Convenience is the big story in food products sold at retail in recent years. Processors and manufacturers are doing everything they can to make it easier for consumers to prepare and eat their products.
Chicken companies are in the middle of this trend, churning out products ranging from bite-size chunks sold as "popcorn chicken" to fully-cooked whole birds. But do consumers notice? And where does chicken stand in relation to other products?
The National Chicken Council took a survey in late 2007 to try to get a fix on consumer perceptions in this area. The data yielded by the survey provides some intriguing insights into chicken's place in the highly competitive convenience category.
Simply put, the data shows that chicken is Number One among meat and poultry convenience items. Consumers see chicken as the runaway leader in the category, plan to buy even more chicken convenience items than they already do, and would like to see more chicken-based convenience products available for purchase.
In taking the survey, first we explained what we meant by convenience product and then asked which type of meat or poultry has the "widest variety" of convenience products available in the respondent's favorite supermarket. Chicken is recognized as the leader in convenience products, with 57 percent of respondents saying that chicken has the widest variety. No other type of product even comes close. Beef is in second place with 22 percent, with fish/seafood, turkey, and pork far behind.
Female respondents are more likely than men to see chicken as the market leader. While a majority of men (52 percent) see chicken as the dominant product, 63 percent of females have that perception. Men are somewhat more attuned to beef.
Business is all about growth, and chicken seems poised for growth in the convenience category. We asked respondents if, over the next six months, they planned to buy more, less, or about the same amount of various types of convenience products. Chicken was far and away the leader, with a net result of 20 percent of respondents saying they planned to buy more chicken convenience products, as against single-digit increases for other species. A notable exception to the growth pattern is pork, which actually ended up in negative territory. While 8 percent of respondents said they would buy more pork convenience products, 13 percent said they would buy less.
New products preference
Finally, we asked respondents to name the types of products of which they would like to see more in the convenience category. Since chicken is seen as the most prevalent product in the category already, it is a pleasant surprise to see that chicken came out ahead on this question as well, with 29 percent of consumers placing chicken in the top spot. Fish and seafood was a close second with 27 percent, with beef not far behind at 23 percent. Women are more interested in seeing more chicken products than men, who lean towards beef.
The chicken industry has worked very hard to take advantage of versatility of chicken in developing convenience products. This survey shows that these efforts have paid off in the perception of chicken as the leader in this category. It also shows that people plan to buy more chicken-based convenience products and would welcome having an even wider choice. Perhaps these findings will spur the industry to continue to develop new products and capture greater sales and profits from the public's embrace of convenience.
About the survey
The NCC Meal Convenience Study was conducted by PKS Research Partners of Ewing, N.J., on November 15-16, 2007. An online panel was used to collect 1,074 responses, which were weighted to achieve a more nationally representative sample. This sample is projectible to the nationwide population of adults (18 years of age and older) within plus or minus three percent at the 95 percent level of confidence.
Rigorously conducted online surveys have been demonstrated to be similar to traditional telephone surveys in terms of accuracy.