10 takeaways from the 2021 Power of Meat Report

Retail sales of meat and poultry flourished during COVID-19. To ensure continued success post-pandemic, the industry will need to find ways to maintain consumer interest and provide education about sustainability, animal welfare, health and transparency.

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Eldar Nurkovic | Bigstock.com;
Eldar Nurkovic | Bigstock.com;

Retail sales of meat and poultry flourished during COVID-19. To ensure continued success post-pandemic, the industry will need to find ways to maintain consumer interest and provide education about sustainability, animal welfare, health and transparency, Anne-Marie Roerink, Principal, 210 Analytics LLC, said during “The Power of Meat 2021: An In-Depth Look at Meat Through the Shopper’s Eyes” at the 2021 Annual Meat Conference.

The Power of Meat Survey is conducted annually and the presentation of the survey was sponsored by Cryovac. Roerink highlighted 10 survey findings that retailers and poultry and meat processors can utilize to better serve the U.S. retail consumer.

1. Meat reemerges as king of pandemic era retail

Consumers spent more time cooking at home in 2020 compared to recent years. As a result, meat department dollars and volume increased 19.2% and 11% respectively. Retail stores also saw increased meat trips and increased spending per trip, as consumers stocked up pantries in preparation for self-quarantine and/or other social distancing measures, with household penetration remaining high.

 2. Consumers are now more knowledgeable about cooking meat

A greater meat preparation knowledge could benefit the meat retail industry for the foreseeable future. However, as consumers become more knowledgeable, they will look for greater variety and convenience in shelves, including options like value-added meat.

3. Meat purchases changed during the pandemic

More than three-quarters of consumers changed something about their meat purchases during COVID-19. Forty-three percent bought more meat, while four in ten explored new types, cuts or brands.

4. A shift toward e-commerce

Grocery delivery and other forms of ecommerce were huge in 2020. Retailers had to instantly innovate to keep up with the demand, finding ways to create curbside pickup, drive up and go and delivery. Over half of consumers purchased groceries online in 2020. In addition, 31% of shoppers purchased meat online last year, up from 19% in 2019.

5. On the lookout for promotions

During the pandemic, consumers purchased more meat for each trip to the story, buying larger quantities to freeze and use later. This meant that shoppers looked for promotions to help save them money – whether in a digital circular or, more popularly, with in store signage.

6. Perceptions of case-ready reach all-time high

Shoppers had a positive impression of case-ready meats over meat cut in store, with consumer perception for the former reaching an all-time high of 81% favorability.

7. Focus on health and nutrition

Health and nutrition, already an important factor for consumers, become a bigger priority during COVID-19. This translated into high interest in claims-based meat, blends and plant-based protein alternatives, as well as a move toward flexitarian diets. Consumers who eat this diet still consume meat but are trying to cut back, typically citing health, planetary health, animal welfare or social responsibility reasons.

8. Sustainability still matters

Environmental sustainability drives dollars in all sectors of retail. Long associated only with environmental issues, sustainability has transformed into a catch-all term that also encompasses animal welfare, social and other issues.

Many consumers evaluate the sustainability of a meat purchase before buying – how they perceive it affects the environment (34%), the worker/rancher (29%) and the animal (27%). In good news, four in 10 shoppers believe farmers are working to protect the plant, but the 37% who are unsure what environmental measures farmers are taking signals a possible educational opportunity for the industry.

9. Animal welfare does too

The definition of animal welfare has also expanded to include many aspects of animal care, feeding and living conditions. In the survey, shoppers indicated how animals are handled during slaughter (60%), access to outdoors (60%) and the amount of living space (58%) matters when making purchasing decisions.

10. Meat alternative sales experienced robust growth

Sales of plant-based proteins grew 83.9% to $475 million in 2020, penetrating 10% of U.S. households. These numbers are impressive; however this segment only makes up 0.6% of combined meat/alternative dollar sales. Blended meats may be one way for the meat industry to build a bridge between continued meat consumption and flexitarian diets.

View our continuing coverage of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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