Millennials, Unfiltered

My name is Gibson and I’m a Millennial. You’ve seen my name attached to several blogs written from the Millennial perspective. Loyal blog readers have gone grocery shopping with me, grilled ribeyes with me and even sat in a classroom of carcasses with me. I’m a member of the elusive generation that everyone is talking about. The generation old enough to remember the days of dial-up internet, but too young to know a time without Justin Timberlake. The generation that knows Google as a verb and the ‘Gram as something other than a S’mores ingredient. (That’s short for Instagram, for you non-Millennials.) And as the generation of 75 million strong that is approaching its prime spending years and taking its money to the meat counter, it may be time to get to know us.

To better understand generational shopping patterns, Midan conducted a study comparing Millennials and Boomers. These two influential consumer groups were asked about meat consumption, preferences and attitudes toward meat and health, and the results are pretty spot on, according to this Millennial. While some of the findings made me feel like there must have been a hidden camera in my kitchen, others were not as applicable to my eating or shopping habits; however, I can easily see how they would apply to my fellow Millennials.

Here are the big five that stood out to me:

Health

“Millennials are more concerned about health as related to meat consumption.”

I generally maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle. (It may have something to do with my obsession with icing as a child and perhaps I’m now overcorrecting that processed sugar intake by eating fruit for lunch…) I also enjoy learning about healthy foods. Speaking on behalf of Millennials, if we have a question, we ask – or rather, we Google. Because we have so many sources of information in the palm of our hand, we are able to learn more about the food on our plates – and when a popular food blogger on Pinterest tells you the benefits of using a certain ingredient over another, it’s easy to make that switch.

Meal Prep

“Millennials feel a sense of accomplishment when they prepare a complicated dish and enjoy trying new meat recipes.”

Yes and yes! Or as we say in Millennial world, “YASS.” Raise your hand if you’ve ever Instagrammed a meal you cooked. *hand raised emoji* I don’t know if there’s ever a night that I’ve cooked a meal, and I don’t look out of the corner of my eye to catch my husband’s reaction after the first bite. I love cooking and I love trying new recipes and most of all, I love when the hubs says, “This is a keeper!”

Convenience

“Prepared meat accounts for about 44 percent of Millennials’ meat purchases.”

It all boils down to convenience. While I do enjoy trying new recipes, I want an easy, healthy meal that can be made after I’m finished with Tuesday night tennis but before one of my adored TV shows comes on. I also want little cleanup – I mean, how am I supposed to live tweet Grey’s Anatomy with sudsy hands?! Again, convenience is key and prepared meats accomplish that.

Social Attitudes

“Millennials are more easily influenced. Some Millennials think that meat is becoming less socially acceptable and in a social setting are much more likely than Boomers to adjust their meat consumption to align with the group.”

This, I get. It sounds silly, but the concept of social influence does apply to me. Just last weekend I was out to dinner with girlfriends and I had my eye on a steak. It was topped with fried onions and served with mashed potatoes and I wanted it bad. But I didn’t want to be the only one at the table who ordered a steak. Lucky for me, half the table ordered that beauty and we all nearly cleaned our plates. So, while social attitudes didn’t prevent me from purchasing meat in that situation, the thought crossed my mind.

Meat Substitutes

“More than four in 10 Millennials have consumed meat alternatives in the past 12 months.”

These are the most common meat alternatives: tofu, soy-based meat and texturized vegetable protein. I kind of go back and forth on this one. At first I think, “If I want meat I’m going to eat meat – not a non-meat alternative.” And then I remember my work snack: almonds. While nuts are not listed above as a meat alternative, they are an alternate protein source. I eat about a handful of almonds every day (the amount of handfuls correlates with the extent of my workload). I know I need protein to stay alert during the day and on top of ever-changing social media trends!

While we’re a group defined by our birthdays, tech savviness and binge watching of Netflix, these survey results can help you better understand how to speak to us about meat. And if done successfully, who knows – your product could end up as the subject of an Instagram post #nofilter.

To get the full scoop on the Millennials vs. Baby Boomers study, you can read Part 1 and Part 2 in the Shelby Report, or get the video recap from Michael here. For more Millennial perspective, just leave me a comment!

 

 

Millennials, Boomers and Meat: A Closer Look

We’ve all heard so much about Millennials, you might think you already know everything there is to know about them.  But if you’re still trying to get inside the head of this enigmatic species, we’ve got some intel that can help you engage this elusive target and sell more fresh meat.

millennials at the meat case

There’s good reason the media has been advising you to pay attention to this consumer segment — Millennials number 75 million strong and know how to make themselves heard.

