AMC 2016 Top 10

Midan_team_AMC_2016

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!

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Resolve to Own Protein in 2016

It’s easy to guess what the top New Year’s resolutions are every January:  lose weight, get in shape, eat better, right?  (Raise your hand if you’ve picked one of these.)

The start of a new year,shutterstock_334226393 when people enthusiastically resolve to focus on their health and wellness, is a great time to be in the fresh meat industry. In order to capitalize on all the ways that meat can help the health-conscious achieve their goals, it’s important to understand two key factors challenging today’s meat consumption.

Fad Diets are Trending Down

Although the new year is the perfect time to promote lean meat to help build muscle and lose fat, interest in high-protein diets like the Paleolithic Diet appears to be fading. According to Google Trends, online searches for “Paleolithic Diet,” “Primal Diet” and other high-protein diets have been dropping significantly since 2013, reaching an all-time low in 2015. Plant-based diets, however, appear to be on the rise.

So, all those folks who were flocking to the meat case for their high-protein fix aren’t so much these days. But while high-protein diets might be losing their appeal, balanced diets are always in style. So while you might not get as many Caveman dieters, you can still lure lots of folks who are trying to eat well and maintain a healthy weight. Lean beef and pork deliver the high-quality protein every body needs all year long. We in the meat industry need to make sure consumers understand this.

Alternate Protein Sources aren’t Slowing Down

While Americans might be fickle about their fad diets, their love affair with protein seems to be going strong. Unfortunately for the meat industry, people are often choosing their protein in the dairy case instead of the meat case. The current Greek yogurt craze is just one example. Many consumers have shifted away from meat in the past year. According to our Protein and the Plate research:

  • 70% of consumers said they substitute non-meat protein for fresh meat once a week
  • 20% of meat eaters said they are replacing fresh meat more often than they did a year ago

While consumers have an increased awareness of the importance of protein, they aren’t always turning to one of the best sources on the planet to get it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the meat industry needs to OWN protein!  We are missing out if we don’t shout it from the rooftops and plaster it on the package and all marketing materials.

Fresh Meat:  The Perfect Diet Food

Let’s face it:  those gung-ho consumers with their New Year’s resolutions might not make it to the gym as often as they like (myself included), but there’s little doubt they’ll get to the grocery store. Be ready with products and messaging that help them start the new year on the right foot, with the right protein:  fresh meat.

The time is now to communicate how fresh meat is the ideal protein source for a healthy, balanced diet. Be sure your websites and social media posts are talking about it and start planning now to get this important messaging in store and on packages.

Check out these “Protein Builds” videos from Maple Leaf Foods that effectively relay the importance of protein in a healthy diet.

Leave a comment or email me directly at d.amstein@midanmarketing.com.  I love to hear from you!

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 the Bad Guy…Again

Even before the official report on whether red meat would be classified as a carcinogen was released by the IARC, I was approached by a fellow mom on the soccer field this weekend.   Knowing that I work in the meat industry, she hit me with, “So I hear meat causes cancer!”

And so it begins… again.  According to Meatingplace, “The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, has concluded that processed meat is carcinogenic to humans and that red meat is probably carcinogenic to humans.”

It doesn’t take long for the media to shorten that finding into the kind of inflammatory headline I heard on the soccer sideline.   No matter that the IARC reviewed a total of 940 agents for their potential to cause cancer:  the only one getting any attention is red meat.  (Other potential cancer-causing agents, according to the IARC’s report, include air and sun – really.)

Meat, as usual, continues to be an easy target. So whether you’re a packer, processor, retailer or allied industry supplier, you’re likely to face questions about these findings like I have.  This is a prime opportunity to review the scientific data in our arsenal that helps promote red meat’s excellent nutritional value.

The industry response thus far has been swift and smart, with both NAMI and NCBA weighing in with comments that give much-needed perspective on and context to the rulings.  A Q&A document presented by the IARC that delves deeper into the report also notes that their cancer-causing classifications don’t assess the level of risk, a critical point in the discussion that is often lost in the media frenzy.

To help you fight the provocative headlines closer to home, we’ve pulled together a few resources you can review to educate yourself, your customers, your consumers, and maybe even the woman sitting next to you at your kid’s soccer game.

Risk Bites Video: What does “Probably Cause Cancer” actually mean?

