Fat is Flavor!

maggie-o'quinnAs a southerner raised in Georgia and now a proud nine-year resident of Alabama, I have enjoyed a lifelong love affair with saturated fat. I live for pork BBQ from local hole-in-the-wall restaurants with dirt floors (my favorite is Fresh Air BBQ in Jackson, GA), CAB® fat-on tri-tips on the grill and my husband’s buttermilk biscuits where lard is the not-so-secret ingredient. And no respectable southerner serves their greens without some saturated fat to make our dishes sing:  We are unapologetic about adding bacon to our kale and ham hocks to our collards.

I was born in 1975 at the time the “war on fat” was raging in our country. But I never understood why saturated fat was considered the evil enemy until I read Nina Teicholz’ book, “The Big Fat Surprise.” Her book is a fascinating dive into the studies that propelled the low-fat diet craze into our modern day lexicon.

A few key takeaways from the book that help explain how fat came to be the bad guy:

  • In the 1950s, Ancel Keys, a professor at the University of Minnesota, was the leading researcher to demonize fat because he provided a quick answer to why middle-aged men were dropping from heart attacks: eat less fat. Despite lots of flaws in Keys’ research methodology, his idea prevailed because several prominent leaders died from heart disease, including President Eisenhower. Corners were cut to back up Keys’ flawed science due to the pressure to find a solution.
  • The American Heart Association (AHA) recommended a diet low in saturated fats to prevent heart disease in 1961 on the basis of Keys’ work, and the government followed the “war on fat” bandwagon in 1980 by publishing the first Dietary Guidelines for Americans which later became the basis of the USDA food pyramid.
  • AHA pamphlets published in the 1970s and 1980s recommended that Americans control their fat intake by increasing refined-carbohydrate consumption. To avoid fat, people should eat sugar, advised the AHA.

Fortunately, a paradigm shift is happening: As early as 2011, nutritionists began admitting that saturated fats aren’t as harmful to us as carbohydrates. Obesity, diabetes and heart disease aren’t caused by saturated fat but rather by sugar, white flour and other refined carbohydrates.

I was thrilled to see saturated fat redeemed in the October issue of Prevention magazine whose target audience is women my age (read: we are 40+ but know our best years are yet to come if we follow a healthy lifestyle!). In an article filled with delicious meat-inspired recipes entitled “Bring Back the Flavor,” Dr. Mark Hyman of the Cleveland Clinic admitted that much of the early science on saturated fat was flawed. “Saturated fat is essential to our functioning. We now know that whole foods high in saturated fat can improve cholesterol quality, cognitive function, and even metabolism.”

And the global fat outlook is bullish according to the Credit Suisse Research Institute: Fat will increase from the current 26% of calorie intake to 31% by 2030. Saturated fat will grow the fastest, increasing from 9.4% to 13% of calorie intake.

While this is great news for the meat industry, long-standing public opinion is slow to change. Knowing this backstory spelled out by Nina Teicholz only makes it more clear to me what those of us in the meat business need to do:

  • Shamelessly tell your story. Share your unique selling proposition with your target audience – they crave your products!
  • Tout the health benefits of saturated fat in your products.
  • Remember that you are in the flavor business. Fat is flavor! Your products are the proteins of celebration!

Pass the bacon, the porterhouse and the pulled pork sandwich, please.

About the author:
Maggie lives on a farm in Alabama with her husband, James, and three-year-old son Jimmy. They will welcome another little boy to their family in 2017, who will grow up with lots of delicious saturated fat recipes passed down from multiple generations of farmers and foodies. Maggie joined Midan Marketing in April as the new business development manager.

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!

Midan conducted an online study with 425 Millennials and 400 Boomers in May 2016. We asked questions about their meat consumption, preferences and attitudes toward meat and health.

The research results confirmed what we already suspected:  Millennials and Boomers have differing perceptions and purchasing behaviors when it comes to meat.  And while both groups offer enormous opportunities for the meat industry, they also present a challenge:  How do you address their differences and customize your marketing to ensure that you are effectively reaching both segments?

Here are a few research findings that point out some of the disparities between Millennials and Boomers:

  • Millennials spend more per month on meat, but Boomers buy more fresh meat:  In an average month, Millennials spend significantly more on meat than Boomers ($162 vs. $93, respectively).  This isn’t surprising, considering that Millennials tend to have larger households with growing families and purchase proportionally more prepared meat.(Prepared meat accounts for about 44% of Millennial meat purchases, vs. 22% of Boomer meat purchases.)

     
    Boomers purchase significantly more fresh/unprepared meat (78%) than Millennials (56%). These percentages indicate that there is plenty of opportunity to engage Millennials to capture more of their meat dollars at the fresh meat case too.

  • Millennials are less committed to meat than Boomers are, especially when it comes to health:  Despite the fact that more than half of the Millennials surveyed agreed that “nothing is as satisfying as eating a good steak, 38% of Millennials are willing to give up taste for a balanced diet (vs. 20% of Boomers) and 29% of Millennials said that it would be much healthier for them to eliminate meat from their diet (vs. only 10% of Boomers).  These numbers suggest that it’s easier for Millennials to walk away from meat, and that big long-term benefits can be gained by educating them about the health and nutrition benefits of lean meat.
  • Millennials are more easily influenced about their meat choices than Boomers: 33% of Millennials believe that that meat is becoming less socially acceptable (vs. 13% of Boomers) and in a social setting are much more likely than Boomers to adjust their meat consumption to align with the group (30% vs. 6%, respectively).  The fact that Boomers tend to be set in their ways and have their minds made up works in the meat industry’s favor here; however, it appears there needs to be a lot more courting of Millennials to generate loyalty around the value of meat.

While these stats are just a glimpse into the differences between Millennial and Boomer meat eating habits, they clearly reveal opportunities for the meat industry.  If you want Millennials to buy more fresh meat, you can’t market to them the same way you do Boomers – and this research helps explain why.  The best plan of attack is to create education and marketing programs tailored to each group, so that you can maximize opportunities within each segment.

Learn more in The Shelby Report:  Part 1 and Part 2

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!

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