Five Opportunities to Sell More Fresh Meat

sell-more-fresh-meatAt Midan, our Market Research Team is always scoping out the consumer trends that are having the biggest impact on the meat industry. A key part of our job is to help our clients understand the implications those trends can have on their business. By assigning meaning to facts and figures, we can help turn meat trends into opportunities.

So what opportunities should be on your radar? I’ve outlined five that you might find helpful as you jump into the new year:

  • Embrace Multi-Generations and Multi-Ethnicities
    If you pay attention to the media, you might think that Millennials are the only consumers shopping the meat case. I’m joking, of course – today’s broad and deep consumer base actually spans various cultures and generations and brings with it a range of differing values and habits.  There are four primary consumer segments affecting meat consumption trends: Millennials, Boomers, Hispanics and Asian-Americans. Members of these groups are actively influencing how fresh meat is prepared and consumed in the U.S. It’s critical to tune into the preferences and tastes of these key players so you can adjust your branding, marketing and communication efforts accordingly.

     
    Meet today’s top 4 consumer groups.

  • Promote Transparency Over Traceability
    Significant numbers of consumers value full disclosure over trace back – they’re more concerned that companies are transparent about their production practices when it comes to meat and poultry, versus exact tracking. In the 2016 Power of Meat study,  90 percent of consumers indicated a strong desire to know where their meat comes from, while only 68 percent were interested in tracing meat back to specific animals. Consumers want to know things like: Have hormones or antibiotics been used? What ingredients have been added?Are your production practices an open book when it comes to this kind of information? Being transparent is one of the fastest ways to build trust with consumers.
  • Own Protein and Other Meat Nutrients
    The meat industry has always had the best protein story, hands down. The trouble is, we aren’t telling it effectively. We are competing with yogurt and other foods on the protein battlefront when we should be the automatic victor. According to our Protein and the Plate research (conducted jointly with Meatingplace and sponsored by Yerecic Label), 70 percent of consumers said they substitute non-meat protein for fresh meat once a week.
    Unless it’s okay with you that close to three-quarters of consumers are replacing meat for at least one meal a week, we need to up our game. One way to combat this kind of substitution is to get back to the basics with consumers by reminding them that meat is one of the best protein sources on the planet as well as an excellent source of other key nutrients. We know that consumers love a good story, and we need to be telling ours.

     
    Read Danette Amstein’s blog: Resolve to Own Protein

  • Develop Value-Added Products
    Value-added items in the meat case are experiencing strong growth and there are several reasons why. Along with offering reduced preparation time and minimizing the decision-making process, these products can be sold in packages of one, two or multiple servings. More than ever, consumers crave convenience and simplicity, and the variety of package sizes meets the needs of smaller households, like Boomers. And for that younger generation that’s less educated about meat, value-added products help make dinner stress-free. It’s all about offering meal solutions that meet the needs of your consumer base.

     
    See how we helped develop the Tyson Crafted Creations brand.

  • Build Meat Brands
    You’ve heard it here before and are no doubt seeing it in our industry: commodity products are making way for branded products. Along with helping you compete in the meat case, branding is a way for you to attract new customers and generate loyalty. Branding helps build trust and a solid relationship with your company. Although the meat industry tends to be slow to change, this trend is picking up speed fast, so the time to act is now.

     
    Get meat branding tips.

Are any of these trends on your radar? Please leave a comment; I’d love to hear your feedback!

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!

Want to learn more about Millennials? Check out Michael’s blog on meat-specific Millennial research that we released this year and get additional insight from these articles:

Clean Labels: “Free From,” “Does Not Include” and “No <insert here>” – You are familiar with these kinds of claims because many of you make them. We have evolved from touting USDA grade to branded meat products to branded meat products that differentiate themselves with key attributes. Most of these attributes now focus on what is not in the product.

“Natural” as a claim is losing staying power with beef, but not so much with other proteins, according to Nielsen data. Claims such as “Antibiotic-Free” and “Minimally Processed” have seen significant growth:  antibiotic-free beef sales for the 52 weeks ending 8/27/16 were $321 million. The numbers prove this is more than a fad.

If you are in the beef business and not talking about what to do with your “natural” labels, it’s time. If you are in the prepared business and aren’t removing words consumers don’t understand from your ingredient list, it’s time. If you are a retailer, take note of how you describe what is in your meat case. If you are a chef, it’s time to add to your next round of menus.