At Midan, it was only natural that we wanted to learn more about their meat eating habits.  But we also wanted to understand them in context:  how do they purchase meat compared to other consumers?   We decided to study Millennials alongside that other influential generation impacting the meat case in a big way: Baby Boomers.  Millennials have been getting all the attention lately, but it’s the Boomers that have all the money – don’t underestimate their buying power!

Midan conducted an online study with 425 Millennials and 400 Boomers in May 2016. We asked questions about their meat consumption, preferences and attitudes toward meat and health.

The research results confirmed what we already suspected:  Millennials and Boomers have differing perceptions and purchasing behaviors when it comes to meat.  And while both groups offer enormous opportunities for the meat industry, they also present a challenge:  How do you address their differences and customize your marketing to ensure that you are effectively reaching both segments?

Here are a few research findings that point out some of the disparities between Millennials and Boomers:

  • Millennials spend more per month on meat, but Boomers buy more fresh meat:  In an average month, Millennials spend significantly more on meat than Boomers ($162 vs. $93, respectively).  This isn’t surprising, considering that Millennials tend to have larger households with growing families and purchase proportionally more prepared meat.(Prepared meat accounts for about 44% of Millennial meat purchases, vs. 22% of Boomer meat purchases.)

     
    Boomers purchase significantly more fresh/unprepared meat (78%) than Millennials (56%). These percentages indicate that there is plenty of opportunity to engage Millennials to capture more of their meat dollars at the fresh meat case too.

  • Millennials are less committed to meat than Boomers are, especially when it comes to health:  Despite the fact that more than half of the Millennials surveyed agreed that “nothing is as satisfying as eating a good steak, 38% of Millennials are willing to give up taste for a balanced diet (vs. 20% of Boomers) and 29% of Millennials said that it would be much healthier for them to eliminate meat from their diet (vs. only 10% of Boomers).  These numbers suggest that it’s easier for Millennials to walk away from meat, and that big long-term benefits can be gained by educating them about the health and nutrition benefits of lean meat.
  • Millennials are more easily influenced about their meat choices than Boomers: 33% of Millennials believe that that meat is becoming less socially acceptable (vs. 13% of Boomers) and in a social setting are much more likely than Boomers to adjust their meat consumption to align with the group (30% vs. 6%, respectively).  The fact that Boomers tend to be set in their ways and have their minds made up works in the meat industry’s favor here; however, it appears there needs to be a lot more courting of Millennials to generate loyalty around the value of meat.

While these stats are just a glimpse into the differences between Millennial and Boomer meat eating habits, they clearly reveal opportunities for the meat industry.  If you want Millennials to buy more fresh meat, you can’t market to them the same way you do Boomers – and this research helps explain why.  The best plan of attack is to create education and marketing programs tailored to each group, so that you can maximize opportunities within each segment.

Learn more in The Shelby Report:  Part 1 and Part 2

Millennial, Meet Carcass

The last time I was in a classroom, I was analyzing the significance of windows in Wuthering Heights. Three weeks ago, however, I found myself seated in a meat science and technology building with a beef carcass being escorted into the room by an apron-clad man with knives in his tool belt and a hook in his hand. My front row seat was physically and aesthetically miles away from my social media hub back in NC, but there I was at Center of the Plate Training® – trading ‘likes’ for longissimus and Instagram for infraspinatus.

Center of the Plate is a three-day crash course in meat, starting with the leg of a cow and ending at the gill of a snapper. This course is designed to educate members of the meat industry on all center-of-the-plate proteins: beef, veal, lamb and pork, as well as poultry, processed meats and seafood. Attendees were given a copy of The Meat Buyer’s Guide and watched as it came to life, with the Guide acting as our roadmap, Davey Griffin as the driver and Steve Olson as the rambunctious tour guide leading us through this full-immersion experience of converting carcasses into cuts.

Such training is perfect for someone like me who is a member of the generation least-educated about meat – I believe you’ve heard of us…we’re Millennials. During these sessions I was able to give my Google search a rest as all my meat questions were answered right before my eyes. Snapchat, however, did not get a rest. For you non-Millennial readers, Snapchat is a photo sharing app that I usually use to share puppy photos, but while at training my followers received these gems:

COP_SnapchatAside from “Dr. Davey” hacking away at hunks of meat and slivers of fat, most interesting was the insight and comedic commentary coming from our 5’3” lively Italian instructor. Steve has been doing this gig for years, and from the start I knew we were going to leave that classroom with mounds of information! With this being his last year in the saddle, we were the lucky class to witness his swan song, complete with descriptions of up-and-coming cuts, how certain cuts should be prepared and the best way to become an American (barbeque, of course!).

