Meat case trends shifting

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Mar 7, 2005
by WLJ
A nationwide study of the retail meat case last year revealed rising demand for processed meat, natural products, protein variety, case-ready meats, and on-package information, according to the groups involved with the survey.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Board (NPB), and food packaging supplier Cryovac Food Packaging conducted the 2004 National Meat Case Study (NMCS), which found that despite an increase in retail meat prices, consumer demand for meat remained strong. However, there were some noteworthy shifts in meat purchases, according to the study’s findings.
Part of the study evaluated the size and composition of the self-serve fresh meat case in which beef, pork, and chicken were prominently displayed. According to the study results, these three core meat types represented 90 percent of the fresh meat and poultry linear feet and 91 percent of all packages.
The study’s findings included an increase in case ready packaging of fresh meat products, a growing trend in boneless products, and evidence of increasing opportunities in consumer communication in the meat case. The research also showed, to varying degrees, that allocation of the meat case space is shifting, with fresh meat and poultry’s share of linear feet decreasing six percent since 2002. The big gainers from this shift included processed meats, particularly sausage, ham, and heat-and-serve products, which all up two percentage points. Ready-to-cook, value-added products and self-serve seafood were all up one percent.
“We are very pleased to be a part of this coalition, along with the National Pork Board and Cryovac, to take a close look at key trends in meat cases across the country,” Randy Irion, director of retail marketing at NCBA, said. “The study’s findings are one way for us to gain a better understanding of what consumers want, and also work with the industry to meet those needs and ultimately help increase meat case sales.”
The study also took a look at boneless products, the leader in share of packages sold in meat cases. According to the study, boneless packages represented 57 percent of packages displayed in the meat case. Also of note, natural and enhanced products had equal share in the meat case, with 22 percent of all packages carrying a “natural” claim and 21 percent of products being enhanced.
“To a great extent, the NMCS 2004 results indicated strong consumer demand for variety in protein selection, a simplified shopping experience and quick and easy meal options from their meat departments,” the release said.
“Specifically, the 2004 audits attested to a continuing opportunity for retailers to use point of purchase materials in order to communicate with consumers more effectively and sell more products in the meat case. The percent of packages with nutrition labeling, for example, increased by 10 percent in 2004 to 44 percent. Conversely, cooking information on-package decreased by three percentage points.”
Karen Boillot, NPB director of retail marketing, said, “The NMCS’ 2004 findings clearly indicate that consumer communication can play a key role in meat case merchandising. The study supports our belief that efforts such as nutritional labeling and on-pack cooking information or recipes can help consumers make educated purchasing decisions in the meat case.”
The study also showed a strong shift from in-store packaging of fresh meat products to packages prepared off-site, or “case ready” packages “ a convenient option for retailers. In 2004, case-ready represented 60 percent of self-serve meat case packages, which is an increase of 11 percent since 2002.
“The merchandising changes seen in this study are only the beginning of more long-term trends that will continue to be observed in future studies,” Jerry Kelly, national coordinator of Cryovac’s retail task force, said “The meat case must continue to evolve to meet the growing demands consumer place on one of the most popular grocery store destinations “the meat case.”
The NMCS 2004 was benchmarked against the same study conducted in 2002 to help provide further insights into emerging trends on a national basis. Texas Tech University conducted a majority of the in-store audits, and Lee and Co. analyzed the data. The study looked at 104 retailer stores in 43 key metropolitan markets across 29 states. — WLJ