Meatingplace:  IARC issues carcinogen ratings on processed, red meat

Meatingplace:  Parsing the IARC ruling on meat and cancer; it’s complicated

Meatingplace Issues Story:  The Next Cut

Bending Gender Roles at the Grill

Yes, I like pink, and I wear a lot of jingly bracelets. I love every show Shonda Rhimes has created and own more bottles of nail polish than I am proud of. I totally embrace that I am a girl who enjoys fabric shopping and trying new casseroles. While all of this is true, I also grew up playing competitive sports, drove dump trucks one summer in college and should buy stock in Anheuser-Busch. I would in no way consider myself a tomboy, but I am not afraid of getting my hands dirty.

So in the world of “anything you can do, I can do better,” why is it that to “man the grill” is so gender specific (and annoying)?

Jacob Brogan discusses the gender roles associated with grilling in his article Grillax, Bro” and I could not help but question a few points he presents. While I do agree that grilling appears to be a male-dominated sport, I do not view it as a “societal trap” where, if sucked in, men are somehow waving the white flag to gender stereotypes. Instead, I look at it is a shared interest. If I wanted to be the Grill Master in our home, then I would learn how to do so.  I just have had no desire to dethrone my husband of that title, and am more than content being the Sultan of Salad. After reading the article, however, I was moved to create a social experiment of sorts. What if my husband and I switched roles in the realm of meal prep? I could still wear my ballet flats and he could keep his work boots, but the tongs would be swapped – salad tongs for Robert, grilling tongs for me.

But first, let me take a grillfie.

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First of all – silly me for thinking Robert would choose to prepare a salad. His side dish of choice: a squash and tomato casserole filled with cheese and bacon. I went with a fairly simple olive oil/vinegar ribeye marinade I found on Pinterest.  After we planned our meal, I made a list, because that’s what I do and he said “Well, I think I’ll just wing it!” So off we went to the grocery store, and the rest was delicious, gender-role-shattering history.

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While I had never even touched our grill, I was not new to cooking or preparing meat. I love trying new marinades and smashing chicken with my husband’s hammer to make stuffed chicken (perhaps I didn’t do that right), so I was excited about tackling the whole process. I felt fairly comfortable behind the grill, and had only one terrifying moment when I thought our patio would face a fiery end.  Robert fared equally well, jamming through casserole prep while listening to The Allman Brothers Band – air guitar in one hand, wooden spoon in the other.

Although I do feel more comfortable in the indoor, stovetop and preheated oven arena of cooking, I did enjoy my time behind the piping grates and would definitely do it again.

So what does our little experiment say about gender stereotypes and grilling?  Robert learned to grill by watching his dad and picking up tricks of the trade.  It’s what he’s comfortable with and good at.  But just because men have manned the grill since cavemen first rubbed two sticks together doesn’t mean there isn’t room by the fire for the females, especially millennial females like me.  We’re more likely to make grilling social (see my food pix on Instagram!), turn to our phone or tablet for recipe ideas (Pinterest is my go-to) and not be afraid to shake up age-old myths that only men are good at grilling.

Here’s to girl power at the grill!

Why are Butchers so Sexy?

Back in the day, when you said the word “butcher,” the first thing that might come to mind is someone like Sam from The Brady Bunch – the good ol’ reliable meat cutter from the corner store that your mom and grandma went to.  I think it’s probably safe to say that while local butchers were familiar and friendly, they weren’t generally considered especially attractive.

Times have changed.

I don’t know if you‘ve noticed it or not, but a new generation of butchers is emerging who are the current “it” thing. The “hot butcher,” often in fitted pants, a shirt exposing ripped biceps, trendy glasses and sometimes a cool beard, has been popping up across the country from New York City to Chicago to San Francisco – and the ladies are taking notice.

Sexy Butcher Image 021215

To validate this phenomenon, I did a quick search online, and apparently, I’m not the only one who recognizes this trend. There’s no question – butchers are sexy.

So what’s the appeal?

  1. Butchers are masculine. Much like the sexy firefighter or carpenter, there is a real masculinity about taking a knife to a cut of meat. It takes strength to cut across all that connective tissue, and to do it well takes a certain level of skill and mastery. Show off those biceps.
  2. Butchers are artistic. Meat cutting is an art form itself. To remember all of those different cuts of meat and know exactly where the seams are to turn a raw carcass into something delicious and decadent is definitely artistic. That’s what I call a “sizzling spinalis.”
  3. Butchers know good food. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: we women LOVE to eat. Butchers share our love of really good food and seem to get our emotional attachment to it. Give me a great cut of meat and tell me what to do with it, and I’ll be your customer for life.