Here are some of the key takeaways:

What’s Hot

The Spinalis, also known as the Ribeye cap, was the most-talked-about cut of the week. This cut combines the flavor of a ribeye with the tenderness of tenderloin, getting the attention of chefs, butchers and consumers, and earning its place as the future of meat. The Baseball cut (top portion of the Top Sirloin) also received a lot of hype – it was no secret this was Steve’s favorite.

Label Learnings

Although a label may make a very specific claim – perhaps that the cattle is fed a special diet of flax seed or is a specific breed such as Angus – but how do you really know? Certain claims cannot be detected from the carcass alone; it must undergo a verification process that supports its genotype and/or other claims. (This is definitely something to keep in the old noggin while perusing the meat case.)

Let’s Get Veal

When it comes to veal, color is key: grayish pink is what you’re looking for. It’s also important to know how veal is raised and finished. As a young animal whose rumens (stomachs) aren’t fully-functioning, milk is an important part of their early diet.  Special care is taken as grain and grass are introduced to their diet in order to ensure desired finished size and fat content.

Lamb on the Rise

Steve said, “Wake up, lamb! There are a lot of things you can do!” And the restaurant industry is listening. Lamb is appearing on more menus, even those serving brunch! Mimosas and lamb, anyone? An increased interest in lamb can be attributed to a growing desire for ethnic cuisine and adventurous flavors (you can thank Millennials for that!).

Because I have acquired knowledge that combats the common stereotype of Millennials at the meat case, I can now write about meat in a way that goes beyond “Hey! Try this!” Rather than simply sharing a certain recipe on Facebook , I now understand how that culinary application works, why it incorporates a certain cut, and what kind of flavor can be expected because it came from a specific muscle.

I returned home with a plethora of meat knowledge to apply to my work, my grocery shopping and my cocktail party conversations (that was Steve’s idea).

Thank you, North American Meat Institute, for organizing an educational (and entertaining) week of Center of the Plate Training®, and a big thank you to Steve Olson and Davey Griffin for bringing carcasses to life!

Meat Today’s Top 4 Consumers

We’ve all had this internal debate: do I really need to read this? Will it be helpful or just a waste of time? What am I going to learn that will be valuable?

If you’re in the meat business, knowing as much as you can about your customers can have a big payoff. In order to successfully reach consumers, you’ve got to have an understanding of who they are, right?

The challenge, of course, is that consumers keep changing.

These days, consumers of multiple generations and ethnicities are the new norm, and this mix is altering the way meat is being prepared and consumed. Because of this, the “one size fits all” approach to meat marketing just doesn’t work anymore. So, you’ll need to adjust your efforts accordingly.

There are four primary consumer groups who are making the biggest impact on meat consumption trends: Millennials, Boomers, Hispanics and Asian-Americans.

RMC Blog Image

1. Millennials

There goes the “M” word again! What piece of current research could ever be complete without a mention of this key generation? Millennials are an essential group of consumers to understand because they are imposing attributes and characteristics beyond meat itself – from how cattle are raised (organically grass-fed?) to where they’re from (local?). Members of this generation are avid smartphone users and highly value social connections. Their love of technology plays a large role in influencing the way they research, purchase and prepare meat.

2. Boomers

Don’t get all caught up in Millennials and forget about those Boomers! After all, they’ve got the buying power: this group buys more at the meat case than Millennials. Boomers tend to purchase meat as an entrée while Millennials treat it as more of an ingredient or a snack. (Learn more about meat’s changing role in our Protein and the Plate research.)  Members of this generation are interested in maintaining their health and view fresh meat as an important source of protein.

3. Hispanics

Consider them the big spenders. Although members of the Hispanic population tend to be fairly price-sensitive, they spend more on food than the average U.S. household due to larger family sizes. Meat is an essential component of the Hispanic cuisine. Consumers within this group are driving growth within the meat, particularly beef, industry. Although many within this segment are younger (60 percent are under 35), they consider shopping as more of an enjoyable social activity, rather than a necessary evil. Many like to walk the entire grocery store to find new products and tastes. Pre-cooked or semi-prepared meats are typically unappealing to Hispanics because they prefer cooking fresh products from scratch.

