Topics that Shaped 2016

At Midan, it is our job to pay attention to what is happening in the meat industry and beyond. Each week we comb the headlines, not only to keep up-to-date, but to identify patterns that could become trends that impact our industry. As we look back at the past year, a few prominent themes emerge that are likely to continue to require our attention in 2017.

Millennials: The challenge is different with this generation – we simply can’t lump them into a nice, neat category. After all, these “kids” have redefined individualism! One thing is certain: they are a large population force to be reckoned with and their impact has led to shifts in how businesses market to them. Millennials grew social media, heightened consumer consciousness about issues like sustainability and led the charge for clean labels, all while demanding bold flavors and convenient meal options. Complicated? Yes! Worth the effort? You bet!

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Millennials, Boomers and Meat: A Closer Look

We’ve all heard so much about Millennials, you might think you already know everything there is to know about them.  But if you’re still trying to get inside the head of this enigmatic species, we’ve got some intel that can help you engage this elusive target and sell more fresh meat.

millennials at the meat case

There’s good reason the media has been advising you to pay attention to this consumer segment — Millennials number 75 million strong and know how to make themselves heard.

At Midan, it was only natural that we wanted to learn more about their meat eating habits.  But we also wanted to understand them in context:  how do they purchase meat compared to other consumers?   We decided to study Millennials alongside that other influential generation impacting the meat case in a big way: Baby Boomers.  Millennials have been getting all the attention lately, but it’s the Boomers that have all the money – don’t underestimate their buying power!

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Wait– I have a coupon for that!

I have a confession to make:  I have become an Extreme Couponer. All the signs are there: I’ve developed a pattern for watching my most lucrative stores for bargains and super deals. I know and use terms like Catalina, MFG, MQs, blinkies, peelies and stacking. And I have no less than five jars of spaghetti sauce in my cabinets. (The big ones — and I paid only $4 for all of them!)

In fact, I have now successfully navigated three ‘super doubles’ couponing events at my local grocery stores!  ‘Super doubles’ is when a grocery store doubles coupons, in some cases doubling manufacturer coupons worth up to $2.00. So while I’m by no means an expert in extreme couponing, I AM highly enthusiastic about the impact it has already had on my family’s grocery budget. There are three of us in my little family unit and while our budget has increased some since I landed my dream job as an Administrative Assistant at Midan Marketing, it is certainly not unlimited.  Shoppers like me who save by couponing for common household needs and side items will have extra cash to purchase more roasts, ribs and steaks than before!

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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.

 

Meat Shopping With Midan – Friends and Family Edition

At Midan, we live, breathe and think about meat – all the time. In an effort to better understand how different Millennials purchase meat, I interviewed my friend, Cathy Lee, for this edition of Meat Shopping with Midan. Cathy is a former urbanite turned Millennial Mom, now living in the suburbs of Chicago. She works part-time as an occupational therapist and spends the rest of her time trying to get dinner on the table while chasing her toddler around.

 

Caroline and Cathy

 

Midan Marketing (MM):  Tell me how you typically shop for groceries in a given week.

Cathy Lee (CL):  I usually go to the grocery store three to four times a week, and the place I go depends on what is closest or what I need.

 

MM:      Wow, seems like you’re at the store pretty frequently.

CL:          I used to be a once-a-week grocery shopper in my single years until I met my husband, who liked going to the grocery store more frequently. When we first started dating, he pointed out how much food I would waste when shopping once a week, mostly because I would end up going out to eat a few times mid-week, and then have to throw out what I didn’t eat. Now I go a few times a week based on what I have planned a day or two out – it’s fresher, and we end up eating everything we buy.

 

MM:      Do you do all of your grocery shopping in one store? Or do you go to different stores for different items?

CL:          When we lived in the city, Mariano’s was my go-to store for everything. Now that we live in the suburbs, we have three grocery stores within a five-mile radius (Jewel, Heinen’s and a brand new Mariano’s). It really depends on the day, where I am and what I need. But I go to all three.

 

MM:      So then where do you shop for meat products? And why?

CL:          For meat products, I mostly go to Costco or Jewel. I really prefer to go to Mariano’s for grocery shopping overall, but it’s kind of far away. Jewel has really great sales on meat, so I can buy in bulk and then freeze it for later use. Same with Costco – I love that their meat comes in packages I can put in the freezer as soon as I get home.  Meat from the regular grocery store you have to use right away. Heinen’s has higher quality meats, but is very expensive and has a limited selection!