This Valentine’s Day, we’re sending our love and admiration for all of the hot butchers who help stimulate and grow meat sales.  And don’t mind me if I linger a little longer at the full-service meat case…

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.

Out of the Frying Pan…

The day lean meat became insignificant in America’s diet

I finished reading in disbelief.

Meatingplace’s article on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s (DGAC) detailed an eleventh-hour, closed-door decision to remove lean meat from the list of foods being recommended as part of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines healthy foods list.

This astonishing action by the DGAC could have far-reaching, drastic implications for the meat industry, and it’s time for us to speak out against these shady, backroom politics.

The Dietary Guidelines are developed every five years as a healthy eating guide for Americans. They also help our government make decisions about school lunch program purchases and other food, nutrition and education policies regarding healthy eating. Daily consumption of meat has been included in the Dietary Guidelines recommendations since the first edition was introduced in 1980. These guidelines are developed by a respected DGAC based on an extensive review of scientific evidence that meat is one of the most nutrient-dense sources of protein and other important nutrients, including zinc, iron and B-vitamins.

I guess I shouldn’t have been baffled at how the current DGAC could decide it is appropriate to strip lean meat from its recommendations. It is clear that some of the committee members have radical viewpoints that aren’t grounded in fact-based science. It seems these individuals were able to sway the other members of the committee, making it acceptable to incorporate personal opinions into government recommendations regarding the makeup of a healthy diet for the American population.

This bold move by the DGAC should be another wake up call to our industry. Those organizations and individuals who want to eliminate meat production and consumption continue to hold sway over how our industry does business. Not only are they working to change consumers’ opinions about farming and production practices in order to influence how we produce and market our livestock, they now appear to be in a position to make government recommendations regarding what we should  eat.

We as an industry must continue to be vigilant in conducting sound scientific research that shows the nutritional value of meat, and use that data to educate consumers (and our government, it appears!) about meat’s role in a healthy diet. If you have such research to share at this time, or you too feel that the current DGAC is way off base in removing lean meat from its 2015 dietary guidelines recommendations, I urge you to stand up and make your voice heard.

Please take some time to review the DGAC’s recommendations and industry comments on the Health.gov website. Then work within your organization and in cooperation with other industry agencies to monitor the timing of the Federal Register’s announcement of the final comment period, and submit comments that support the continued inclusion of lean meats as a necessary part of the dietary guidelines.

I believe this is truly an industry turning point. If we don’t want it to be a tipping point, we must not allow the current recommendations to stand.

 

Helpful Links

Details about the dietary guidelines development process can be found here: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015.asp#overview.

During the December 15 DGAC meeting, the committee voted to approve as its final recommendations for a healthy dietary pattern, a diet that did not include lean meat. Following the meeting, interested parties were given until December 30 to comment. If you’d like to review the comments submitted, they can be found here: http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2015/comments/readComments.aspx.

According to the Health.gov website on the guideline, the DGAC’s recommendations will be submitted to the Secretaries of the Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture in early 2015. Once submitted, a Federal Register notice will be published announcing the availability of the recommendations, and another open comment period will be announced along with a date for a public meeting to provide comments to the Federal Government on the report.

Top Headlines that Shaped 2014

Top Headlines that Shaped 2014

As we pause to reflect on the year behind us, those of us in the meat industry look for the key takeaways that can help us in the coming year. In many ways, 2014 was like the year it followed:   shrinking supplies, rising prices and plenty of challenges for the meat industry from multiple fronts. As we look back across the last 12 months, 5 major themes stand out – themes that will continue to have an impact on the U.S. meat industry:

