A Millennial’s Two Cents on Meat Alternatives

I am a 90’s baby, loved and known by all as a “Millennial.” I quote the late Kurt Cobain, frontman for Nirvana, not only for the generational icon he is but because he said it best, he said it for all of us and at times he had us screaming it at the top of our lungs, “Here we are now — entertain us.”

Although Cobain’s quote is a generalization, it accurately reflects a Millennial’s expectation of the world at large, and this includes the grocery landscape. As a twenty-something consumer navigating the shopper’s journey, I find myself attracted to stores that combine a sense of entertainment with high-quality products to help elevate my grocery shopping experience. What our mothers thought of as a dreaded chore, we Millennials view as an opportunity to be engaged.

[Read more…]

Are You “Brand Safe”?

As a meat processor, you stake your reputation on the quality and safety of your products. You wouldn’t dream of letting meat leave your plant without following every safety precaution to the letter of the law. Unfortunately, many companies aren’t as careful about maintaining the safety of their brand. Although intangible, your brand reputation requires the same kind of stringent safeguards that protect your meat products.

[Read more…]

Meat Today’s Top 4 Consumers

RMC Blog Image

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.

[Read more…]

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.


Memories From The Farm


At Midan, we’re not just marketers, we’re farmers.  So in celebration of National Agriculture Day on March 18, we’ve asked Karen, our Senior Account Executive and a Missouri farm girl, to share her story.

I grew up on a family farm. We had hogs and cattle, raised some row crops and had pastureland. Much of my time was spent riding my Shetland pony, Misty, through all the hills and hollows of the 1,000-acre farm we rented. My dad used to say that I knew the farm better than anyone else, because I explored every corner. The Auxvasse Creek ran through our land and there were never-ending wonders to see.


My first gainful employment was at age six, when my dad suggested that I water and feed a set of gilts (female pigs that haven’t given birth yet) every day for a couple of months in exchange for $50. I say “gainful” because I’d been working on the farm ever since I could remember. Dad loves to tell people about putting my older brother, sister and me all in different pens with sows having babies, so that we could wipe the piglets off as they were born. I was about four years old. (Mom wasn’t nearly as thrilled about that as Dad, since the sows weighed anywhere from 250 to 400 pounds and could be cantankerous, to put it mildly). With that $50, Mom and I went to town and opened a checking account for me. Pretty cool to have a checking account well before you’re 10 years old; less cool to have it only so you can buy feed at the local feed store for your calves.

I was raised with a strict sense of responsibility. Taking care of my chores was first, above anything else, because I was responsible for animals and they depended on me. Watering, feeding and checking hogs and calf pens were daily chores, while checking grazing cattle, riding the fences to make sure they were in good shape and cutting thistles out of the pastures were weekend duties.


My family eventually bought a 400-acre row crop farm and we moved there when I was 9 years old. We moved in our family grain truck (my mother’s piano did survive, despite her doubts!). We raised hogs and grew row crops like corn and soybeans. I raised 4-H calves too, to build my college fund. As I grew up, I graduated into chores like driving the tractor and disk, combining wheat and baling straw and hay. Fast-forward several years and you’d see that I graduated from college with an animal science degree and then started my lifelong career in the agriculture industry.

I passionately believe I had the best foundation possible because I grew up on a farm. My brother is a full-time farmer, and his son and daughter now help him on the farm. My roots make me who I am. My belief that U.S. farmers are the best people on the face of the earth is unshakeable.

Why do I work at Midan Marketing? Because we know what every facet of the U.S. agriculture industry brings to the world and we understand the personal ethics and hard work that make that gift possible.

So, on Ag Day and every day, I offer a very heartfelt “thank you” to farmers everywhere.


On the Inside Looking In.

Think about your first day on the job. Chances are it went something like this:

Fill out paperwork, read a training manual, meet with HR, have IT set up your computer, meet a bunch of people and immediately forget their names….maybe a group lunch? With a few exceptions, this is a pretty by-the-book rundown of the onboarding process.

Midan is one of those exceptions.