4. Asian-Americans

This is the fastest growing ethnic segment in the U.S., with a growth rate of 25 percent between 2009 and 2014. Like Hispanics, Asian-Americans favor fresh meats, with more than 60 percent cooking from scratch. Consumers within this group are likely to live in a multigenerational household. So, these shoppers aren’t just preparing meat to feed Gen Zs, Millennials and Gen Xers – there’s a good chance they’re serving Boomers and members of the Silent generation as well. These tech-savvy trend setters are major influencers on the new flavors and cooking methods that have recently begun appearing in restaurants and grocery stores throughout the U.S.

Armed with this information, you can make decisions that will resonate with your consumers’ needs. How will you be able to engage with such a diverse group of meat consumers? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • When targeting Millennials, consider connecting with their social lifestyle and appeal to their social and environmental consciousness
  • When reaching out to Boomers, focus on small package sizes and the importance of maintaining good physical health
  • When catering to the needs of Hispanics, offer family-size options and fresh meat cuts that complement their cooking style
  • When engaging with Asian-Americans, provide flavors and fresh meat cuts that appeal to multiple generations

As the U.S. continues to shift into a more multigenerational and multiethnic-based culture, how do you think meat consumption will continue to change?

Please share a comment – we always love to hear from you!

NRA 2016 Top 5

National Restaurant Association (NRA) Show is a behemoth conference that is both exhilarating and exhausting.  It’s a good thing our Midan team members were up to the task of tasting their way through the maze of booths and sitting in on great educational sessions, to discover what’s trending in foodservice, especially meat.

Here are Midan’s top 5 takeaways:

1. Trust and Transparency are Tops.

Consumer trust is still elusive.  There is a bias against size and scale in agriculture, a perception that “big ag” and family farms do not share the same values.  Consumers think that large farms are more likely than small farms to put their own interests ahead of consumer interests. 

(Charlie Arnot, CEO, The Center for Food Integrity, A Clear View On Transparency: How It Builds Consumer Trust)

2. Local is Trendy, but Fuzzy.

This wariness of big farming has helped fuel the “locally sourced” trend.  Consumers want local because there is a lack of trust in our food system.  Consumers don’t trust big food or completely understand food labels, but they can comprehend and get behind “local” and they associate it with higher quality, even though there is no universal definition for local.

(Townsend Bailey, Director, Supply Chain Sustainability, McDonald’s USA, LLC, Where’s the Beef:  Eco-Protein Trends Explained)

FPL Food was an exhibitor at NRA 2016.

FPL Food was an exhibitor at NRA 2016.

3. The Story Matters. 

Consumers want to know and understand where their food comes from.  The exhibiting meat companies at NRA did a great job telling their unique stories, from FPL’s Georgia farming traditions to Meats by Linz’ investment in their own herd of registered Angus cattle to Niman Ranch’s pasture-raised hogs.

Restaurant menus are the new storybooks.  U.S. adults who will spend more at restaurants in 2016 than they did in 2015 will be reading menus and looking for:

  • Natural items – 54%
  • Sustainable items – 48%
  • Organic items – 47%
  • Seasonal items – 47%

(Stacy Glasgow, Consumer Trends Consultant, and Jenny Zegler, Global Food & Drink Analyst, Mintel, Consumer Trends in Foodservice and Beyond)

4. Premium is In.

Quality. Quality. Quality.  Every meat company did a brilliant job showcasing high quality products.  Gone are our post-recession days of cheap meat; quality is the new normal.

5. Fat is Back. 

Marbling reigned supreme in all of the meat companies’ exhibits!  Fat is back and it’s appreciated by discriminating restaurant operators who want flavorful options to wow their patrons.  From Superior Farms’ flavorful lamb bacon to Compart Foods’ dry-aged pork porterhouse, meat companies are focusing on fat.

6. Charcuterie is Hot.

Olli and Zoe’s Meats were two of many charcuterie companies showcasing their slow-cured meats.  Charcuterie remains one of the hottest meat menu trends.  Salami, anyone?

Get more insight into foodservice trends.

 

3 Steps to Get People Talking about Your Brand

This blog is the second in a series by Danette Amstein excerpted from a Brand Building presentation she delivered at NAMI’s Meat Industry Management Conference in April, 2016.

Even if you’re not a coffee drinker, it’s hard to miss the ubiquitous Starbucks on nearly every corner, or at least every few blocks.  Even small communities have a local Starbucks; they’re everywhere, right? Heck, now you can get your favorite Mocha Frappuccino at Target or the grocery store.  And the thing about Starbucks is, you always know what you’re getting.  Walk into any Starbucks from Seattle to Schenectady, and you can count on a consistent product.

Red umbrellaOnce upon a time, making a consistent, quality product was enough to be successful.  But in the 1950’s, consumer packaged goods companies like Procter and Gamble and General Foods realized that they needed to differentiate their products from “the other guy’s.”   Branding, or giving a product an identity that distinguishes it from nearly-indistinguishable competitors, was born.

