Meat Continues to Rule American Dinner Plates

2019 Power of Meat:1 An In-Depth Look at Meat Through the Shoppers’ Eyes

Few categories come close to the $67 billion in annual sales meat provides, and the grocers’ meat case continues to be the most common destination. In fact, a reported 86% of shoppers classify themselves as meat eaters as reported in the Power of Meat 2019 – the 14th in an annual report series looking at shopper perceptions, attitudes and behaviors regarding fresh and processed meat and poultry. Meat is the biggest perimeter department in the grocery store, ultimately predicting a store’s financial success, making awareness of shifting purchasing trends critical.

The 2019 edition of the Power of Meat, research sponsored and published by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the Foundation for Meat & Poultry Education & Research, takes an in-depth look at consumer consumption and purchasing habits. The report also depicts the evolving protein landscape and how it coincides with consumer food culture. New to the study this year was a look into understanding consumer reasons for not consuming meat and poultry, sources for meal inspiration and types of meat purchased – from fresh to fully cooked options – along with insights into plant-based meat alternatives. In addition, it looked into how animal welfare is perceived by and impacts shoppers.

Read more/purchase the Power of Meat 2019.
Retailers are faced with the challenge of quickly evolving consumer trends and shopping habits that drive changes at the retail level in advertising, in-store marketing and product placement, sales channels and product development. A surge in consumer interest in new and alternative channels has also built demand for protein purchased in meal kits, online, in value-added products like precooked and seasoned meat, and a desire for meat alternatives.

While heat-and-eat meat and poultry exceeded the growth curve, the study found that chicken, beef and pork continue to rule American dinner plates, and two-thirds of shoppers reported mostly preparing fresh (raw) meat and poultry. The desire for animal protein in the diet is not bound by age, income or food culture. However, food choices are increasingly influenced by wants versus needs, driving two-thirds of shoppers to look for “better for me” options when buying meat and poultry.

“Research tells us that consumers are no longer making food purchasing decisions based on taste, price and convenience alone, but now also consider health and safety, animal welfare, social impact and sustainability among other things,” said Judson Vasconcelos, DVM, Ph.D., head of the Merck Animal Health Veterinary and Consumer Affairs team. “Choice and transparency are vital to meet consumer needs and expectations.”

Shoppers across generations continue to offer insights into purchasing preferences and areas of opportunity for innovation:

  • Protein variety – prime, choice and select cuts of meat, and choices like grass fed, antibiotic free and plant based
  • Better prices – shoppers seek optimum value based on their own perceptions of the best combination of quality and price
  • Packaging innovation – environmental sustainability, decreased usage, non-leaking
  • Improved customer service
  • Additional information – recipes and preparation, freshness and storage advice

From farm to fork, these areas pose unique challenges – and opportunities – across the food supply chain. Retailers and producers alike are faced with the growing realization of the importance of choice, as production attributes continue to deliver above-average growth, and according to the research, “shoppers want more.” “Grass fed,” “natural” and “free from” are top claims consumers seek in the meat case. As consumers also continue to want to know more about how their food is grown and raised, transparency is an opportunity for the industry and will continue to drive purchasing decisions in the future.

1. 210 Analytics, LLC (Ed.). (2019). Power of Meat 2019(pp. 1-60, Publication). Arlington, VA: Food Marketing Institute. Foundation for Meat & Poultry Research & Education.