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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!