Effective branding requires a keen understanding of the target consumer and a “brand proposition” that offers not only functional but also emotional value.  This is where Starbucks excels.  Their branding goes way beyond that coffee in the paper cup; many of their loyal followers have an almost cult-like attachment to the brand.  (Want proof?  They have over 35 million Facebook followers.)

So what does the average meat brand need to do to get that kind of love?

It all starts with a story.  Branding is storytelling at its best, with imagery and messaging that consumers can grab ahold of and buy into.  Of course, tangibles like name and logo are an important part of branding, but intangibles like a brand’s specific promise, personality and positioning do the heavy lifting – they all shape how you tell your brand story.  A good brand creates perceived value for consumers not only in the way that it stands out from others, but in the way that it stands for something in the mind of its target audience.  Just think about what these successful brands stand for:

  • Apple (Creativity)
  • BMW (Ultimate Performance)
  • Guinness (Crafted Irish Beer)

These are the kinds of key words, the words that differentiate a brand, that we want to own unaided.  Successful brands are very purposeful about what they want their target to think and feel without prompting.  Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, boils it all down to one powerful statement:   “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

So if you are about to embark on a branding journey, here are a few pointers that can help give your brand story a happy ending:

  1. Write your brand story before you tell your brand story: Good branding strategies are clearly mapped out and documented.  Laying the brand groundwork takes lots of time and energy, but it’s the foundation for all brand decisions moving forward.
  2. Don’t start in the C-Suite: Lots of branding ideas sound great in the boardroom, but they need to be tested with a real-live target audience.  If your messaging doesn’t resonate with your target during testing, you’re sunk before you even launch.
  3. Do start with the end in mind: Think about what sets your brand apart.  What key words do you want your brand to own?

You want people talking about your brand when you’re not in the room, and incorporating these steps can help you shape what they’re saying.

Know other brands that are getting it right?  Please leave a comment or email me at d.amstein@midanmarketing.com – I always love your feedback!

Check out my previous blog, Brand Building: Finding the Sweet Spot.

Brand Building: Finding the Sweet Spot

IMG_9030 - DA at NAMI

Danette takes a selfie with attendees of her Brand Building presentation at NAMI’s Meat Industry Management Conference, April 5, 2016

Anyone who sells anything for a living has heard the old adage, “The customer is always right.”  This little nugget is more relevant than ever in today’s customer-centric economy.  Now that consumers have only to click a button to get products from kayaks to kazoos delivered to their door within hours, businesses that don’t focus on the buyer’s needs can’t survive or thrive.

Keeping your attention on the target consumer is critical, but it’s only part of the equation when it comes to another key factor in business success:  branding.   We all consume hundreds of brands every day:  Did you grab a coffee at Starbucks this morning?  Are you reading this blog on an Apple iSomething?  Will you drive home in a VW or a BMW?  In today’s uber-branded world, the challenge to brand effectively is daunting.  How do you tell your product’s story so that it stands out from others?

Even the meat industry is moving from commodity products to branded products.  And it brings very special challenges, because we aren’t selling coffee or computers.  We are dealing with a highly perishable, temperature-sensitive product for which we don’t control supply, input costs and, more often than not, the way it’s sold.

By its very nature, our product dictates that the meat industry has to tackle branding differently.

While widget companies might be able to adapt nimbly to new branding specs, meat packers and processors have production capabilities already in place, with heavy investments in capital, facilities, equipment and people.  The opportunity to upend your plant to produce a new branded meat product is slim (but if you are thinking about it…let’s talk!).

But those darn consumers…their needs are constantly changing, so you have to consider what they want and assess what you can produce profitably.  Where the overlap lies is your area of opportunity – your “sweet spot.”  It doesn’t matter if you develop an awesome brand that syncs with every desire of your target consumer if you can’t produce it in the black.

While overlaying consumer needs with a company’s core competencies might sound fairly simple, in reality it’s pretty messy.  You also have to determine your overall business strategy, evaluate the competition, develop brand positioning and create the visual language for the brand.  It’s not a linear process; you are constantly re-evaluating, revisiting and tweaking.

But the time and energy spent assessing where your customer needs intersect with what you can consistently produce will help you identify your “sweet spot.” When you do, set your sights on it with a laser focus, because it’s the foundation of a profitable brand.

Check out a new brand we recently helped a client build and launch.

If you would like to talk about building your meat brand and finding your “sweet spot,” give me a call at 704.664.MEAT or email me at d.amstein @midanmarketing.com.