Read more about the impact of clean labels:

GMOs:  As a meat industry, we have (for the most part) been able to sit on the sidelines and watch this one unfold. Turns out the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) unveiled two years’ worth of review and proclaimed, “There is no evidence that GMOs are risky to eat.” This declaration did not stop consumers or Congress. Sales of non-GMO food products have soared in the past four years and aren’t showing signs of slowing…yet. Lawmakers brought forth new regulations on how GMOs should be labeled. Although the bill (penned after NAS’s proclamation) exempts foods where meat and poultry are the main ingredients, we still need to keep our eye on it.

This issue is really about something much bigger than GMOs. It is about transparency and consumer trust, and how easy it is to lose one without the other. Whatever the next hot topic is for the meat industry, we need to be prepared to leave the safety of the sidelines and respond.

Read more about 2016 GMO news:

Social Media:  Don’t groan! We need to talk about it, because social media has exploded beyond just B2C.  Marketing is about relationships and it turns out both customers and consumers are …wait for it…human! Marketing is moving to more of a “human-to-human” (H2H) philosophy. So whether you participate in the social media world or not, your customers and your consumers do. If you want them to know about you, you’ve gotta be where they are. Period.

adult-social-media-users
Not sure where to start with social media?  Get tips from a variety of helpful blogs in our archives.

Read more about the social media explosion:  

Got other 2016 topics that should be on this list?  Please leave me a comment – I always love to hear from you!

About the author:
As a Principal of Midan Marketing, Danette is always thinking strategically about how to move the meat industry forward. Her lifelong love for the meat industry began on her family’s farm in Kansas and continues today in her passionate work for meat clients. Midan provides integrated marketing strategies, branding programs, digital media platforms, creative communications, public relations and market research services designed to help make meat more relevant to consumers. 

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, Unfiltered

My name is Gibson and I’m a Millennial. You’ve seen my name attached to several blogs written from the Millennial perspective. Loyal blog readers have gone grocery shopping with me, grilled ribeyes with me and even sat in a classroom of carcasses with me. I’m a member of the elusive generation that everyone is talking about. The generation old enough to remember the days of dial-up internet, but too young to know a time without Justin Timberlake. The generation that knows Google as a verb and the ‘Gram as something other than a S’mores ingredient. (That’s short for Instagram, for you non-Millennials.) And as the generation of 75 million strong that is approaching its prime spending years and taking its money to the meat counter, it may be time to get to know us.

To better understand generational shopping patterns, Midan conducted a study comparing Millennials and Boomers. These two influential consumer groups were asked about meat consumption, preferences and attitudes toward meat and health, and the results are pretty spot on, according to this Millennial. While some of the findings made me feel like there must have been a hidden camera in my kitchen, others were not as applicable to my eating or shopping habits; however, I can easily see how they would apply to my fellow Millennials.

Here are the big five that stood out to me:

Health

“Millennials are more concerned about health as related to meat consumption.”

I generally maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle. (It may have something to do with my obsession with icing as a child and perhaps I’m now overcorrecting that processed sugar intake by eating fruit for lunch…) I also enjoy learning about healthy foods. Speaking on behalf of Millennials, if we have a question, we ask – or rather, we Google. Because we have so many sources of information in the palm of our hand, we are able to learn more about the food on our plates – and when a popular food blogger on Pinterest tells you the benefits of using a certain ingredient over another, it’s easy to make that switch.

Meal Prep

“Millennials feel a sense of accomplishment when they prepare a complicated dish and enjoy trying new meat recipes.”

Yes and yes! Or as we say in Millennial world, “YASS.” Raise your hand if you’ve ever Instagrammed a meal you cooked. *hand raised emoji* I don’t know if there’s ever a night that I’ve cooked a meal, and I don’t look out of the corner of my eye to catch my husband’s reaction after the first bite. I love cooking and I love trying new recipes and most of all, I love when the hubs says, “This is a keeper!”

Convenience

“Prepared meat accounts for about 44 percent of Millennials’ meat purchases.”

It all boils down to convenience. While I do enjoy trying new recipes, I want an easy, healthy meal that can be made after I’m finished with Tuesday night tennis but before one of my adored TV shows comes on. I also want little cleanup – I mean, how am I supposed to live tweet Grey’s Anatomy with sudsy hands?! Again, convenience is key and prepared meats accomplish that.

