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

Meat is Mixing Things Up

“Meat and potatoes.”

What do you think of when you read that? It used to mean dinner: a big plate of red meat with mashed potatoes beside it and gravy poured all over it. Yummm!  In today’s world the saying has taken on a slightly different meaning.  It seems to be more about being “down-to-earth” or fundamentally basic, e.g. “He’s such a ‘meat and potatoes’ kind of guy.”

Dinner is no longer what comes to mind when people hear that phrase, and Midan recently uncovered one of the key reasons why.

Through our Protein and the Plate research (conducted jointly with Meatingplace and sponsored by Yerecic Label), we learned that up until 2014, annual eatings per capita where meat was at the center of the plate covered around 45 and annual eatings per capita where meat was an ingredient hung out at around 43 eatings. In 2014, these numbers switched places. For the first time, the long-standing practice of a juicy hunk of meat owning the center of the plate and anchoring the meal was replaced with that meat being cut up – chunked, diced, sliced or ground – and combined with other ingredients before being served up on dinner plates.

This is HUGE! See for yourself.

Although we in the meat industry pride ourselves on selling big hunks of meat to consumers, we must understand that while our target audience may still buy those hunks, there has been a seismic shift in meat usage. This comes as a result of increased beef prices and the unfortunate but common perception that preparing meat can be difficult and time-consuming. For many consumers, the answer to these challenges has been to cut back on the amount being purchased and serve it in a taco shell with lettuce and salsa. Boom!  Easy, quick and more affordable.

In addition to tacos, other popular ways consumers have incorporated meat as an ingredient are in pasta, soups/stews, burgers/sandwiches, burritos, casseroles,  stir fry…and the list goes on and on…

So rather than pushing consumers back to the days of rolling up sleeves and pulling a hefty roast out of the oven (because, quite frankly, they don’t want to), the meat industry must embrace this shift. Here are four things we need to do:

  1. Innovative Products

Go beyond stew meat and prepared kabobs and think of new products that can be used as ingredients. Look at how consumers are using different cuts of meat and make them recipe-ready. Convenience is key, so find ways to save time for the meal preparer.

  1. Innovative Packaging

Explore new ways to package fresh meat for multiple cooking methods, whether for the grill, slow cooker, stovetop, etc. and figure out how to cut whole muscle into smaller cuts for center of the plate and ingredient use. We have got to offer individual and smaller portions because that is what consumers want.

  1. Different Merchandising

It’s time to ramp up the integration of education into promotion. It’s time to connect the dots for the customers shopping at the meat case by providing meat in the most common weights needed for recipes and in the form those recipes call for. It is time to push the departmental barriers of merchandising aside and truly cross-merchandise with products that are likely to be used in meat -as-an-ingredient meals:  noodles for casseroles, lettuce for salads, tortilla shells for tacos.

  1. Broad Messaging

The days of telling the meat story just at the meat case are over. We have to collectively work to inform/educate consumers on the value of meat in their diets before they walk in the store. Meat companies have to be social! So get active on the social sphere and target your key customers where they are. It always comes back to catering to the consumer!!

 If we want to keep fresh meat on the plate, the meat industry must embrace the new meaning of “meat and potatoes” and provide consumers with the fundamentally basic options they are seeking at the meat case.

I’d love to hear your thoughts – please share your comments below!

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