion, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Plant Based Foods Association. Burger King’s Impossible Foods brand vegan Whopper is selling like hotcakes, and Impossible Foods’ main plant-based rival, Beyond Meat, saw its stock value soar an impressive 163% on its Wall Street debut in the best IPO of 2019 so far — valuing the company at $3.77 billion.
Buying and eating trends suggest a rise in “flexitarianism” among traditional meat eaters who show a willingness to stray for reasons nutritional or environmental.
So, as consumers yearn for more nontraditional meat options, grocers are rushing to meet that demand with alternative products. Retailers and manufacturers are seeing a rapid transformation in how consumers eat meat as technology and sustainability collide. The Kroger Co., for example, is piloting a dedicated plant-based protein section in its refrigerated meat case. Sixty of the Cincinnati-based grocer’s locations in parts of Indiana and Illinois, as well as in Denver, will run the test for 20 weeks.
“The never-ending quest for convenience exemplifies the lifestyle-driven nature of meat purchases,” notes Rick Stein, VP of fresh foods at Arlington, Va.-based FMI. “Sales of value-added meat and poultry that provide shortcuts of some kind have risen 5% over the past year. Arguably, the growth is influenced by two factors: convenience and confidence. Because the meat purchase is a planned purchase, and consumers are often unsure how to prepare and cook types of meat, value-added meats push consumers halfway to the goal line. Thanks to marinades, cooking instructions and basic prep work, grocers are helping to give their shoppers the confidence they need to prepare a delicious meat dish in a manageable amount of time.”
According to Chicago-based Information Resources Inc. (IRI), sales of refrigerated uncooked meats increased 2% during the 52-week period ended June 16, with sales reaching $54.5 billion. Beef sales were up 1.1% during the same period, to $25 billion. Sales of other meats, excluding beef, chicken, pork and turkey, were up 4%.
According to FMI’s Stein, the value-added meat and poultry categories can’t get enough attention from grocery retailers, especially since marinated/seasoned items have a higher margin compared with non-marinated proteins.
“In value-added or semi-prepared meats, where the product might come marinated or with recipes, or something like a prepared kebab, that is the fastest-growing segment in all of fresh, including produce, seafood, meat and poultry,” he says.
- There were better prices: 59%
- There was greater assortment/availability: 35%
- There was a greater variety of flavors: 32%
- There was insight into the quality used: 30%
- There was insight into the freshness used: 27%
IRI’s "State of Meat 2019" research revealed that 86% of shoppers could be prompted to buy more value-added meats if:
Another trend that food retailers should take into account as they go about how to merchandise value-added meat products is meal kits. In the past year, in-store meal kits overall have seen a 26% increase in sales, growing to $154.7 million in retail sales, according to Chicago-based Nielsen. These meal solutions, which run the gamut from ready-to-cook to partially cooked, can introduce shoppers to new types and cuts of value-added meats.