AMC 2016 Top 10

As a team, Midan’s focus at AMC 2016 was to listen and learn.  We took pages and pages of notes, capturing stats, quotes and key findings.  Back at the office, we sifted through all the content and created our own long list of the most important takeaways.  Here’s what we think were the top 10.  If you were there, let us know if you agree.  If you didn’t attend, but have questions, please reach out – we love to share what we learned!

Midan_team_AMC_2016

Midan’s AMC 2016 top 10 takeaways:

  1. Forget the focus on a certain protein or cut — it’s all about application 
    • Consumers don’t buy meat; they buy what they can do with it. 57% of raw meat is purchased with a specific recipe/application already in mind. Give them ideas on what to do with your product and they will buy it. (Jack Li, Dataessential, Consumer Trends Driving Meat Innovation)
  1. Retailers have the opportunity to convert Millennials at the meat case
    • When buying meat, 64% of Millennials are open to being influenced at the store: 90% do not list a brand when meat shopping, 32% plan meat purchases, but decide at the store, and 36% make the entire meat purchase decision in-store. (Larry Levin and Chris Dubois, IRI, “Meat”ing Millennials!)
  1. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) factors heavily in Millennial decision-making
    • 87% of Millennials think business success should be measured by more than financial performance; they want to work for and buy from companies who are doing good things for society. (Andrew Winston, The Big Pivot, Doing Business in a Hotter, Scarcer, More Open and Connected World [2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey])
  1. There is a dramatic increase in consumers’ concern about chemicals in their food 
    • 36% of consumers said it is the most important food safety issue they considered when shopping for food, up from 23% in 2014. (Janet Riley, NAMI, Turning Up the Heat: Confronting Current Challenges to Meat Nutrition and Safety)
  2. Don’t forget about Boomers; they are responsible for greater spend overall on meat
    • Boomers purchase from the meat department 5 times more per year than Millennials, driving $2.3 billion in incremental sales. 78 million Boomers hold 70% of the disposable income and account for 50% of CPG sales. (Sherry Frey & Mikael Nielsen, Nielson, Polarized Consumers are the New Norm)
  3. Retailers and packer/processors who embrace digital are winning loyal followers 
    • 70% of consumers who get a quick response from companies on social media are more likely to recommend that brand to others. (Art Yerecic & Kristin Yerecic, Yerecic Label, Connect with Consumers at the Speed of Technology)
  4. Consumers are moving from ethnic buckets to more specific foods 
    • Consumers today are more interested in specific food items and their associated flavors rather than cuisines: not Mexican, but tacos; not Italian, but Chicken Parmigiana.  Food trucks have helped this trend grow. (Jack Li, Dataessential, Consumer Trends Driving Meat Innovation)
  5. The argument against GMOs has shifted from the fear of consequences to “consumers have a right to know.”
    • With respect to GMOs, consumers favor product information disclosure: 68% would like labels to indicate if a product has GMOs, but in 2015 only 1 in 4 consumers (26%) indicated that they would buy products with a non-GMO label. (David Fikes, FMI, Addressing Consumer Concerns with GMOs)
  6. The steady “drip” of adverse health news erodes consumer confidence in meat
    • The meat industry must counteract this with a flow of facts that gives consumers permission to eat our products.  Check out http://meatpoultrynutrition.org/ for a wealth of science-based information that can help do this. (Janet Riley, NAMI , Turning Up the Heat: Confronting Current Challenges to Meat Nutrition and Safety)
  7. What consumers look for on nutrition labels is changing
    • Shoppers will be paying more attention to serving size, calories, carbohydrates, sugar content and iron, while focusing less on fat, calcium, cholesterol, sodium and vitamins. (David Portalatin, NPD, The State of the Meat Eater)

Wait– I have a coupon for that!

I have a confession to make:  I have become an Extreme Couponer. All the signs are there: I’ve developed a pattern for watching my most lucrative stores for bargains and super deals. I know and use terms like Catalina, MFG, MQs, blinkies, peelies and stacking. And I have no less than five jars of spaghetti sauce in my cabinets. (The big ones — and I paid only $4 for all of them!)

In fact, I have now successfully navigated three ‘super doubles’ couponing events at my local grocery stores!  ‘Super doubles’ is when a grocery store doubles coupons, in some cases doubling manufacturer coupons worth up to $2.00. So while I’m by no means an expert in extreme couponing, I AM highly enthusiastic about the impact it has already had on my family’s grocery budget. There are three of us in my little family unit and while our budget has increased some since I landed my dream job as an Administrative Assistant at Midan Marketing, it is certainly not unlimited.  Shoppers like me who save by couponing for common household needs and side items will have extra cash to purchase more roasts, ribs and steaks than before!

