2015 Recap: Pay attention to these 3 things

When the calendar hits December 1, it’s time to start checking to see if we made the “nice” list or not! (I have confirmed my status…how about you!?!)  As 2015 comes to a close, we also pause to reflect on the significant events that have shaped our industry this year, and consider how they might impact 2016.   As I look back across the major headlines from the past year, three main themes seem to form:

  1. Prices/Supply – Oh, what a roller coaster ride 2015 has been! Beef prices found new ceilings, pork prices leveled out before taking a nose dive the last few weeks. Was any topic more talked about in the media and meat company board rooms across the country this past year?  The good news is that 2016 is bringing greener pastures, literally, thanks to much-needed rain, so more cows are being retained.  Pork producers are also breathing a sigh of relief that the PEDv outbreak is behind them.  The conditions are ripe for increases in supply with less volatile pricing, and that is something we can all be thankful for!
  1. Niches – We live in a world where specialization is becoming the norm, not the exception, and this trend has resulted in niche meat brands and products that cater to specific lifestyle and dietary needs. For some consumers, antibiotic-free is a trigger; for others, it’s animal welfare. We stopped selling one-size-fits-all meat a while ago, and in 2015 we saw further fragmentation. It will serve us well to figure out which niches are feasible to cater to and then build the brands and products to meet those needs.
  1. Health/Wellness – 2015 brought its share of headlines that tied meat with health, like whether lean meat would still be part of the Dietary Guidelines or the IARC’s report that processed meat causes cancer. But when we’re talking about meat and health, let’s not forget protein. “Protein” is a word we have to continue fighting to own. Meat is the ultimate source of protein, and if you are not calling that out in your consumer messaging, it is time to get on the bandwagon.

As we wrap up 201shutterstock_328379666 (1)5, I encourage you to spend a few minutes thinking of the ramifications of these themes.  In order for us to succeed in 2016, we have to keep our pulse on what consumers are doing and what is influencing their behaviors.  What do you think?  Do you agree with my assessment or did I miss something?  What do you think the main headlines will be in 2016?  I always appreciate your comments.

Cheers to 2016!

Meat is Mixing Things Up

“Meat and potatoes.”

What do you think of when you read that? It used to mean dinner: a big plate of red meat with mashed potatoes beside it and gravy poured all over it. Yummm!  In today’s world the saying has taken on a slightly different meaning.  It seems to be more about being “down-to-earth” or fundamentally basic, e.g. “He’s such a ‘meat and potatoes’ kind of guy.”

Dinner is no longer what comes to mind when people hear that phrase, and Midan recently uncovered one of the key reasons why.

Through our Protein and the Plate research (conducted jointly with Meatingplace and sponsored by Yerecic Label), we learned that up until 2014, annual eatings per capita where meat was at the center of the plate covered around 45 and annual eatings per capita where meat was an ingredient hung out at around 43 eatings. In 2014, these numbers switched places. For the first time, the long-standing practice of a juicy hunk of meat owning the center of the plate and anchoring the meal was replaced with that meat being cut up – chunked, diced, sliced or ground – and combined with other ingredients before being served up on dinner plates.

This is HUGE! See for yourself.

Although we in the meat industry pride ourselves on selling big hunks of meat to consumers, we must understand that while our target audience may still buy those hunks, there has been a seismic shift in meat usage. This comes as a result of increased beef prices and the unfortunate but common perception that preparing meat can be difficult and time-consuming. For many consumers, the answer to these challenges has been to cut back on the amount being purchased and serve it in a taco shell with lettuce and salsa. Boom!  Easy, quick and more affordable.

In addition to tacos, other popular ways consumers have incorporated meat as an ingredient are in pasta, soups/stews, burgers/sandwiches, burritos, casseroles,  stir fry…and the list goes on and on…

So rather than pushing consumers back to the days of rolling up sleeves and pulling a hefty roast out of the oven (because, quite frankly, they don’t want to), the meat industry must embrace this shift. Here are four things we need to do:

  1. Innovative Products

Go beyond stew meat and prepared kabobs and think of new products that can be used as ingredients. Look at how consumers are using different cuts of meat and make them recipe-ready. Convenience is key, so find ways to save time for the meal preparer.

  1. Innovative Packaging

Explore new ways to package fresh meat for multiple cooking methods, whether for the grill, slow cooker, stovetop, etc. and figure out how to cut whole muscle into smaller cuts for center of the plate and ingredient use. We have got to offer individual and smaller portions because that is what consumers want.