Social Attitudes

“Millennials are more easily influenced. Some Millennials think that meat is becoming less socially acceptable and in a social setting are much more likely than Boomers to adjust their meat consumption to align with the group.”

This, I get. It sounds silly, but the concept of social influence does apply to me. Just last weekend I was out to dinner with girlfriends and I had my eye on a steak. It was topped with fried onions and served with mashed potatoes and I wanted it bad. But I didn’t want to be the only one at the table who ordered a steak. Lucky for me, half the table ordered that beauty and we all nearly cleaned our plates. So, while social attitudes didn’t prevent me from purchasing meat in that situation, the thought crossed my mind.

Meat Substitutes

“More than four in 10 Millennials have consumed meat alternatives in the past 12 months.”

These are the most common meat alternatives: tofu, soy-based meat and texturized vegetable protein. I kind of go back and forth on this one. At first I think, “If I want meat I’m going to eat meat – not a non-meat alternative.” And then I remember my work snack: almonds. While nuts are not listed above as a meat alternative, they are an alternate protein source. I eat about a handful of almonds every day (the amount of handfuls correlates with the extent of my workload). I know I need protein to stay alert during the day and on top of ever-changing social media trends!

While we’re a group defined by our birthdays, tech savviness and binge watching of Netflix, these survey results can help you better understand how to speak to us about meat. And if done successfully, who knows – your product could end up as the subject of an Instagram post #nofilter.

To get the full scoop on the Millennials vs. Baby Boomers study, you can read Part 1 and Part 2 in the Shelby Report, or get the video recap from Michael here. For more Millennial perspective, just leave me a comment!

 

 

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

Millennial, Meet Carcass

The last time I was in a classroom, I was analyzing the significance of windows in Wuthering Heights. Three weeks ago, however, I found myself seated in a meat science and technology building with a beef carcass being escorted into the room by an apron-clad man with knives in his tool belt and a hook in his hand. My front row seat was physically and aesthetically miles away from my social media hub back in NC, but there I was at Center of the Plate Training® – trading ‘likes’ for longissimus and Instagram for infraspinatus.

Center of the Plate is a three-day crash course in meat, starting with the leg of a cow and ending at the gill of a snapper. This course is designed to educate members of the meat industry on all center-of-the-plate proteins: beef, veal, lamb and pork, as well as poultry, processed meats and seafood. Attendees were given a copy of The Meat Buyer’s Guide and watched as it came to life, with the Guide acting as our roadmap, Davey Griffin as the driver and Steve Olson as the rambunctious tour guide leading us through this full-immersion experience of converting carcasses into cuts.

Such training is perfect for someone like me who is a member of the generation least-educated about meat – I believe you’ve heard of us…we’re Millennials. During these sessions I was able to give my Google search a rest as all my meat questions were answered right before my eyes. Snapchat, however, did not get a rest. For you non-Millennial readers, Snapchat is a photo sharing app that I usually use to share puppy photos, but while at training my followers received these gems:

COP_SnapchatAside from “Dr. Davey” hacking away at hunks of meat and slivers of fat, most interesting was the insight and comedic commentary coming from our 5’3” lively Italian instructor. Steve has been doing this gig for years, and from the start I knew we were going to leave that classroom with mounds of information! With this being his last year in the saddle, we were the lucky class to witness his swan song, complete with descriptions of up-and-coming cuts, how certain cuts should be prepared and the best way to become an American (barbeque, of course!).

Here are some of the key takeaways:

What’s Hot

The Spinalis, also known as the Ribeye cap, was the most-talked-about cut of the week. This cut combines the flavor of a ribeye with the tenderness of tenderloin, getting the attention of chefs, butchers and consumers, and earning its place as the future of meat. The Baseball cut (top portion of the Top Sirloin) also received a lot of hype – it was no secret this was Steve’s favorite.

Label Learnings

Although a label may make a very specific claim – perhaps that the cattle is fed a special diet of flax seed or is a specific breed such as Angus – but how do you really know? Certain claims cannot be detected from the carcass alone; it must undergo a verification process that supports its genotype and/or other claims. (This is definitely something to keep in the old noggin while perusing the meat case.)