So far this year (almost the end of January as I write this), I have racked up well over $400 in savings from couponing. That money is allowing me to feed my family a great variety of higher-quality meats AND help out some other folks by either sharing my stockpile or bringing meals to folks in times of stress or illness. Being able to care for my family AND share love and comfort with others without suffering financially is the greatest blessing I receive from couponing.

The Couponing Process

Friday or Saturday I look through the circulars for the stores I frequent. (Yes stores. If you want the best deals, a weekly grocery shop will take you to at least two stores.)  From there, I’ll craft my dinner plans based on how the deals line up with my already-clipped coupons. Some weeks there just aren’t tons of deals, and I’ll make a plan based on what I already have on hand to minimize the list.

A quick but exciting example:  recently, my local store had name- brand bacon on sale for “Buy 2, Get 3 Free.” Stop and read those words again… I’ll wait. FREE BACON Y’ALL!! I did not have any coupons for this bacon, so I emailed the company’s customer service and asked for some. They sent me four coupons for varying amounts off a variety of their products. So I went to the store, grabbed my five pounds of bacon (FIVE!) and after coupons I paid $11.00. Five pounds of this brand of bacon would normally have cost me about $35 at regular retail price, and I got it for nearly 70% off!

shutterstock_130416155Couponing requires significant planning and researching. When you’re carefully budgeted, walking through the store, keeping a tally of exactly what you’re spending, is tiring enough. On top of that, I have to multiply/add/divide cents and dollars, subtract percentages and compare cost per unit to be sure I’m getting the best deal…I often leave with a little headache!

 

Cost-conscious shoppers like me have a well-established habit of sticking religiously to their list.  It’s key to going into the store and getting a cart full of groceries and household goods for just dollars. I always scope out the meat case for good deals.  If there’s a lightning sale on something I’ll grab it, but if it’s just a good deal, I’ll check the sale dates, make note of it and come back to get it on a different trip.

Often I base what meat I’m buying on what side items I’m getting or have stocked at home. Recently there was a new line of ‘pouch’ sauces on sale and heavily couponed (as new items often are) for less than a dollar. One of them was a pot roast sauce for the slow cooker and it just happened that chuck roast was on sale for half price, so of course I snatched both of those up. I even got an extra chuck roast to freeze for later. I have always wondered if there was a coordinated effort when those “matches made in couponing heaven” happen or was it just a happy coincidence?

Right now in my freezer I have two packs of ground beef, a chuck roast, a few packs of chicken breasts and, of course, a bunch of bacon! I’ve not always had the ability in my life to ‘stock up’ on things, so it feels great to have some reserves. Knowing that I’ve stockpiled supplies in case (God forbid) a car breaks down or someone gets sick,  without having gone over our regular weekly budget, feels like I’m some kind of superhero!

I have really enjoyed teaching my friends how to use coupons to stretch their budgets.   If you have a question about couponing or grocery planning, please ask. I’d like to share as much as I can before I know too much about meat to be considered a regular consumer!

Happy Couponing!

Dinner at the Door: A Review of Online Meal Delivery Services

I have discovered something: I actually like to cook!  I just don’t like to plan meals and I despise standing in front of the frig with the door open, trying to figure out what I am going to feed my hungry clan. Because I work full-time and am a busy mom and wife, my time for meal planning and shopping is limited. A typical week for me includes three to four soccer practices plus church functions and chauffeuring kids to their activities – all after work!

Like many moms, I find great satisfaction in sitting down and eating as a family. I work hard to protect mealtime and try to make dinner at least four nights a week. I was curious as to how an online meal delivery service could help make this happen.

Online meal delivery services are not a new concept, but the niche certainly has been reinvigorated in the last 18 months. Here at Midan we knew we needed to learn more. So, as Shonda started researching online grocery services, I decided to investigate the meal services counterpart. I ordered from both Blue Apron and Home Chef for a couple of weeks each, to “test drive” the concept.

 

Thoughts on Blue Apron

Everything you need for dinner in one Blue Apron box

Everything you need for dinner in one Blue Apron box

Blue Apron is a three-year-old start-up now delivering five million meals a month. The menu is set each week. You cannot select for specific dietary restrictions, which could easily be a detriment for some. The first week I ordered four meals for four people. The meals cost $8.74/person, which includes shipping. The ingredients arrived plenty cold but in LOTS of packaging. My first impression was that all this packaging can’t be good for anyone but the recycling center. (Complaints from customers have led Blue Apron to put a recycling program in place where they retrieve and reuse the packaging.)