  1. Different Merchandising

It’s time to ramp up the integration of education into promotion. It’s time to connect the dots for the customers shopping at the meat case by providing meat in the most common weights needed for recipes and in the form those recipes call for. It is time to push the departmental barriers of merchandising aside and truly cross-merchandise with products that are likely to be used in meat -as-an-ingredient meals:  noodles for casseroles, lettuce for salads, tortilla shells for tacos.

  1. Broad Messaging

The days of telling the meat story just at the meat case are over. We have to collectively work to inform/educate consumers on the value of meat in their diets before they walk in the store. Meat companies have to be social! So get active on the social sphere and target your key customers where they are. It always comes back to catering to the consumer!!

 If we want to keep fresh meat on the plate, the meat industry must embrace the new meaning of “meat and potatoes” and provide consumers with the fundamentally basic options they are seeking at the meat case.

I’d love to hear your thoughts – please share your comments below!

Keeping Farmers’ Market Customers Shopping the Meat Case: 5 Tips for Retailers and Packer/Processors

Last month I had the privilege of sharing consumer research that Midan conducted to supplement the Power of Meat presentation during the Annual Meat Conference in Nashville. Our assignment was to shed light on the consumers who are spending more and more of their meat dollars at farmers’ markets.

While these dollars are still a relatively small part of total food expenditures, the growth of farmers’ markets is something we should all sit up and take notice of.  Whenever shoppers are spending their meat dollars outside the grocery store, retailers, packer/processors and branded meat companies lose out.

The farmers’ market shopper demographics are fairly Americana, with one key difference: these consumers have a very strong desire to know where their food comes from.

So how can we make this “farmers’ market mentality” work for retailers and packer/processors?

If these shoppers are more curious about where their meat comes from and what is (and is not) in it, then we need to communicate more clearly and regularly that the meat supplied by packer/processors and sold in the grocery store is every bit as fresh and high quality as the local farm stand. This research points to the importance of sharing the “back story” of fresh meat, so that consumers can buy meat with confidence.

So, what can you do to keep farmers’ market shoppers at the retail meat case?

  1. Tell your story

If you are selling a branded program, you have some kind of story to tell shoppers. It may not include specific farmers from a certain region. Rather, it may be more focused on why your specifications provide consumers with the eating experience they are looking for. And your story doesn’t have to be long – short and concise is all that shoppers have time for at the meat case. Sharing your story tells these shoppers that you care and are working to deliver what they want.

  1. Share the facts

Simple signs like this can go a long way in building a relationship with shoppers.

  1. Explain “fresh”

Freshness is the #1 reason consumers shop at farmers’ markets. But the meat sold in supermarkets is just as fresh. I find it a bit perplexing that we don’t really promote “fresh” at the meat case. Even vacuum-packaged and case ready products are “fresh.” It may be time to explain the major industry efforts taken to keep the meat supply fresh.

  1. Rethink those clean store policies.

I get why retailers want to minimize clutter to maximize the meat customers see. While a clear view of the sea of beef, pork and chicken is important, the pendulum is starting to swing in the other direction. More and more shoppers want some background about the meat being displayed in the case, and sharing information at point-of-sale is becoming more critical in capturing these consumers.

  1. It isn’t only about “local”

The desire for fresh, along with assurance that the animals the meat came from were well-cared-for, is huge for farmers’ market meat purchasers. These shoppers gravitate to the farmers’ market because they want to “feel good” about their purchases. But this desire to “feel good” can also be addressed in a large supermarket with meat from national packer/processors. While the buy local” movement is big in this country, shoppers know that growing cattle, pigs and chickens can’t always happen locally.

We in the industry know that the majority of animals are well-cared-for by the farmers/ranchers raising them. But consumers generally don’t see those messages of happy animals; rather, they see the vivid videos provided by activist organizations that want to defile animal agriculture.

Packer/processors, here is a great opportunity to work with your retail customers to share the positive story of all that is done to ensure a great-tasting, safe food supply from well-cared-for animals. It will help you and your customer instill confidence in those shoppers who care and expect you to care as well.

Want to learn more about farmers’ market shoppers? Check out this infographic.

GMOs: Fact vs. Fiction

If you’re like me, you’ve begun to notice that the term “GMO” is popping up everywhere.

At Midan, we make it our business to be aware of the concerns consumers have about the food they eat. Our Market Research Team conducts research on emerging trends when we see them begin to mainstream. Once I hear certain buzz words at school drop-off where moms are gathered, I know for sure it’s time to start thinking about researching the topic. I knew that questions about GMOs weren’t going away anytime soon, and I figured they would probably grow once I saw the popularity of the new documentary GMO OMG on social media. This well-done documentary chronicles a father’s quest to get answers about GMOs.