Let’s Get Veal

When it comes to veal, color is key: grayish pink is what you’re looking for. It’s also important to know how veal is raised and finished. As a young animal whose rumens (stomachs) aren’t fully-functioning, milk is an important part of their early diet.  Special care is taken as grain and grass are introduced to their diet in order to ensure desired finished size and fat content.

Lamb on the Rise

Steve said, “Wake up, lamb! There are a lot of things you can do!” And the restaurant industry is listening. Lamb is appearing on more menus, even those serving brunch! Mimosas and lamb, anyone? An increased interest in lamb can be attributed to a growing desire for ethnic cuisine and adventurous flavors (you can thank Millennials for that!).

Because I have acquired knowledge that combats the common stereotype of Millennials at the meat case, I can now write about meat in a way that goes beyond “Hey! Try this!” Rather than simply sharing a certain recipe on Facebook , I now understand how that culinary application works, why it incorporates a certain cut, and what kind of flavor can be expected because it came from a specific muscle.

I returned home with a plethora of meat knowledge to apply to my work, my grocery shopping and my cocktail party conversations (that was Steve’s idea).

Thank you, North American Meat Institute, for organizing an educational (and entertaining) week of Center of the Plate Training®, and a big thank you to Steve Olson and Davey Griffin for bringing carcasses to life!

Meat Today’s Top 4 Consumers

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.

RMC Blog Image

1. Millennials

There goes the “M” word again! What piece of current research could ever be complete without a mention of this key generation? Millennials are an essential group of consumers to understand because they are imposing attributes and characteristics beyond meat itself – from how cattle are raised (organically grass-fed?) to where they’re from (local?). Members of this generation are avid smartphone users and highly value social connections. Their love of technology plays a large role in influencing the way they research, purchase and prepare meat.

2. Boomers

Don’t get all caught up in Millennials and forget about those Boomers! After all, they’ve got the buying power: this group buys more at the meat case than Millennials. Boomers tend to purchase meat as an entrée while Millennials treat it as more of an ingredient or a snack. (Learn more about meat’s changing role in our Protein and the Plate research.)  Members of this generation are interested in maintaining their health and view fresh meat as an important source of protein.

3. Hispanics

Consider them the big spenders. Although members of the Hispanic population tend to be fairly price-sensitive, they spend more on food than the average U.S. household due to larger family sizes. Meat is an essential component of the Hispanic cuisine. Consumers within this group are driving growth within the meat, particularly beef, industry. Although many within this segment are younger (60 percent are under 35), they consider shopping as more of an enjoyable social activity, rather than a necessary evil. Many like to walk the entire grocery store to find new products and tastes. Pre-cooked or semi-prepared meats are typically unappealing to Hispanics because they prefer cooking fresh products from scratch.

4. Asian-Americans

This is the fastest growing ethnic segment in the U.S., with a growth rate of 25 percent between 2009 and 2014. Like Hispanics, Asian-Americans favor fresh meats, with more than 60 percent cooking from scratch. Consumers within this group are likely to live in a multigenerational household. So, these shoppers aren’t just preparing meat to feed Gen Zs, Millennials and Gen Xers – there’s a good chance they’re serving Boomers and members of the Silent generation as well. These tech-savvy trend setters are major influencers on the new flavors and cooking methods that have recently begun appearing in restaurants and grocery stores throughout the U.S.

Armed with this information, you can make decisions that will resonate with your consumers’ needs. How will you be able to engage with such a diverse group of meat consumers? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • When targeting Millennials, consider connecting with their social lifestyle and appeal to their social and environmental consciousness
  • When reaching out to Boomers, focus on small package sizes and the importance of maintaining good physical health
  • When catering to the needs of Hispanics, offer family-size options and fresh meat cuts that complement their cooking style
  • When engaging with Asian-Americans, provide flavors and fresh meat cuts that appeal to multiple generations

As the U.S. continues to shift into a more multigenerational and multiethnic-based culture, how do you think meat consumption will continue to change?

Please share a comment – we always love to hear from you!

3 Steps to Get People Talking about Your Brand

This blog is the second in a series by Danette Amstein excerpted from a Brand Building presentation she delivered at NAMI’s Meat Industry Management Conference in April, 2016.

Even if you’re not a coffee drinker, it’s hard to miss the ubiquitous Starbucks on nearly every corner, or at least every few blocks.  Even small communities have a local Starbucks; they’re everywhere, right? Heck, now you can get your favorite Mocha Frappuccino at Target or the grocery store.  And the thing about Starbucks is, you always know what you’re getting.  Walk into any Starbucks from Seattle to Schenectady, and you can count on a consistent product.

