The purchasing patterns of today's grocery shopper are changing in the meat aisle, according to FMI's "Top Findings of Power of Meat 2017" report. Price per pound has the greatest purchase influence on consumers, and 60% of shoppers check primary store promotions when shopping for meat products.
Transparency is also a major trend driving shopper buying decisions, spurring "double-digit growth for organic, antibiotic/hormone-free, grass-fed and other attributes" in meat, according to FMI.
Consumers are also looking to get their protein from nontraditional channels. Ready-to-prepare meal kits found in the meat department attract 53% of consumers, and 75% of shoppers eat meat alternatives at least once per week as fish, eggs and plants become more widely accepted protein vehicles.
Contemporary consumers are giving a lot of thought to the meats they purchase — including how meat is treated during the growth phase, how it's processed, and how important it is (or isn't) to their diets.
Falling meat prices are also fueling changes in the meat sector, giving shoppers the flexibility to trade up to better cuts of beef, better grades of chicken and so on. Consumers are also venturing beyond the traditional grocery space to buy their meat products, with many shoppers frequenting butcher shops, farmers' markets and specialty organic markets.
At the same time, consumer interest in meat alternatives is skyrocketing, which has led to some seemingly contradictory analyst findings. According to an industry report from Rabobank Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory group, U.S. meat consumption per capita spiked almost 5% in 2015 — the largest increase in 40 years.
Meanwhile, a recent Nielsen webinar called "Decisions, Decisions: How Do Consumers Shop Meat," cited research showing a decrease in money spent on meat and poultry products.
Regardless, retailers should be aware that consumer health trends are changing the meat space, and that consumer demographics play a major role in purchasing behavior. Some millennials have a growing preference for plant-based proteins because of perceived health benefits and environmental sustainability — likely the result of studies that link red meat to heart disease, cancer and other diseases, as well as consumer concern over the treatment of animals raised for meat.
In order to recapture and maintain consumer interest, retailers should try to educate consumers about their meat offerings through both in-store promotions and digital outreach. Information about meat's health benefits, animal-welfare labels like "antibiotic-free" and "grass-fed", as well as digital apps that explain how best to incorporate certain cuts into everyday diets, can all encourage consumer purchases.