AMC 2017 Top 10

midan-marketing-team-photoBigger than ever before (with 1,300 attendees!), the Annual Meat Conference (AMC) 2017 was an awesome opportunity to hear from experts across all phases of the meat industry about what’s next for our favorite proteins. We came prepared with our trusty notepads and pens to capture the key takeaways, and we had our work cut out for us. See below for our Top 10 learnings. What were your key findings from AMC 2017? Please share below!

Midan’s AMC 2017 Top 10 takeaways:

  1. New consumer segments can help the meat industry zero in on target customers
    New research segments meat consumers into six distinct groups with unique meat shopping attitudes and behaviors. (Michael Uetz & Danette Amstein, Midan Marketing, Meat Consumer Segmentation). Learn more here.

  2. Foreign trade remains a crucial part of meat industry success
    Forecasters predict a 4.5% increase in meat exports in 2017. Export markets must grow significantly to keep supply and demand in balance. (Randy Blach, CattleFax, Market Outlook for Meat and Poultry)

  3. The meat industry continues to face stiff competition from alternative protein sources
    There are 39% more food items with protein claims on the market today than there were four years ago. (Anne-Marie Roerink, 210 Analytics, The Power of Meat: An In-Depth Look at Meat through the Shopper’s Eyes)

  4. “Environmental eating” is dramatically impacting agriculture
    Today’s agriculture has two marketplaces: Commodity [Filling/Financial] vs. Value-Added [Feelings/Flavor]. Value-added food has a “feel good” story that sells social consciousness. (Damian Mason, Agriculture: Trends, Topics, and Tomorrow)

  5. Consumers deepen bonds with brands through shared values
    61% of consumers will not buy a product if it does not meet societal obligations. (Tish Van Dyke, Edelman, Modern Marketing in the New Media Environment)

  6. Organic offers big opportunities for increased basket rings at the register
    For total U.S., annual dollars per household spent on organic is $126. “True Believers” on the spectrum of consumer segmentation spend nearly triple that amount. (Larry Levin and Steve Ramsey, IRI, The Impact of Organic and No Antibiotics Ever Positioning on Total Store Sales)

  7. There were 540 food recalls in 2016
    Food crises unfold in a predictable sequence. Prepare in advance for a food safety issue by creating an incident guide that includes staged messaging to address possible scenarios. (Jeff Hahn, Hahn Public, Emerging Consumer Concerns and Issues Management)

  8. Pig farmers are connecting directly with consumers
    The next generation of pig farmers is successfully using social media platforms (check out @RealPigFarming on Twitter) to share photos of day-to-day farm life. (Brad Greenway, US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance and Angela Anderson, National Pork Board, Communicating the Story to Consumers)

  9. Opportunity for companies ready to tailor food offerings to meet personal health needs
    While past nutrition guidelines have focused on “one size fits all” recommendations, consumers now expect a more customized approach to health and nutrition. Companies who take action now will lead the future of food (and health). (Simon Negri, A.T. Kearney and Jennifer Bentz, Tyson Foods, Inc., Personalized Nutrition: An Industry Disruptor?)

  10. FSIS easing into new requirements for ground beef recordkeeping
    FSIS has taken a six-month “soft approach” to enforcing the ground beef recordkeeping rule that became effective on 10/1/16. Retailers attempting to comply with the new rule aren’t likely to be disciplined; operators aware of the rule but ignoring it could face as-yet-unspecified disciplinary action. A new notice outlining how FSIS will enforce infractions is expected within 6-8 weeks. (Mark Dopp, North American Meat Institute and Hilary Thesmar, Food Marketing Institute, Regulatory Update)

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.

2017 Planning: Take Your Cues from 2016

Ah, fall is finally here!  The temperature has cooled down and that means it’s time for sweatshirts, pumpkin spice hot chocolate and Fantasy Football (Wish me luck — I’m a rookie!). It is also the period when we start mapping out marketing plans for next year.

2016-man-leaping_377448043

In preparation for this blog, I reviewed what I outlined in last year’s planning blog and soon realized that the 7 points that I highlighted for 2016 are more relevant than ever. Some are especially significant now that we are getting a better handle on Millennials’ and Boomers’ meat consumption habits through our recent research. So my advice here is simple: read and repeat! (Just think of that genius marketing phrase from the shampoo bottle: “Lather, Rinse, Repeat.” If something is effective, do it again!)

Some of you have been working on these areas. I see it: in your advertising, in-store POS, social media posts, packaging, etc. As someone deeply invested in the meat industry, I am inspired when I observe these kinds of positive changes that move us forward. Now that you have started, keep the course. If you haven’t embraced these ideas to up your marketing ante, pick one or two that could have the biggest impact on your business and get started.

If you have read this far and are not the “marketing guy,” then please forward this blog to him/her and ask how these items can be incorporated into the marketing plan for next year.