Red umbrellaOnce upon a time, making a consistent, quality product was enough to be successful.  But in the 1950’s, consumer packaged goods companies like Procter and Gamble and General Foods realized that they needed to differentiate their products from “the other guy’s.”   Branding, or giving a product an identity that distinguishes it from nearly-indistinguishable competitors, was born.

Effective branding requires a keen understanding of the target consumer and a “brand proposition” that offers not only functional but also emotional value.  This is where Starbucks excels.  Their branding goes way beyond that coffee in the paper cup; many of their loyal followers have an almost cult-like attachment to the brand.  (Want proof?  They have over 35 million Facebook followers.)

So what does the average meat brand need to do to get that kind of love?

It all starts with a story.  Branding is storytelling at its best, with imagery and messaging that consumers can grab ahold of and buy into.  Of course, tangibles like name and logo are an important part of branding, but intangibles like a brand’s specific promise, personality and positioning do the heavy lifting – they all shape how you tell your brand story.  A good brand creates perceived value for consumers not only in the way that it stands out from others, but in the way that it stands for something in the mind of its target audience.  Just think about what these successful brands stand for:

  • Apple (Creativity)
  • BMW (Ultimate Performance)
  • Guinness (Crafted Irish Beer)

These are the kinds of key words, the words that differentiate a brand, that we want to own unaided.  Successful brands are very purposeful about what they want their target to think and feel without prompting.  Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, boils it all down to one powerful statement:   “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

So if you are about to embark on a branding journey, here are a few pointers that can help give your brand story a happy ending:

  1. Write your brand story before you tell your brand story: Good branding strategies are clearly mapped out and documented.  Laying the brand groundwork takes lots of time and energy, but it’s the foundation for all brand decisions moving forward.
  2. Don’t start in the C-Suite: Lots of branding ideas sound great in the boardroom, but they need to be tested with a real-live target audience.  If your messaging doesn’t resonate with your target during testing, you’re sunk before you even launch.
  3. Do start with the end in mind: Think about what sets your brand apart.  What key words do you want your brand to own?

You want people talking about your brand when you’re not in the room, and incorporating these steps can help you shape what they’re saying.

Know other brands that are getting it right?  Please leave a comment or email me at d.amstein@midanmarketing.com – I always love your feedback!

Check out my previous blog, Brand Building: Finding the Sweet Spot.

Brand Building: Finding the Sweet Spot

IMG_9030 - DA at NAMI

Danette takes a selfie with attendees of her Brand Building presentation at NAMI’s Meat Industry Management Conference, April 5, 2016

Anyone who sells anything for a living has heard the old adage, “The customer is always right.”  This little nugget is more relevant than ever in today’s customer-centric economy.  Now that consumers have only to click a button to get products from kayaks to kazoos delivered to their door within hours, businesses that don’t focus on the buyer’s needs can’t survive or thrive.

Keeping your attention on the target consumer is critical, but it’s only part of the equation when it comes to another key factor in business success:  branding.   We all consume hundreds of brands every day:  Did you grab a coffee at Starbucks this morning?  Are you reading this blog on an Apple iSomething?  Will you drive home in a VW or a BMW?  In today’s uber-branded world, the challenge to brand effectively is daunting.  How do you tell your product’s story so that it stands out from others?

Even the meat industry is moving from commodity products to branded products.  And it brings very special challenges, because we aren’t selling coffee or computers.  We are dealing with a highly perishable, temperature-sensitive product for which we don’t control supply, input costs and, more often than not, the way it’s sold.

By its very nature, our product dictates that the meat industry has to tackle branding differently.

While widget companies might be able to adapt nimbly to new branding specs, meat packers and processors have production capabilities already in place, with heavy investments in capital, facilities, equipment and people.  The opportunity to upend your plant to produce a new branded meat product is slim (but if you are thinking about it…let’s talk!).

But those darn consumers…their needs are constantly changing, so you have to consider what they want and assess what you can produce profitably.  Where the overlap lies is your area of opportunity – your “sweet spot.”  It doesn’t matter if you develop an awesome brand that syncs with every desire of your target consumer if you can’t produce it in the black.

