2015 Trends

Just like you, I’ve been reading about 2015’s proposed “top trends” to figure out which ones matter to the meat industry.  While some of the more far-fetched trends are quite entertaining, here are the three that strike me as most likely to have industry-wide implications this year and beyond.  Let me know if you agree.

crystal ball

  1. Meat case demographics are shifting… again

Two significant population shifts are resulting in smaller U.S. households:  more single Americans1, and more aging Americans2.  As more young adults put off marriage and greater numbers of adults transition to senior citizen status, the make-up of the meat case shopper base is once again in flux.  These “bookend” population groups aren’t looking for family packs or large roasts for dinner; rather, they need meals to feed one or two.
The old adage “Give the customer what he wants” has never been more relevant.  Retailers and packers should consider packaging smaller portions for a variety of cuts, not just expensive middle meats.  It’s also a prime time to think about vacuum-packaged  individual servings, sold inside a bigger bag, so customers have the option to use some now and some next week.

  1. A little consumer education about meat can save a lot of dough…

Did you see the recent Meatingplace article about University of Missouri researchers investigating how light affects ground beef packages? The goal of the study is to figure out how to retain ground beef’s bright red color.  As retailers know all too well, markdowns cost millions of annual lost revenue.
We’ve all winced when we’ve heard focus group respondents claim the meat industry “dyes” its meat.  If color is the second highest consideration for fresh ground beef (after price), educating consumers about what’s in the “normal” range for fresh beef should be a priority for our industry.  Just like campaigns for safe cooking temperatures, a program aimed at teaching consumers what an acceptable beef color range is could have multiple payoffs.  Of course scientific research is extremely important, but an education component can also go a long way toward helping consumers be less wasteful at home and retailers maximize profits at the meat case.  If you want proof that a consumer campaign can keep tons of food from being wasted, check out the award-winning “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables” campaign by Intermarche, the third largest grocery chain in France.

  1. Meat is on the move. Where will it land?

Inquiring minds want to know… could meat lose its prime entrée position? The Wall Street Journal recently noted, “Chefs around the country, and the globe, are pushing meat from the center of the plate – and sometimes off it altogether.”  Vegetables, my friends, are the new “it” food.  Foodservice is driving this trend, as chefs embrace veggie-inspired dishes and give them high-profile status on their menus. While some in our industry might say that we need to defend meat’s rightful spot, I say hold on a minute.  We’ve always shared the plate with veggies; they’ve been meat’s sidekick since forever.   (Think “meat and potatoes!”)  While I certainly don’t want to relinquish the center of the plate, or heaven forbid, give up the plate altogether, I doubt this current fascination with broccoli and carrots is the biggest threat to meat.  In my opinion, other issues like high beef pricing and consumers actively reducing their meat intake are contributing to this trend and are more likely to have longer-term effects on our industry.

On the plus side, meat byproducts are experiencing a reincarnation of sorts that is worth watching.  Bone broth is becoming very popular, thanks in part to the Paleo diet craze; Time even featured the simple soup in a full-page article in its January 26 issue.  Bone broth is rich in minerals and Omega 3, 6 and 9, and fans swear by its nutritional value, healing powers and beauty benefits.

These trends remind those of us in the meat industry that we need to look outward as much as inward, and take note of what is swirling around us that could shape our future.  What other trends should we be focused on in 2015?  Add your comments below – I’d love to discuss!

1In 1976, 37% of US adults were single; currently, about half of US adults are single – that’s the highest percentage in the past 40-odd years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Read the Bloomberg article.

2In the next fifteen years, the number of Americans age 65 and older will have doubled from 2000 figures.  Review the Administration on Aging statistics.

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