Wondering how you should apply these to your company and/or brands? I welcome your questions and comments. And feel free to leave me a Fantasy Football tip – I can use all the help I can get!

Watch our “2017 Planning” Midan Minute Video

 

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!

 

GMOs: Fact vs. Fiction

If you’re like me, you’ve begun to notice that the term “GMO” is popping up everywhere.

At Midan, we make it our business to be aware of the concerns consumers have about the food they eat. Our Market Research Team conducts research on emerging trends when we see them begin to mainstream. Once I hear certain buzz words at school drop-off where moms are gathered, I know for sure it’s time to start thinking about researching the topic. I knew that questions about GMOs weren’t going away anytime soon, and I figured they would probably grow once I saw the popularity of the new documentary GMO OMG on social media. This well-done documentary chronicles a father’s quest to get answers about GMOs.

Midan conducted focus groups in Chicago among people aware of the term GMO and fielded an online quantitative survey on the topic. We will be releasing some of those results later this month. People are pretty uneasy; they don’t truly understand what GMO really means, beyond playing back the words “genetically modified organism.” The focus group conversation reminded me a lot of how people talked about growth hormones and antibiotics in past research we have conducted.

Keep your eyes peeled for our research. In the meantime, take a look at these great articles debunking GMO myths in mainstream publications:

The New Yorker: Debate over GMO labeling 

Forbes: Results of large-scale GMO study 

My head says OK, my budget says no way…

So you’re thinking about conducting consumer research, but you haven’t pulled the trigger.

You are not alone. As consumer research specialists, we’ve found that many clients have trouble making the leap from considering consumer research to actually doing it. Often, the stumbling block is cost. If you aren’t saying it out loud, you are probably thinking it, “How much did you say this research will cost? That’s more than the price of going to market! We can’t possibly afford that, just forget it.

While you might feel some sticker shock initially, consider the long-term value of the information you can glean about your customers by surveying them. The reality is that without making some investment to talk with and listen to your target audience, you could be missing a huge opportunity.

What can consumer research do for you?

Research sheds the kind of light on consumer behavior that can keep you from blindly taking risks that lead to failure. Customers can make or break a business, so understanding what matters to them is vital. Let their way of thinking guide you. Consumer research can help you:

  • determine market demand for a new product and confirm whether consumers have a real need for what you’re offering.
  • gain insights about a target group about whom you have little or no understanding.
  • gather feedback about new concepts that you are interested in pursuing, so that you can modify your plans or switch gears before it is too late.
  • assess the impact of marketing on product sales at the store level, before a national roll-out.

Make consumer research work for you

Consumers can’t make decisions for your business, but the insights that come from surveying them can help you make informed decisions that have a critical impact on your business.

According to Rich Thoma, vice president of sales and marketing for Yerecic Label, conducting consumer research was one of the smartest decisions his company made for their marketing programs. “Taking new products to market that are supported by consumer research not only brings validity to our products, but also increases our access to potential clients who are hungry to hear from consumers,” says Thoma.

Thoughtfully-conducted consumer research can generate real results, like increased sales. MilkPEP studied consumer reactions to the positioning concept for a new program to increase milk usage, Latte Love, which ultimately drove a 1% increase in milk volume sales. Progresso Soup used consumer research to determine its competitive advantage over other soup brands among the Hispanic population, which lead to targeted messaging that increased both dollar volume and Hispanic-specific dollar volume.

Consumers are not only our targets; they are incredible resources for our industry. Making the investment in consumer research gives you a wealth of knowledge that can translate to real dollars and cents. So if you want to know what consumers think, it’s worth it to ask.

If you’d like to learn more about talking to consumers, please contact Mary Pat Anders at m.anders@midanmarketing.com.

Teamwork Makes the DREAM Work…

Corporate culture is a nebulous concept that can make or break a working atmosphere.

At Midan Marketing, principals Danette and Michael provide the framework for our culture by clearly sharing their business values and priorities. They work hard to build a cohesive team whose members positively encourage and challenge each other.

But company leaders can only provide a loose structure for a successful culture; it’s up to the team to build on that foundation.

To flesh out the cultural skeleton, it is up to us to buy in to the company values and mission and adopt them as their own.

At Midan, our culture is driven by passion – for meat, for team, for families, for growth. Of course, our passion for meat is forefront, but our passion for team generates open communication and trust in each other to excel in our areas of expertise. We work hard, but we have fun together and encourage each other to produce exceptional results.

We are also passionate about our families, and are fortunate that the Midan culture supports a healthy work/life balance. Midan principals recognize that family and personal life cannot always be contained in the hours before and after work, and they have encouraged a culture of flexibility to find ways to help with those needs.

At Midan, team members are encouraged to have interests outside of work. These interests help our staff bring unique perspectives and new ideas to the table that benefit team members and clients.