Midan conducted focus groups in Chicago among people aware of the term GMO and fielded an online quantitative survey on the topic. We will be releasing some of those results later this month. People are pretty uneasy; they don’t truly understand what GMO really means, beyond playing back the words “genetically modified organism.” The focus group conversation reminded me a lot of how people talked about growth hormones and antibiotics in past research we have conducted.

Keep your eyes peeled for our research. In the meantime, take a look at these great articles debunking GMO myths in mainstream publications:

The New Yorker: Debate over GMO labeling 

Forbes: Results of large-scale GMO study 

Today’s Natural vs. Organic Fresh Meat Consumer

Two years ago, we launched our Consumers’ Case market research platform. This research is our ongoing effort to help the meat industry stay in-tune with the ever-changing consumer. Our Market Research Team is continuously analyzing changes in consumer attitudes and behavior in an effort to determine how those changes will directly affect the meat case. Our goal is to identify opportunities to help the meat industry capitalize on shifts in consumer behavior.

As part of the Consumers’ Case platform, today we’re launching the results of Today’s Natural vs. Organic Fresh Meat Consumer. This research takes a deep dive into who is purchasing natural and organic meat products, their perceptions of the category and the factors that are driving purchases.

The reason we chose natural and organic meat as our next Consumers’ Case topic is that we continue to see a huge void in relevant information on this topic as it relates to fresh meat. There are several resources that regularly report on natural and organic products, but very little is actually reported for fresh meat. We haven’t been able to find answers to the questions we’ve had or those that we’ve been asked by our clients, so we decided to conduct a study ourselves.

If you have a natural and/or organic program or are thinking about offering products in this category, this research report will help you better understand your target consumer, and the best ways to engage and educate them.  This is the first research report focused specifically on natural and organic fresh meat products. For this research we looked at natural meat users separate from organic meat users, and also looked at three specific proteins for each:  beef, pork and chicken.

The number of natural meat products offered at retail continues to grow. Organic meats continue to account for a relatively small but growing percentage of total meat sales. We see continued strong growth for both these products categories in the future. Understanding purchasers of natural and or organic meat will help you better market your products to your current consumers, and also better communicate with potential new customers.

Please check out this new research and let me know your thoughts. You can purchase the report by going to our website, MidanMarketing.com. If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to email me directly m.uetz@midanmarketing.com. I hope you enjoy this latest installment of Midan’s Consumers’ Case market research.

Consumers: What They Really Think about Antibiotics + Livestock

Danette Amstein, Principal, blogs about her presentation to the American Meat Institute’s Antibiotics Workshop at the 2014 IPPE conference in Atlanta.  Watch to find out how you can positively impact consumer perceptions about antibiotic use in livestock. 

Download the IPPE presentation.

My first few months at Midan

It’s been about four months since I started working at Midan Marketing. How could I have ever imagined working with a team of professionals who are not only extremely smart about meat and how to promote it, but are genuine, committed and an absolute pleasure to work with? Looks like I finally have my dream job!

I pretty much hit the ground running my first week at Midan. I got to dig in on a brand tracking study, getting the most value and quality for our client, keeping the details intact. A qualitative project was already underway so it was a new experience for me to understand a unique method for getting consumer feedback. At the end of the first few weeks, I have to admit the most fun I had was working on a proprietary Midan project called Manfluence, thinking about men grocery shopping and cooking! [Read more…]

Bigger, Better, Stronger and Faster

It’s engrained in today’s society to be on the forefront of making all things bigger, better, stronger and faster, both figuratively and literally. Marketing is arguably at the heart and soul of this concept and generating new ideas is critical for success.

Every notable marketing agency has their own take on this very idea. From Midan’s viewpoint, what we are looking for is simple – to bring ideas to the table that add value both internally and externally to our clients.

We want to do our best at pushing ourselves and those we work with forward.  So it only makes sense for us at Midan to embrace this movement and do what we do best, put some new idea generation goals in place and make them measurable.  [Read more…]

The Power of Brands

Earlier this week, we delivered the 2012 update to the Power of Brands (POB) research in a webinar with Merrill Shugoll of Shugoll Research. While I’m feeling a sense of relief that we’ve finally shared this insightful piece of research with the industry, I also sit here at my desk today thinking a bit more about key action steps for the meat industry, and am struck with a sense of immense concern over some of the findings of the research. I’m once again reminded from this latest piece of research that we have a long way to go in effectively marketing meat products to consumers.

[Read more…]

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