It’s no secret; the protein category has seen challenges the last five years. The most recent Technomic “Center of the Plate Beef and Pork Report” reveals fresh meat shopping trips have declined. This may, to some degree, be attributed to a continual rise in red meat prices since 2010.
Don’t be fooled, the dip in demand does not mean consumers have stopped craving red meat. With 97 percent household penetration, consumers still plan meals and occasions around red meat. In fact, through proprietary consumer research we’ve found the youngest red meat purchasers – Millennials – proportionally spend more on fresh red meat than any other age group.
Our own Brian Bell, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, wrote about the changing landscape of the fresh red meat category in the February issue of Grocery Headquarters. Bell zeroed in on three topics – Generational Differences in Red Meat Consumption, Purchase Occasion and The Future of the Category.
Our research shows 51 percent of consumers purchase meat based on “quality” while 49 percent purchase it based on “price.” Although a slight majority of consumers buy based on quality, how they define “quality” may vary significantly. Interestingly, we found consumer similarities when sorting research data by age group.
- Baby Boomers that prepare beef six or more times per month, are considered true meat lovers and tend to be our most loyal consumers. However, they represent a true dichotomy when defining quality. Some define quality in a traditional way: by grade, marbling juiciness and tenderness. The remainder of the generation is comprised of meat lovers that place value at the top of their list when purchasing red meat. They view red meat as a commodity and are not willing to pay a premium.
- By contrast, Generation X consumers determine quality by the tenderness of the product and by their ability to discern the food’s story (where, how and by whom their food was produced). Much like the Gen Xers, Millennials care about food with a story. However, they aren’t always willing to pay for those stories because they are younger and still building their household incomes.
Quality-conscious Baby Boomers mainly purchase red meat to connect with others through a special occasion. Confident in the kitchen, this group has a passion for food, knows what cuts to buy and knows how to prepare fresh red meat. Alternatively, value-conscious Baby Boomers often purchase red meat as part of their routine. Also experienced in the kitchen, they are very comfortable with shopping for, and preparing, red meat.
A large number of the Gen Xers fall into the “foodie” category and like to purchase red meat to connect with others. They often seek products with claims and stories they can share with friends to help enhance their image and reputation as knowledgeable foodies.
Millennials share similar motivations with Generation X, but because they are at a different income threshold and lifestage, their behaviors do not always align. Millennials look for unconventional information about preparing food, complementing cuts and latest trends that helps support their busy lifestyles.
The Future of the Category
What may be surprising is how important Millennials are to the future growth of the red meat category. While Millennial budgets and experience in the kitchen is limited now, over time they are going to gain experience and confidence in purchasing and preparing red meat products. They were the only group in our study that planned to spend more on red meat next year compared to this year, which is very encouraging.
Make no mistake, this younger fresh meat user thinks and acts differently than older, more confident, users the industry knows. Keeping Millennials engaged in the fresh meat case will require a shift in thinking from product mix, rethinking the role brands play, how the case is merchandised and priced, and what role value added products play in helping get meals to the table to meet the demands of a busy lifestyle.
It isn’t enough to simply know our consumers, but we must also understand the motivations behind why they are buying red meat and what they want from the experience. Having key quality cuts on hand for special occasions will likely increase basket ring, drive repeat business and ultimately contribute to a memorable event your consumer is trying to create.