 

MM:      What cuts of meat do you typically purchase?

CL:          My husband is better at preparing red meat, so he’ll make a lot of ribs (he has a great Chinese rib recipe!), steaks in the cast iron skillet and pork chops. I’m not good at preparing red meat, so I buy a lot of thinner steaks for stir fry and chicken breasts. I do, however, love eating red meat in restaurants.

I also always have some kind of ground beef in the house. I really like it with pasta sauce. There’s one particular brand of ground beef I buy that is perfect. It’s organic, has the perfect amount in a package, tastes great, and is a good price. I buy them in bulk and put them in the freezer. I used to buy ground beef from the regular grocery store, but now I stick to this kind.

 

MM:      Sounds great. Do you know which brand it is?

CL:          No idea, but let me check my freezer… It’s Kirkland Signature Organic Ground Beef. They sell them in these perfect little square packages.

 

CL:          By the way, you know what would be really helpful?  If grocery stores told me which cut of meat is good for what type of dish.  Chicken breast is super easy. But with red meat, what is the difference between a chuck and stew meat? Is one better than the other? Does one have more fat than the other? I have no idea what the difference is or what to do with them, so I just don’t buy it. My husband would know the difference, but he doesn’t do the shopping.

 

MM:      Can you tell me how your meat shopping has changed over the years (from urban dweller to suburbanista)?

CL:          I can tell you that before our daughter was born, we (ok, mostly he) used to make a lot of fun meals. Like a rack of lamb or boeuf bourguignon. Now that we have a toddler, it’s mostly stir-fry because it’s easy. I can make a whole meal in one pot (less to clean, too), and you can stretch it out to have multiple meals. It’s pretty easy to mix the meat with vegetables and starch for a quick meal.

 

MM:      Lastly, where do you get your meal ideas from?

CL:          Mostly Pinterest. Or that Better Home and Gardens red and white checkered cookbook everyone gets when they get married. But it’s mostly from the Internet.

Meat Shopping Mom on a Mission

Meat Shopping with Midan Blog

This is the second post in our new “Meat Shopping with Midan” series. In each entry, a Midan team member shares insights into how they shop for groceries and meat, based on their lifestyle and personal interests.

For those of us who work with Meredith, a Midan Account Executive, hearing she is an organized, plan-ahead shopper is no surprise. Meredith’s inbox is the envy of the office; all of her emails are neatly categorized and filed. As we learn below, she approaches the grocery store in a similarly-sensible way.

My name is Meredith, and I am a working mom.

Like so many moms, I have many jobs. Because I work outside the home, I regularly juggle office responsibilities with household chores. Right along with laundry, dishes and vacuuming, grocery shopping is one of the many tasks that fills my time each week. No matter how much I plan, I usually start another grocery list within hours of my most recent trip.

In order to make this never-ending task more effective (and bearable!), I’ve devised a few strategies that help me make the most of my limited time. As a mom with a toddler and a new baby coming soon, grocery shopping for me is all about convenience, budgeting and planning.

i. I try to be a smart shopper when it comes to “when” and “where.”

Living in a small town in North Carolina, there aren’t too many shopping options close by. My top stops are my area supercenter and local grocery store, with the occasional pop-in at the nearby discount grocer, because it is literally within walking distance from my house (and the milk is super cheap). I choose a time that isn’t too busy, if possible, and try to get in and out quickly, especially when my energetic toddler is with me. I often write my grocery list in order of the store shopping pattern to help with efficiency.

ii. I keep my grocery list flexible for sale items.

Another key factor in my grocery shopping is budget. My family is pretty easy to please when it comes to food choices, so I tend to plan meals around what’s on sale that week or just stock up when things I know we use are on sale.

iii. I stock up.

I buy meat in bulk or on sale and freeze it so I have it on hand. The main meats I purchase are ground beef, beef roast, pork chops and chicken breasts. Pork tenderloin, beef cube steak and strip steaks are more occasional purchases for me. My local grocery store recently added a section of custom meals in the fresh meat case that require only 30 minutes of cooking time. For me, that’s dinner on the table in half an hour tops! We have tried their burgers with bacon and cheese, kabobs and parmesan chicken and they have all been very good. I am willing to pay a little bit more for the convenience of having the meat meal-ready.

