Five Opportunities to Sell More Fresh Meat

sell-more-fresh-meatAt Midan, our Market Research Team is always scoping out the consumer trends that are having the biggest impact on the meat industry. A key part of our job is to help our clients understand the implications those trends can have on their business. By assigning meaning to facts and figures, we can help turn meat trends into opportunities.

So what opportunities should be on your radar? I’ve outlined five that you might find helpful as you jump into the new year:

[Read more…]

2017 Planning: Take Your Cues from 2016

Ah, fall is finally here!  The temperature has cooled down and that means it’s time for sweatshirts, pumpkin spice hot chocolate and Fantasy Football (Wish me luck — I’m a rookie!). It is also the period when we start mapping out marketing plans for next year.

2016-man-leaping_377448043

In preparation for this blog, I reviewed what I outlined in last year’s planning blog and soon realized that the 7 points that I highlighted for 2016 are more relevant than ever. Some are especially significant now that we are getting a better handle on Millennials’ and Boomers’ meat consumption habits through our recent research. So my advice here is simple: read and repeat! (Just think of that genius marketing phrase from the shampoo bottle: “Lather, Rinse, Repeat.” If something is effective, do it again!)

[Read more…]

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.

[Read more…]

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?

[Read more…]

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!

7 Things to Consider for 2016 Planning

It’s that time of year again:  college football season!  And while I am all about watching my beloved K-State Wildcats, this season also signals a key period for meat industry professionals:  planning time.  That means careful analysis of historical sales data along with a watchful eye on emerging consumer trends.  To help you think about where the industry is headed as you plan for 2016, we’ve put together seven tips that address the trends we think will have greatest impact on the coming year:

  1. Promote meat as the ultimate protein: Hello meat leaders, we need to be shouting this from the rooftops, on all packaging and POS and in every B2C ad!  Until we make a concerted effort to spell this message out to consumers, those pesky center-of-the store items boasting added protein will continue to steal our thunder. 2016 has to be the year when consumers can’t miss the message that meat is the best source for protein.  Learn more.
  1. Sell meat as an ingredient: While we in the industry like to think that thick steaks or chops still rule the center of the plate, today’s consumers think differently.  We have entered a new era where consumers are choosing cuts that can be mixed with other ingredients for convenience, flavor and budget reasons.  If you want to reach consumers where they are right now, provide meat in more ingredient-friendly ways.  Learn more.
  1. Focus on what your brand does best: Branded meat must fill a niche.  If your brand is trying to be everything to everyone, you dilute your message and end up with mediocre results.  Identify your target and put a laser focus on them.  It‘s okay to say “no” to a potential customer that wants you to change something about your brand.  In 2016, keep your brand messaging focused, engage your customers and consumers who fit your target and don’t detour.

2016 blog photo

  1. Explain what you do and why: Lately, it seems like everything we do in production agriculture is called into question. To counteract this, the meat industry must be transparent.  Consumers want the opportunity to understand why you do you what you do.  For years, we haven’t taken the time to explain our practices and by not doing so, we appear guilty of hiding something from the public.  If you want to silence our very-vocal critics, make 2016 the year that your back story is prominently featured on your website and promoted on your social media channels.
  1. Reconsider your packaging: The Boomers have fewer people to feed each night and the Millennials rarely sit down at the table.  This creates a conundrum with our conventional packaging.  We need case-ready single portion steaks and chops to meet the needs of both groups. Demographics don’t lie:  the make-up of our population is changing, and your packaging must change to reflect this. Take a hard look at your packaging in 2016 and make it more consumer-friendly.
  1. Give consumers the convenience they crave: Boomers are busy filling their new-found free time outside the kitchen and most Millennials don’t know how to cook if it doesn’t go into the microwave.  We have to make the end goal of a great-tasting meal easier.  As your plan for 2016, include R&D dollars to find more value-added options to meet this consumer need.
  1. Explore your export potential: If you are not getting serious about the export potential for your branded meat programs, you are missing the boat (yep, pun intended here).  The global middle class is growing by leaps and bounds, with most of the growth taking place in Asia.  With discretionary spending comes the desire for premium offerings.  In 2016, create opportunities for your branded programs outside the U.S. by telling your story and engaging these quality-hungry consumers.