And while Midan has a single over-arching culture, there are many subcultures in play. These subcultures come from having two key offices in geographically-diverse areas and a few remote offices. Other subcultures are departmental. Each individual team — Creative Communications, Market Research, Account Management, and Administration — works and interacts differently. This doesn’t even touch on the myriad of cultural goodies we all bring from our personal lives! While we all share similar values and a passion for our work, we work to achieve Midan’s vision from different points of view.

I think it is very important to make the distinction between culture and environment. Culture has nothing to do with environment. Game days, ice cream outings and office parties are fun, but they are part of the company environment, not the company’s culture. They are the perks of a culture that values its team members.

Although Midan’s values and mission are defined and a cohesive team is in place, we realize that our culture is not static. In fact, it’s very messy. Every time a new team member joins us, the culture changes. Every time a new client is acquired, the culture changes. And when a key or long-term staff member leaves, the cultural balance is upset and it takes a while for the culture to mend and regain its balance.

So the next time we find ourselves thinking that everything is changing, let’s think about our cultural framework. Chances are that the loose structure is still the same, and it’s up to us to continue to develop and support the culture with the new building blocks we are given.

I know our brand needs to get in on this social media thing, BUT…

“It’s confusing.” “How do you know which pages to join?” “I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING!”

If this is how you feel about social media, I understand. Branching out into an unfamiliar area is scary, especially if you’re unsure about taking the next step. However, if you don’t take this step, you and your brand are going to be left behind.

It’s no secret that social media is on the cusp of world domination (I’m joking, of course). The role social media plays in our daily lives is a big one and its influence is growing. Social media provides avenues in gaining the attention of your audience that traditional mediums simply can’t deliver. With this being the case, it’s extremely important for brands to develop a solid social media strategy. With new tools and platforms constantly emerging, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the entire social media process. However, with the right focus and attitude, creating your own “social space” can benefit your brand in ways you could never imagine. Here are a few things to consider when embarking on your social media journey:

1)      What is your objective? The best social media strategies have a goal in mind. For instance, do you want to drive sales, increase awareness, attract a following, etc.?

2)      Create engaging content. Think of social media as a two-way communication model. This is your opportunity to communicate directly with your audience and their opportunity to communicate with you. Post questions, surveys and other items that will elicit a response. In this moment, you have the attention of your audience; make good use of this opportunity.

3)      Respond in a timely manner. If a follower has taken the time to comment on a post, or send a private message, respond, and respond quickly! This is your chance to make a great first impression!

4)      Listen, Listen, Listen! Your audience will give you a good guide on what they want to see and learn. Ask for their feedback.

5)      Do your research. Research your options. Learn about the platforms, and decide which are most appropriate for your brand. Don’t hesitate to ask for help!

6)      Set targets and measure performance. It’s important for a brand to measure social media performance. How do I gauge success? Some key performance metrics to track include:

–          Shares of social media conversations

–          Social media following (Is your audience growing?)

–          Reach: Is your content engaging? How many people are seeing your messages?

–          Overall engagement: Are you getting likes, comments and shares on Facebook, re-tweets on Twitter, pins on Pinterest, etc.

Now that you and your brand are ready to take the social media plunge, keep this in mind – “Brands should focus more on how to BE social, and less on how to DO social media.”

Stop and Think.

I once saw a poster on display in the “creative pen”, at an advertising agency that had retained my superior abilities, and knack, for running errands. At the time, I passed the poster everyday without regard, a proverb without much meaning, as seen on walls anywhere and everywhere, generic and typically ignored. The poster was that of an art director sketching feverishly, at a drawing board (yes it was THAT long ago), crumpled paper tossed about. A few pieces had made it into a trashcan beside the art director; most however, were dashed about haphazardly on the floor. Floating above a few of the discarded crumples were illuminated light bulbs; some brilliant in their color, some fading into the ether. The headline simply read, “Haste Makes Waste.”

To this day, that poster still stands out in my mind. As I’ve progressed in my advertising career and gained many experiences during my journey to become a creative director, I’ve seen more examples of that poster than I care to admit. At times, I’ve been that art director with great ideas scattered about due to my full panic in the moment. Other times I’ve been a silent witness to many wonderful ideas’ slow demise.

The one element all occurrences had in common was a lack of ability to focus due to, what at the time, was a crushing pressure of an oncoming deadline. A deadline that overwhelmed an ability to think properly. And yes, deadlines are real, even necessary, but if only in those times of panic we‘ll remember to slow down and imagine our idea a little further along we might just save ourselves some time and bring to life an idea otherwise lost to the ether.

In the end, there are lots of exceptional ideas out there, dazzlingly brilliant light bulbs just wanting to be brought to life. Unfortunately, most of their lights will be extinguished simply because in times of self-imposed panic we tend to lose sight and focus on the wrong object.

Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” He was a much smarter man than I…

photo-credit