When canned goods or snack items are on sale, I stock up. I also participate in the supercenter’s savings program and like knowing they are comparing prices to other stores, so I save money with no extra effort!

We eat most of our meals at home, and I cook a lot, so a well-stocked pantry keeps me from constantly running to the store. When I have time, I try to look ahead to our week. I don’t necessarily plan meals for each day, but I try to have all ingredients on hand for when the next meal is needed.

iv. I don’t fight it – I admit Mom has had a major impact on my shopping habits.

I’ve noticed I do a lot of what my mom does when it comes to cooking and shopping, just because I’ve watched her do it for so many years. (And, let’s face it: I realize I am becoming my mother!). I buy certain brands and sale items because my mom does.

v. I do leftovers!!

There is nothing better than coming home from work and heating something up vs. starting from scratch. Lasagna, casseroles, roasts, soups, anything in the crockpot – I like making something we can have for at least two meals. And, when my plan fails, I always keep a frozen pizza ready.

Even a super-organized person needs a back-up plan.

 

Read the meat shopping blog from our PR Manager Caroline Ahn – she’s a suburbanite! http://blog.midanmarketing.com/2014/11/14/meat-shopping-with-midan/

 

 

 

 

 

Meat Shopping With Midan

This is the first post in our new “Meat Shopping with Midan” series. In each entry, a Midan team member will share insights into how they shop for groceries and meat, based on their lifestyle and personal interests. We hope you find it valuable.

 

My name is Caroline, and I am a suburbanite.

Caroline Ahn

I never thought I would be typing those words, but that’s what I am, having recently relocated to the suburbs of Northern Virginia after spending 15 years in major metropolitan cities.

With this major location switch have come changes in the way I shop for, cook and eat food.  My whole experience with food has actually turned completely upside down from my previous lifestyle – but definitely for the better!

In my journey from urban dweller to suburbanista, I’ve noticed four major differences in the way I shop (and ways retailers can make it a better experience):

  1. Retailers, I need meal ideas. Because I am cooking A LOT more.

Before I moved to Virginia, I cooked once a week – at most. I ate most of my dinners at trendy restaurants, and on other nights, clicking a link on seamless.com for delivery was just too easy. Now that these options are not quite as available, I find myself at a grocery store a few times a week, perusing fresh vegetables and proteins. Retailers, if you want to make it easier, give me some meal ideas and cross merchandise proteins with complementary items, so I can get through the store quickly and efficiently. Please suggest the freshest seasonal items.

  1. Whoever thought of single servings of meat – thank you!

As a single girl who doesn’t need a huge amount of food, I am very thankful for individual servings of fresh meat. I used to think – what am I going to do with five steaks? Or a pack of nine chicken breasts? Of course, I could go to the full-service case and flirt with my local butcher hottie (Why are butchers so sexy, BTW? Maybe a future blog post…), but who has time for that on a regular basis? Single servings of fresh meat are the answer. My only suggestion? Perhaps better packaging. Vacuum-sealed single servings are usually piled together like a pool of meat packages; I wish retailers could find a better way to organize and merchandise them to make them more appealing.

  1. I’m not very price sensitive. I just want to get in and out of the store.  

I know fresh meat prices are increasing; however, unless the price is more than $10-12 for a steak, I won’t even think twice. Considering I used to dine out 4-5 times per week, I’ve already reduced my food spending significantly by cooking at home. While I might choose one protein over another based on price, I probably won’t sift through multiple packages to save $1-2.

  1. Health and nutrition are hugely important.

The single greatest benefit of cooking and eating at home is better health. Having nutrition labels on-package helps me quickly identify which cuts are leanest, lowest in calories and most protein-packed. The holidays are around the corner, and many will be starting Paleo, Atkins or low-carb diets soon after. I’ve been reading articles on how consumers are turning to non-meat products for their protein needs. Working in the meat marketing business, I know that fresh meat is the best source of lean protein (with vitamins too!).  Retailers and packer/processors should put greater emphasis on owning the protein category – we shouldn’t have to compete with Greek yogurt or protein powders!

Looking back on the past year, I’ve expanded my horizons in both the grocery store and the kitchen! I’ve developed loyalties to different stores based on their offerings in the meat and produce departments. Not all meat departments are created equal, but the ones that do the best job of meeting my needs are the ones I go back to!

 

Fellow meat industry professionals, I’d love to hear about your grocery shopping adventures!

 

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