Today, the meat industry has a great opportunity to communicate directly with consumers about the meat products they are consuming at home and in restaurants, from production to plate.
In our 2012 Consumer Trends Report: Breaking the Pattern, we uncovered a trend called “Security Through Disclosure.” With consumers’ ongoing distrust of government, institutions and big business, they continue to question what is in the food they eat and where it comes from. In a recent Midan Marketing survey, 44% of consumers said they are very concerned about where their fresh meat comes from versus only 36% of consumers that said they are very concerned about where their food in general comes from.
Most recently, the industry saw an explosion of coverage by the popular media on issues including Leanly Fine Textured Beef and sow gestational stall usage. We’ve seen these stories explode virally though social sharing, Facebook® groups supporting activist groups and Twitter® chatter. As a result, consumers are growing even more skeptical of producers, packers, retailers and foodservice operators, especially as only a few industry organizations have responded.
From these experiences, we’ve learned that it is even more important to get out and be proactive and transparent about our industry practices before consumers are misinformed by other groups. Consumers don’t necessarily need a long explanation. They are just looking for simple reassurance that the companies they buy from care and are willing to have a direct and honest conversation with them.
What this means for Fresh Meat
As the meat industry is looked at with close scrutiny, clear communication and transparency will be increasingly important. Communicating to consumers about the products they are purchasing will help them feel more comfortable about their purchases as well as increase long-term trust and loyalty.
How do we do this?
- Be Prepared and Proactive. We all know what the controversial industry topics are. As activist groups spend years preparing their campaigns, we need to be prepared with a unified response. An even more proactive approach would be communicating directly to consumers though social media platforms, websites and blogs before these topics even become an issue.
- Honesty is the Best Policy. The meat industry is a very proud industry, made up of individuals who have helped feed the world for generations. It’s time to be honest and transparent with consumers and tell them about the products we feed our families and theirs, from production practices to harvest and packing. Demystify meat processing to consumers and tell them why we use certain practices.
- Communicate Easily. This is the time to leave out anything overly scientific. If you have a five minute video with Mr. Meat Scientist, Ph.D. proving your point, the average consumer won’t get through the first minute before they realize you’re speaking in a foreign language. Keep it simple, use graphics or illustrations and be concise.
- Be Fast. Consumers can access information from their mobile phones and tablet devices in seconds from anywhere. They expect their questions to be answered immediately, and if you are not there to do it, someone else will chime in and give their own opinion, which might not be the same as yours.
Let’s make 2012 and beyond the year the meat industry made some significant changes and regained consumer trust and confidence.