How Grocers Can Leverage Meat as Eating Habits Change

Jim Dudlicek
Editorial Director
How Grocers Can Leverage Meat as Eating Habits Change National Pork Board
According to a report from the National Pork Board, "If you put [the meat] in front of your customers, they’ll buy it.”

Meat is helping drive supermarket sales, but its dominance at the center of the plate continues to fade.

Those are among the findings of a new study released by the National Pork Board as part of its comprehensive Insight to Action research program. The report, “Dinner at Home in America,” examines the contextual occasions in which Americans are eating dinner in the home.

“People live, shop and eat differently today. The pork industry has tremendous momentum with consumers, and that can be leveraged further through innovation in product development, bringing contemporary eating solutions to consumers,” said Jarrod Sutton, VP of domestic marketing for the Des Moines, Iowa-based board. “This research helps us intimately understand the needs and constraints that influence consumer dining choices, and provides a clear path for industry innovation that is rooted in data.”

Among the findings most relevant to grocers, collected receipt data found that pork shoppers spend more than beef shoppers and chicken shoppers, and make more trips per year to the store, the trade group reported. According to the study, pork shoppers spend $1,663 and make 21 trips annually, beef shoppers spend $1,328 and make 16 trips annually, and chicken shoppers spend $1,239 and make 15 trips annually.

“When pork is in the cart, the cart is worth more to retailers’ bottom lines,” noted Jason Menke, the board’s director of marketing communications. “Promoting pork more frequently – in circulars and in-store promotions – can positively impact the ring. We’ve worked with a number of major grocers in the last year on promotions that have performed well without discounting. If you put it in front of your customers, they’ll buy it.”

But more significantly to all species of animal protein, “we need to address the fact that consumers look at protein differently,” Menke said. “Their plates aren’t featuring a large cut of meat at the center of the plate as often as they once were. It’s now an ingredient in a dish that’s often influenced by world flavors. Merchandising cuts to be more easy and convenient for consumers is something the industry should evaluate.”

“Dinner at Home in America” is the first of several reports the National Pork Board will publish in 2019 as part of its Insight to Action research program. The trade group says that this research approach, which combines 10,000 interviews with demographic and spending data to provide a comprehensive look at how U.S. consumers eat, is a first-ever for the meat industry.

Altogether, the board uncovered nine unique dining occasions, or need states, happening in homes on any given night of the week, ranging from solo dining to celebrating with extended family. During the course of any week, the same person can experience multiple eating occasions as their needs change throughout the week.

Sutton emphasized that this research is groundbreaking because it goes further to answer questions regarding what people eat and why.

“We are looking at who is at the dinner table, but we move beyond that to pinpoint the varied dinner occasions occurring every night,” he said.  “With these insights, the industry can better understand the needs, behaviors and influences for each dining occasion. Most importantly, the research identifies opportunities for the industry to adapt and innovate.”

The report identifies opportunities to respond to changing consumer behaviors and drive category growth in three areas:

• Health: Educate consumers more effectively about the known health benefits, nutrient density and protein content of fresh and packaged pork cuts.
• Simplicity: Innovate packaging and cuts to keep pace with evolving consumer needs and demand for convenience, best illustrated through portion size, precooked or pre-seasoned options, and cooking and temperature directions.
• Versatility: Create meal solutions with pork as a key ingredient, moving beyond the old-school thought of pork as a center-of-the-plate option only. Consumers seek diversity in their protein choices – from tacos to sandwiches, and pasta to casseroles.

“Some of the low-hanging fruit for grocers that can have an immediate impact on sales include product packaging and in-store signage that emphasize the taste and versatility of pork, as well as packaging that emphasizes the health and nutrition benefits of key cuts of pork,” Menke said. “The research showed us that consumers don’t understand that a 3-ounce serving of pork has 20-plus grams of protein in it. With lean protein being a key part of popular diet and lifestyle trends right now, consumers' demand for protein is high, which makes the sales opportunity for fresh pork significant.”

Survey respondents were members of Numerator/InfoScout’s shopper panel, and were selected to participate based upon past recorded purchases. Each respondent was age 18 or older, personally eats meat, and has at least some influence in buying or preparing food for the household. The survey, commissioned on behalf of the National Pork Board, was administered by Chicago-based C+R Research to 10,163 adults.

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