Press enter to search
Close search
Open Menu



Follow me at the 2014 Meat Conference on Twitter @jimdudlicek

Maximizing sales in the meat department means retailers need to keep up with the constantly changing tastes, attitudes and demands of shoppers – changes that are, in large part, generational and economic.

Shopper behavior dominated discussion in Sunday’s opening sessions of the 2014 Annual Meat Conference, hosted by the Food Marketing Institute and the American Meat Institute Foundation in Atlanta, through Tuesday at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis.

The market is largely a “tale of two shoppers,” as outlined by Barbara Ford, SVP of AMG Strategic Advisors at Acosta Sales and Marketing, detailing Acosta’s latest shopper behavior studies.

Consumers making less than $45,000 per year, comprising 46 percent of total shoppers, purchase less meat and buy cheaper cuts to make ends meet. Seeking a balance of price and value, these consumers will purchase more so-called “filling foods” over “healthy foods” because they’re less expensive and last longer, Ford said. Meanwhile, higher-income folks – the 15 percent making $100,000 a year or more – tend to buy leaner cuts, more seafood and more natural/organic items. They’re willing to pay more for convenience items like ready-to-eat meals and value-added meats, and tend to shop the deli more often, while lower-income consumers are shopping the deli less.

Common issues between lower- and higher-income shoppers: convenience, value, channel blurring, guidance on wellness products and use of digital.

Meanwhile, Generation X’ers and shoppers with children plan to spend more on meat and poultry in the coming year. In fact, spending by Millennials will surpass that of Baby Boomers by 2018, a $65 billion shift, Ford noted. However, while older shoppers are more faithful to traditional grocers (responsible for 65 percent of total meat sales), the mass channel is coming on strong as Millennials are more likely to shop other channels. At the same time, Millennials are far less confident than their older counterparts at preparing meat and poultry beyond grinds and boneless, skinless chicken breasts. When they do cook, this group is more likely to surf the web for recipes than pick up a cookbook.

Hispanic shoppers are strong consumers of meat, are more likely to cook at home and are more brand loyal than other groups. Hispanics are also more responsive to bilingual marketing, regardless of their command of English, which Ford said makes them “ripe for engaging” with appropriate marketing strategies.

Health and Wellness

On the whole, consumers define “eating healthy” as portion control, more poultry and seafood, and less beef. Animal welfare is also rising in importance, and many consumers equate it with product quality. Sales of gluten-free and free-from products are expected to grow to $24 billion globally by 2020, with more than a quarter of those sales coming from the United States.

Ford also identified the emergence of the “grocerant,” or grocery stores acting as restaurants by expanding their deli prepared food offerings at or close to par with restaurants.

Keeps Coming Back to Millennials

Millennials continue to show themselves to be a key demographic to target. Ford said these shoppers are more likely than others to bring home prepared foods for dinner. “Millennials are way ahead of total shoppers on this,” she said.

In the next session, Jack Li, managing director of Datassentials, reinforced the importance of grocery foodservice, noting the strong “Deli 2.0” trend. Grocers seek to mimic fast-casual establishments and many shoppers are visiting the supermarket just to eat a meal.

But Li offered data dispelling the idea that Millennials are the most adventurous eaters, with Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers actually having a higher interest in new flavors.

Tracking Tastes

Li tracked the evolution of new flavor trends at four stages – inception (early appearance at fine dining and ethnic grocers), adoption (emergence at fast casual and specialty grocers – and the point at which Li says products developers ought to start paying attention), proliferation (widespread popularity at most restaurants and institutions, traditional grocers and mass merchants) and ubiquity (cemented in the mainstream).

Cuisines once considered exotic like Chinese, Mexican and Italian have long since become ubiquitous among American palates. While Mediterranean and Southern are proliferating, Korean is coming on strong, Thai and Indian are making a comeback and Peruvian is starting to emerge.