  1. Fresh meat prices skyrocketed in 2014, making bold headlines throughout the year. 1The average retail price of beef and pork increased 9%, and the average retail price of chicken increased 4%. Despite these surging prices, consumer demand is staying strong.
  2. Four years of severe drought have created dramatic shifts in the geography of the live cattle supply. This issue has weighed heavily on the minds of everyone in the fresh meat supply channel. Earlier this year, Bloomberg covered the drought in California, and Meatingplace provided an in-depth report on the drought’s considerable industry implications. And still, we wait for rain….
  3. The buzz around antibiotic resistance continues to grow, fueled by the late 2013 release of the CDC’s Antibiotics/Antimicrobials Threat Report. Many consumer advocate groups are adamant in their call for the FDA to ban the use of antibiotics in livestock. The need for clear, factual communication with consumers about why and how antibiotics are used couldn’t be more important.
  4. Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDv) took over the fresh pork industry in 2014, threatening pork supplies and suffocating producer’s profits. In September, the USDA granted Zoetis a conditional license to develop a PEDv vaccine, injecting hope into this grim animal health issue.
  5. Acquisition and consolidation isn’t new to the fresh meat industry, but the magnitude of the deals certainly continues to grow. This year, Tyson Fresh Meats won the bidding war against Pilgrim’s Pride for the Hillshire brands, following Shuanghui’s Smithfield acquisition in 2013. Who’s next?

So what does your 2014 Top 5 list look like? What will make meat industry headlines in 2015? I would love to hear your comments!

A toast to a New Year and new opportunities for the meat industry!

1FreshLook Marketing: For the 52-weeks ending on October 26, 2014, compared to the prior year.

3 Things to Consider for FY 2015 Planning

It’s always interesting to me how consumer trends across the board shape what happens in the meat case. As you plan for FY 2015, here are three trends that you should consider:

  1. Capitalize on the Protein Craze

A walk down any center grocery aisle will tell you that protein is one of the hottest buzzwords right now. It’s as if the rest of the world just figured out what we’ve known all along:  protein is a big deal. Everything from cereal to pasta now boasts added protein, and consumers are gobbling it up. This trend means good things for the meat industry — we have a lock on protein!  Not only is meat an excellent source of naturally-occurring protein, it tastes great. Would you rather get 23 grams of protein from a nice juicy Strip Steak, or 11 grams from a bowl of Cheerios™ Protein?

The message consumers need to hear is this:  look no further than the meat case for protein-rich, nutritious food.

Other nutrition topics we need to pay attention to include recent challenges to established USDA guidelines on fat intake. Headlines are swirling that saturated fat, long considered to be a diet no-no, might not be so bad after all. Consumers who have been restricting their fat consumption might now consider coming back to the meat case. You need to be ready for them, and loudly proclaim the incredible value of protein-rich, flavorful meat.

Read more:

Last 50 years of diet advice on meat, saturated fat could be wrong

Low-carb trumps low-fat for weight loss and cardiovascular risk: study

High-protein diets linked to lower blood pressure: study

  1. Give Permission to Spend More

There’s no way around it:  beef prices are continuing to rise, and the price gap between beef and other proteins is widening. Current beef prices, already about 30% higher than 2013 levels, are expected to climb another 12% in 2015, while pork and poultry are expected to drop about 15% and 8%, respectively.*

For beef retailers, it’s no time to shrink. (Pun intended!) Instead of apologizing for the sticker shock, give your customers permission to splurge on what some have been cutting back on: beef.  According to Len Steiner, demand is one of the drivers of higher-than-expected prices.* For beef lovers, nothing satisfies like a tender, juicy steak, and sometimes all they need is a little nudge to get over that price hurdle.

Pork and poultry retailers, you should soon be sitting pretty. With those anticipated lower prices, you will be perfectly poised to develop messaging around being the most affordable protein choice.

Read more:

*Fat is in, changing meat economics: Steiner  

  1. Thin is In

Bigger beef carcasses are leading to even-higher-priced steaks. Savvy retailers already know that cutting primals into thinner cuts generates packages with more-appealing unit prices for customers. But have you thought about the across-the-board implications of thinner cuts?  Merchandising should include simple meal suggestions and shorter recommended cooking times to ensure a positive eating experience. Prominently feature recipes on your website that showcase thinner cuts and revised timings.

Another reason to pay special attention to thinner cuts is a shift in demand for portion sizes. Large segments of the population, particularly Millenials and Boomers, are now looking for smaller package sizes and smaller cuts. More than ever, you need to be aware of customers’ needs and evaluate your product mix and merchandising programs to meet those needs.

Read more:

Bigger Cattle; Smaller Steaks

What do you think?  What’s on your mind as you’re planning for FY 2015?  Please leave a comment below or feel free to contact me directly at d.amstein@midanmarketing.com.

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