Now, we’ve covered the culture of Midan from the perspective of a new hire before. There’s one important part that bears repeating: as part of the hiring process, you meet with everyone. Ev-ry-one. Be it by phone, Skype, in-person or on-site, you are gonna have a chat with the whole staff. Simply put, this is a master class in interviewing.

This could also be considered utter madness if it didn’t work so well. And it really does—by the time you come on board, you’ve interviewed them as much as they have you. At some point in the process, the shiny new “interview personality” breaks down and you’re just you, having a chat with another person. I didn’t know it at the time, but this instills a certain confidence that I’ve never experienced coming into a company. How cool is that?

Back to that first day. Mine consisted of walking out the door at 5 AM to head to the airport and hop a flight from Chicago to Nashville. Let that soak in for a minute. Yeah, my first day on the job happened to coincide with the annual Midan team meeting, held at the amazing Gaylord Opryland Hotel. Having the more mechanical introductions out of the way, I resigned myself to sit back and take it all in over the next few days.

Throughout meetings, what struck me was the two-way street that developed. I saw transparency that allowed people to talk about what was stressing them out, what needed to change and what their hopes for Midan Marketing were.

What I saw was a great team working towards something greater. That’s not just motivational poster tripe, either. As with any gathering of people, there are bound to be road bumps, miscommunication, and a real need to be heard. So to watch all this come at you in real time, to see dynamics shift and watch people leave with a resolve to do better…well, I stand by that statement.

The main takeaway here is twofold: 1) Pay attention to the place that goes beyond the normal interview/team building stuff. There’s likely something exciting and different happening. 2) Problems in a team are normal; it’s how they get addressed that make a place extraordinary.

So that was Day 1. Oh, and then we went line dancing.


To learn more about the Midan Team Meeting, view our photos here: https://www.facebook.com/MidanMarketing


Millennial Farmers Are Changing the Industry

When it comes to Millennials, most people are interested in learning about how they shop, or what they eat, watch or wear. But, as I started thinking about Millennials, I found myself more interested in Millennial farmers, and how they might be doing things differently from previous generations. What do they think about the industry and more specifically, what do they think about their future in the agriculture industry and the future of our agricultural communities? Do they see a difference in previous generations of farmers versus their generation?

To get answers, I decided to turn to my younger brother (Patrick Holland) and a close family friend (Mitchell Curtis), both Millennials working in agriculture, to get their perspectives. Here are three key takeaways that I think our industry knows but we need to continue to address.

  1. As smaller communities continue to struggle to keep and attract members, we have to figure out how to not lose the connection from farm to products even more than what we already have. We are getting further and further away from the farm every generation.
  2. While there is a struggle to keep good, young people in agriculture, there are many like Patrick and Mitchell that care so much about the industry and will continue to push it forward. We have to continue to help tell the story of why and how technology can be good for farming and not necessarily scary.
  3. I truly believe that no matter the generation, those in the agriculture industry love what they do and care about it more than people in other professions. Millenials are going to try farming with their own twist by utilizing new technologies. Millennial farmers are no different than Millennial consumers – they want to be on the cutting edge of technology, pave their own way, and not do something just because it is the way it’s always been done.

Interviewee Bios:

Patrick Holland went to college to study Ag business at the University of Illinois and is now a seed corn advisor for Beck’s Hybrids.

Patrick Holland








Mitchell Curtis is a fourth generation farmer on the same land, but says his family has always been involved in farming for many generations on land in the area.








Why did you choose a career in agriculture? Why do you farm?

Patrick Holland (PH) – A lot of it is because where I grew up, I was immersed in it. Everything is ag. Ag is a part of everything in the world and it is a fun industry because people don’t realize how much ag does for them on a daily basis. I grew up going to fairs and watching cattle shows, and continued with 4-H and FFA.

Mitchell Curtis (MC) – The first key for me was to never leave farming. The tradition and the relationship with my grandfather played a large role. I always talk about working with someone who remembers bringing home the first tractor ever built. It really struck me and I held close because of the family ties. And, I really love the outdoors, the land and always pushing myself.

Patrick, what do you see as the biggest difference between your younger clients and your older clients?