Agree? Disagree?  Leave me a comment or email me your thoughts.  I always enjoy hearing from you!

I hope your planning season is wrapped up well ahead of the college football bowl games.  I plan to be planted on the couch, wearing purple and cheering on my Wildcats!

UPDATE:  2017 Planning Blog now available

Loyalty Has its Rewards

It’s spring break and I find myself sitting in a hotel room overlooking Times Square. This was not the original plan. My family and I had intended to be on the farm in Kansas. But other family duties called. My husband’s 81- year-old uncle — sharp as a tack mentally with an aching, aging body — has decided to make the move from his apartment into assisted living. It’s a move we’re all pleased with, because we’ll worry just a little less about him when he is no longer living alone.

Exhausted from packing and purging all day, I experience the gluttony of sensory overload below me: digital billboards bombarding hundreds of brand messages in a rapid-fire cadence. Only those that are overly large, clever or obnoxious seem to break through the clutter– a good reminder for the business I am in.

Another reminder is where I am staying and how it came about. I am at the Marriott Marquis, a very nice hotel in Times Square that’s crazy expensive by this Kansas farm girl’s standards, unless you have a ridiculous amount of reward points saved up and it is suddenly FREE with all the upgrades!  “Thank you for your loyalty, Ms. Amstein!” the desk clerk said cheerfully when I checked in with my family.

So what the heck does my experience have to do with meat?  Everything. I am loyal to a certain hotel brand because they reward me with freebies and make me feel just a little bit above average… like I might be sort of special. I study the advertising binge of Times Square, looking for my favorite brands, because I know that any brand with any clout is bound to be emblazoned there. I am loyal to certain restaurants when I travel because I know I can count on them to reward me with great-tasting food. For example, when I am in the Theater District of NYC, I always eat at Bistecca Fiorentina, because their Tuscan T-bone is to die for. I tell anyone and everyone coming to the city about it so they’ll go there too.

Loyalty. It can have a HUGE payout for brands.

What are you doing to create loyalty for your brand? As I see it, packer/processors have three “customers” for which to create loyalty:

Customer #1: Your Sales Force

When your sales force is juggling a million balls a day to keep your business moving, it’s critical to find ways to keep all brands front and center with your team. If you aren’t talking up your brands, providing sales support and creating excitement about your products, how can you expect your team to sell the full portfolio to their customers?  Explore ways to regularly connect your team to your brands to generate loyalty internally.

Customer #2: Your Customers — Retailers and Foodservice Operators, the Gate Keepers to Consumers

When things are hectic, sales team members tend to default to talking to customers about their favorite brands or the newest brands, rather than taking the time to review a customer’s current portfolio to uncover new opportunities. By identifying branded opportunities for your customer that may address a specific weakness in their line up, you can help your customer become loyal to your brands. Filling a need fosters loyalty.

Customer #3: Consumers — those who ultimately Purchase, Prepare and Eat your Branded Items

Consumers are blasted with messages from a variety of brands all day long, and while it might not be as bad as Times Square, it can be overwhelming. Creating messaging that cuts through the clutter and helps the consumer identify with your brand not just once but every time they come in contact with it is the first step in building a relationship. Then, when you couple product attributes that the consumer is seeking with an eating experience that meets expectations, loyalty can begin to take root.

If you are not doing something to create loyalty with all three of these customers, take a hard look at your brand. My guess would be that your brand’s growth may just be stagnant. If this is the case for a brand or two in your portfolio, take a step back and think about how to reward the very best of each of these types of customers, give them a little something extra, and make them feel special.

Check out how we helped our clients cut through the clutter to create loyalty.

And the next time you’re in New York, be sure to consider a stay at the Marquis and the steak at Fiorentinas on West 46th!

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.

photo-credit