While overlaying consumer needs with a company’s core competencies might sound fairly simple, in reality it’s pretty messy.  You also have to determine your overall business strategy, evaluate the competition, develop brand positioning and create the visual language for the brand.  It’s not a linear process; you are constantly re-evaluating, revisiting and tweaking.

But the time and energy spent assessing where your customer needs intersect with what you can consistently produce will help you identify your “sweet spot.” When you do, set your sights on it with a laser focus, because it’s the foundation of a profitable brand.

Check out a new brand we recently helped a client build and launch.

If you would like to talk about building your meat brand and finding your “sweet spot,” give me a call at 704.664.MEAT or email me at d.amstein @midanmarketing.com.

AMC 2016 Top 10

As a team, Midan’s focus at AMC 2016 was to listen and learn.  We took pages and pages of notes, capturing stats, quotes and key findings.  Back at the office, we sifted through all the content and created our own long list of the most important takeaways.  Here’s what we think were the top 10.  If you were there, let us know if you agree.  If you didn’t attend, but have questions, please reach out – we love to share what we learned!

Midan_team_AMC_2016

Midan’s AMC 2016 top 10 takeaways:

  1. Forget the focus on a certain protein or cut — it’s all about application 
    • Consumers don’t buy meat; they buy what they can do with it. 57% of raw meat is purchased with a specific recipe/application already in mind. Give them ideas on what to do with your product and they will buy it. (Jack Li, Dataessential, Consumer Trends Driving Meat Innovation)
  1. Retailers have the opportunity to convert Millennials at the meat case
    • When buying meat, 64% of Millennials are open to being influenced at the store: 90% do not list a brand when meat shopping, 32% plan meat purchases, but decide at the store, and 36% make the entire meat purchase decision in-store. (Larry Levin and Chris Dubois, IRI, “Meat”ing Millennials!)
  1. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) factors heavily in Millennial decision-making
    • 87% of Millennials think business success should be measured by more than financial performance; they want to work for and buy from companies who are doing good things for society. (Andrew Winston, The Big Pivot, Doing Business in a Hotter, Scarcer, More Open and Connected World [2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey])
  1. There is a dramatic increase in consumers’ concern about chemicals in their food 
    • 36% of consumers said it is the most important food safety issue they considered when shopping for food, up from 23% in 2014. (Janet Riley, NAMI, Turning Up the Heat: Confronting Current Challenges to Meat Nutrition and Safety)
  2. Don’t forget about Boomers; they are responsible for greater spend overall on meat
    • Boomers purchase from the meat department 5 times more per year than Millennials, driving $2.3 billion in incremental sales. 78 million Boomers hold 70% of the disposable income and account for 50% of CPG sales. (Sherry Frey & Mikael Nielsen, Nielson, Polarized Consumers are the New Norm)
  3. Retailers and packer/processors who embrace digital are winning loyal followers 
    • 70% of consumers who get a quick response from companies on social media are more likely to recommend that brand to others. (Art Yerecic & Kristin Yerecic, Yerecic Label, Connect with Consumers at the Speed of Technology)
  4. Consumers are moving from ethnic buckets to more specific foods 
    • Consumers today are more interested in specific food items and their associated flavors rather than cuisines: not Mexican, but tacos; not Italian, but Chicken Parmigiana.  Food trucks have helped this trend grow. (Jack Li, Dataessential, Consumer Trends Driving Meat Innovation)
  5. The argument against GMOs has shifted from the fear of consequences to “consumers have a right to know.”
    • With respect to GMOs, consumers favor product information disclosure: 68% would like labels to indicate if a product has GMOs, but in 2015 only 1 in 4 consumers (26%) indicated that they would buy products with a non-GMO label. (David Fikes, FMI, Addressing Consumer Concerns with GMOs)
  6. The steady “drip” of adverse health news erodes consumer confidence in meat
    • The meat industry must counteract this with a flow of facts that gives consumers permission to eat our products.  Check out http://meatpoultrynutrition.org/ for a wealth of science-based information that can help do this. (Janet Riley, NAMI , Turning Up the Heat: Confronting Current Challenges to Meat Nutrition and Safety)
  7. What consumers look for on nutrition labels is changing
    • Shoppers will be paying more attention to serving size, calories, carbohydrates, sugar content and iron, while focusing less on fat, calcium, cholesterol, sodium and vitamins. (David Portalatin, NPD, The State of the Meat Eater)
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