PH –Younger clients are more cutting-edge, out there and ready to learn new things. Middle-generation guys want to try it but they are more reluctant and wait for it to come to them. The older-generation will try some different things but are a little more resistant to learn. But, I heard a quote once: “If you don’t like change, you’ll like irrelevance a whole lot less.” That is how I think the younger generation looks at our industry. 

Mitchell, what do you see as the biggest difference in your generation of farmers versus your dad’s, or even your grandfather’s?

MC – The biggest thing right now is that there are two big gaps in farmers – my dad’s age and my age. There are very few my grandpa’s age that are still in charge of the day-to-day operation. The biggest difference on the business aspect is that the younger farmers have a willingness to put themselves out there. Our generation has had the benefits of technology, hybrids, application of fertilizer (soil management) and we are more aggressive than some of the older generations.

My generation also looks at the farm as a business and not just family tradition. We want to diversify the farm even more than older generations. Sometimes, I think we need to look for different ways to make a living, partly because we are hard workers who haven’t been burned yet. At our farm, we are always trying to balance the good and bad crop years (by being diversified). The older generations had to supply feed for their animals. So, they had to stay in both crops and livestock. Now, we can buy our feed fairly cheap when we get enough rain.

Why do more people your age not go into this industry? 

PH – At least where I am at looking at the industry (West-Central Illinois), there are a lot of people I know that did go into ag. With farmers in this area, there are quite a few next generations that have gone away to college or for a job and now they are back on the farm. If you don’t have a family farm, it is hard to get into actual farming, so a service job in the industry is the next best thing.

MC – I think that our society is driving people away from our industry. There is such a big emphasis on academics but never any talks about self-education. You also don’t hear people talk about accountability. We are slowly adding more and more to the disconnect between the way food is raised and how you buy things from a store. People don’t eat at home but actually eat out more. Then, when you get into farming, if your dad doesn’t farm that many acres you have to ask yourself if you should come back to the farm or if you should go to the city where the jobs are. This continues to add to the disconnect between farming and food.

Why is it so hard to get into farming without a family farm?

PH – It is very hard to get started because it takes so much capital even with the special loans that are available.

What is the biggest struggle in keeping people in your community? Where are people going if they aren’t staying in the area and farming?

PH – There are a number of jobs like farming, teaching, banking and factory jobs that people can do. But, as far as being able to get the next generation to come back to small farming communities or to stay here in the first place, that’s getting more difficult. There just aren’t the types of jobs here that people would move here for. Or, if they come back, it is to farm or run a family business. So, people leave and find a job someplace else, most likely in an urban area. If we could create more jobs where you can be promoted and feel like you are progressing, that would help the area a lot.

Since you both live in a farming community, do you think people in your area are more in tune with where their food comes from? Why/why not?

PH – There is still a disconnect between “town” and “farm”…it’s ALL around them and compared to Chicago, yes, they are more familiar but they don’t think about it either. More of their food comes from the local IGA or Walmart.

MC – More in tune than people that live in cities, for sure. Town kids overall are more understanding and have more respect for agriculture than people from larger cities. There are many businesses that depend on the farmers and so many businesses that are family-owned. They have more appreciation and respect for the families that farm. 

What is the one thing you’d want people to know about the industry? 

PH – Farmers care more about what they do and their industry than what people give them credit for. There are always going to be different things that we can continue to try to get better at, but overall, farmers are good stewards of the land.

MC – First, before people make an opinion on agriculture, check the propaganda behind it. There are definitely things that farmers can continue to improve. But overall, farmers want to continue to be better stewards of the land.  

My head says OK, my budget says no way…

So you’re thinking about conducting consumer research, but you haven’t pulled the trigger.

You are not alone. As consumer research specialists, we’ve found that many clients have trouble making the leap from considering consumer research to actually doing it. Often, the stumbling block is cost. If you aren’t saying it out loud, you are probably thinking it, “How much did you say this research will cost? That’s more than the price of going to market! We can’t possibly afford that, just forget it.

While you might feel some sticker shock initially, consider the long-term value of the information you can glean about your customers by surveying them. The reality is that without making some investment to talk with and listen to your target audience, you could be missing a huge opportunity.