The recipes sounded good. Some of our favorites included Fennel- and Thyme-Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Oven-Roasted Brussels Sprouts and White Balsamic Pepperonata and Flat Iron Steak and Fines Herbs Butter with Garlic, Potato and Red Pepper Hash.  The pictures and instructions provided were easy enough to follow, although there were no one-dish-wonders like I often gravitate to in my stable of easy, quick meals. There was a lot of clean up; we always had several cutting boards and pots and pans to be washed. Every meal we received was tasty but my teenage son did declare that most of the meals were too “frou frou” for him. With the higher cost of beef, very little beef was sent, which certainly wasn’t to our liking either!

My biggest complaint:  Blue Apron said the meal would average 40 minutes from start to finish. That was never the case; there was usually 40 minutes of prep time before the cooking began, which lead to a few late night dinners.

 

 Thoughts on Home Chef

Home Chef launched in Chicago in 2013. This summer they reported they were shipping 70,000 meals per month. Home Chef does allow you to select for different dietary preferences, which is a plus. To accommodate family preferences, we tried the low-carb, gluten-free selections. Each week before the cut-off time, I was able to go in and confirm I wanted what they had selected for my family or change to another offering. The appetizing photography often caused me to swap one item for another.

Home Chef ingredients conveniently packaged together

Home Chef ingredients conveniently packaged together

Home Chef seemed to use fewer ingredients and ingredients were already prepped (e.g., the garlic was peeled and ready to be minced). The prep timing was more accurate, and Home Chef includes nutrition facts, which gets a gold star from me. The cost per meal is $9.95 and I usually had enough leftovers for one or two lunches. And, there was way more beef!  We had flat iron and sirloin steaks, which were delicious!  The pork chops and pork tenderloin were also excellent. 

 

Overall thoughts

Do I like this type of program?  Yes! Although I entered this as a “research project,” I was surprised by how much I liked it.
Did I continue after the test? Yes, but with only two meals a week, as that seems to be the right amount for our family and allowed me to get the kids’ favs back on the menu.
Are they more expensive than homemade meals? Yes, but this is offset by me not having to spend a good chunk of my weekends meal planning, checking inventory and shopping. Having some leftovers to take to the office for lunches also helps me justify the cost.
What was the quality of the meat and produce? I’ve got to admit, I was skeptical about how the meat and produce would look when it arrived, but I was pleasantly surprised. All of the produce was outstanding and in the eight weeks I tested, I only had one case-ready leaker: fish!  Each vacuum-sealed package of beef, pork and chicken I received was excellent. All the beef was Select grade, which I understood given the price point they have to hit. The Blue Apron pork and chicken was branded; the beef and pork I received from Home Chef was not.
Can you skip shipments?  Yes, both companies have a great app that allows you to see what is coming and skip that week’s shipment if you want/need to.

 

The biggest benefits

The biggest benefit was the convenience of knowing what we were having and that I had all of the ingredients on hand!  This is a HUGE plus for a busy mom!  While it was my job to have salt, pepper and olive oil on hand (easy enough), everything else – even spices – is included and pre-measured, which means there was no waste.

Easy-to-follow recipes from Home Chef

Easy-to-follow recipes from Home Chef

One benefit I had not anticipated was that the instructions were so good (step-by-step with photos and often a video), that I left my 14-year-old son and his buddy in charge of starting dinner while I ran to pick up my daughter. Most evenings my husband and I prepare the meal together, which gives us time to catch up and is one of the main reasons I have discovered I love to cook. Quality time with the fam, cooking and eating…the benefit of the warm fuzzies has made this experiment well worth the effort!

Retailers, I don’t think it will be too long before you will need to embrace this concept in some way to keep your VIP customers coming into your stores. I like the idea of picking up pre-measured, all-ingredients-included meals for a set price when I need a quick dinner solution. Along with providing the ultimate convenience, an in-store option like this would also eliminate shipping costs and require less packaging.

Packers and processors, if you are not in discussions with companies who play in this space, what are you waiting for?  Forging relationships now could help you grow later. Along with options like online meal delivery service, talk to your current brick-and-mortar customers about how they plan to deliver fresh meals to customers who want to spend less time shopping and more time cooking. Be a part of the solution for these customers now so you can be a part of their success later.

 

Have you tried an online meal delivery service?  I would love to hear about your experience! Leave a comment here or email me d.amstein@midanmarketing.com.

 

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