Here's How Much More Meat Americans Are Buying

Gina Acosta, Progressive Grocer
Here's How Much More Meat Americans Are Buying
According to IRI (Information Resources Inc.), sales of meat increased 91% during the week ended March 22 as Americans stuck at home changed meal time behaviors and caused retailers to impose quantity limits.

Meat sales are surging as Americans hunker down at home, but just how much are they buying?

According to IRI (Information Resources Inc.), sales of meat increased 91% during the week ended March 22 as Americans stuck at home changed meal time behaviors and caused retailers to impose quantity limits. Volume sales were up 78%.

During that week, three fresh proteins more than doubled sales versus the comparable week in 2019: fresh turkey (+126%), fresh exotic meats, such as duck and bison (+123%) and pork (+101%).

“Bison had been enjoying strong year-over-year growth before the COVID-19 meat sales surge, but product demand has been up 250%+ over the past three weeks for us,” said David Kent, SVP of sales for Great Range Brand Bison. “Some retailers have had to ration product, not unlike paper goods and cleaning supplies. Our production teams have answered the call, scheduling extra shifts to meet demand. I think the niche proteins and claims-based proteins benefited in general from stock outs in the big three proteins. What we pulled off together, as the entire meat supply chain, is incredible.”

The usual growth drivers of beef and chicken saw the largest increases in terms of dollars, and turkey was once again the highest in percentage growth. In absolute dollars, the five biggest winners for the week of March 22 were ground beef ($180 million more versus the comparable week in 2019), chicken breasts ($75 million), pork loin ($40 million), beef short loin (nearly $40 million) and beef chuck ($35 million), according to IRI. The other items making up the top 10 were ribeyes, beef round, chicken wings, recipe-ready beef and pork ribs.

“As an organization, we had to quickly switch gears,” said Samer Rahman, senior director of meat and seafood for Allegiance Retail Services. “Faced with school, restaurant and retail outlet closures, we had to assess customer needs in advance of the unknown height and course of the epidemic. Our community worked together to ensure shelves were stocked to the best of our ability, with the support of our national and local supplier partners. Everyone worked around the clock to ensure sanitary and safe stores while committing to in-stock conditions across departments. The food industry is a resilient business and we, as a community, will face this challenge head on and come out with a true appreciation of every person who made this happen.”

meals at home

IRI found that for the week of March 22, 56% of consumers ate more meals at home versus at/from a restaurant. But with universities and schools closed, many students moved back home. In Florida, for instance, 350,000 students live on campus. Consider their added three meals per day at home — that is 1 million more meals consumed at home per day, for Florida students alone.

Next, consider the people working from home and all the elementary and high school students being at home. That means many more breakfast, snack and lunch occasions that moved to at-home. Also consider the fact that all sports and evening activities have been canceled, so no more “scramble dinners” to be out the door in 10 minutes, but time to create an actual home-cooked dinner.

IRI found that among households with kids, 69% have kids staying home from school or daycare centers versus 38% the week prior and 47% are doing fewer activities and sports. And lastly, consumers are looking to boost their nutritional intake and build their immune systems and from their buying patterns, it certainly appears meat matters during times of crisis.

These are all current drivers of increased everyday demand of the grocery channel versus foodservice.

Momentum for the meat category will likely continue in the month ahead as national guidelines to stay at home and avoid large gatherings were extended by President Trump on Sunday until April 30.

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