What can consumer research do for you?

Research sheds the kind of light on consumer behavior that can keep you from blindly taking risks that lead to failure. Customers can make or break a business, so understanding what matters to them is vital. Let their way of thinking guide you. Consumer research can help you:

  • determine market demand for a new product and confirm whether consumers have a real need for what you’re offering.
  • gain insights about a target group about whom you have little or no understanding.
  • gather feedback about new concepts that you are interested in pursuing, so that you can modify your plans or switch gears before it is too late.
  • assess the impact of marketing on product sales at the store level, before a national roll-out.

Make consumer research work for you

Consumers can’t make decisions for your business, but the insights that come from surveying them can help you make informed decisions that have a critical impact on your business.

According to Rich Thoma, vice president of sales and marketing for Yerecic Label, conducting consumer research was one of the smartest decisions his company made for their marketing programs. “Taking new products to market that are supported by consumer research not only brings validity to our products, but also increases our access to potential clients who are hungry to hear from consumers,” says Thoma.

Thoughtfully-conducted consumer research can generate real results, like increased sales. MilkPEP studied consumer reactions to the positioning concept for a new program to increase milk usage, Latte Love, which ultimately drove a 1% increase in milk volume sales. Progresso Soup used consumer research to determine its competitive advantage over other soup brands among the Hispanic population, which lead to targeted messaging that increased both dollar volume and Hispanic-specific dollar volume.

Consumers are not only our targets; they are incredible resources for our industry. Making the investment in consumer research gives you a wealth of knowledge that can translate to real dollars and cents. So if you want to know what consumers think, it’s worth it to ask.

If you’d like to learn more about talking to consumers, please contact Mary Pat Anders at m.anders@midanmarketing.com.

Teamwork Makes the DREAM Work…

Corporate culture is a nebulous concept that can make or break a working atmosphere.

At Midan Marketing, principals Danette and Michael provide the framework for our culture by clearly sharing their business values and priorities. They work hard to build a cohesive team whose members positively encourage and challenge each other.

But company leaders can only provide a loose structure for a successful culture; it’s up to the team to build on that foundation.

To flesh out the cultural skeleton, it is up to us to buy in to the company values and mission and adopt them as their own.

At Midan, our culture is driven by passion – for meat, for team, for families, for growth. Of course, our passion for meat is forefront, but our passion for team generates open communication and trust in each other to excel in our areas of expertise. We work hard, but we have fun together and encourage each other to produce exceptional results.

We are also passionate about our families, and are fortunate that the Midan culture supports a healthy work/life balance. Midan principals recognize that family and personal life cannot always be contained in the hours before and after work, and they have encouraged a culture of flexibility to find ways to help with those needs.

At Midan, team members are encouraged to have interests outside of work. These interests help our staff bring unique perspectives and new ideas to the table that benefit team members and clients.

And while Midan has a single over-arching culture, there are many subcultures in play. These subcultures come from having two key offices in geographically-diverse areas and a few remote offices. Other subcultures are departmental. Each individual team — Creative Communications, Market Research, Account Management, and Administration — works and interacts differently. This doesn’t even touch on the myriad of cultural goodies we all bring from our personal lives! While we all share similar values and a passion for our work, we work to achieve Midan’s vision from different points of view.

I think it is very important to make the distinction between culture and environment. Culture has nothing to do with environment. Game days, ice cream outings and office parties are fun, but they are part of the company environment, not the company’s culture. They are the perks of a culture that values its team members.

Although Midan’s values and mission are defined and a cohesive team is in place, we realize that our culture is not static. In fact, it’s very messy. Every time a new team member joins us, the culture changes. Every time a new client is acquired, the culture changes. And when a key or long-term staff member leaves, the cultural balance is upset and it takes a while for the culture to mend and regain its balance.

So the next time we find ourselves thinking that everything is changing, let’s think about our cultural framework. Chances are that the loose structure is still the same, and it’s up to us to continue to develop and support the culture with the new building blocks we are given.

3 Basic Things U.S. Consumers Take for Granted about Meat

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!