- Consumers' interest in "clean label" meat has caused sales growth for those products to outpace that of conventional meat, according to recent Nielsen data.
- Conventional meat sales posted annual sales growth of 4.6% from 2011 to 2015, which came in below sales growth for meat products labeled natural (14.6%), antibiotic-free (28.7%), hormone-free (28.6%) and organic (44%). Products labeled "minimally processed" saw sales decline by 1.6% in that time frame.
- However, these products still only comprise a relatively small portion of total meat sales, which amounts to about $50 billion a year.
Labels like "hormone-free" and "antibiotic-free" aren't mutually exclusive, so products can overlap across more than one of these label claim categories. This could inflate sales numbers to an extent, but it's still clear that these clean label trends are having a significant impact on the meat industry.
Producers should also weigh the potential financial benefit of these claims against the costs involved in achieving them. Manufacturers may have to alter their farming style, the amount of land they need for livestock to graze and other operational procedures that make this kind of meat more expensive for processors and companies that source from them.
This could mean manufacturers need to raise their prices for consumers, but that's a grey area. Price continues to be a key factor for meat purchase decisions, including both price per pound and total package price. However, consumers have also said they would be willing to pay more for natural and better-for-you foods.