Keeping Farmers’ Market Customers Shopping the Meat Case: 5 Tips for Retailers and Packer/Processors

Last month I had the privilege of sharing consumer research that Midan conducted to supplement the Power of Meat presentation during the Annual Meat Conference in Nashville. Our assignment was to shed light on the consumers who are spending more and more of their meat dollars at farmers’ markets.

While these dollars are still a relatively small part of total food expenditures, the growth of farmers’ markets is something we should all sit up and take notice of.  Whenever shoppers are spending their meat dollars outside the grocery store, retailers, packer/processors and branded meat companies lose out.

The farmers’ market shopper demographics are fairly Americana, with one key difference: these consumers have a very strong desire to know where their food comes from.

So how can we make this “farmers’ market mentality” work for retailers and packer/processors?

If these shoppers are more curious about where their meat comes from and what is (and is not) in it, then we need to communicate more clearly and regularly that the meat supplied by packer/processors and sold in the grocery store is every bit as fresh and high quality as the local farm stand. This research points to the importance of sharing the “back story” of fresh meat, so that consumers can buy meat with confidence.

So, what can you do to keep farmers’ market shoppers at the retail meat case?

  1. Tell your story

If you are selling a branded program, you have some kind of story to tell shoppers. It may not include specific farmers from a certain region. Rather, it may be more focused on why your specifications provide consumers with the eating experience they are looking for. And your story doesn’t have to be long – short and concise is all that shoppers have time for at the meat case. Sharing your story tells these shoppers that you care and are working to deliver what they want.

  1. Share the facts

Simple signs like this can go a long way in building a relationship with shoppers.

  1. Explain “fresh”

Freshness is the #1 reason consumers shop at farmers’ markets. But the meat sold in supermarkets is just as fresh. I find it a bit perplexing that we don’t really promote “fresh” at the meat case. Even vacuum-packaged and case ready products are “fresh.” It may be time to explain the major industry efforts taken to keep the meat supply fresh.

  1. Rethink those clean store policies.

I get why retailers want to minimize clutter to maximize the meat customers see. While a clear view of the sea of beef, pork and chicken is important, the pendulum is starting to swing in the other direction. More and more shoppers want some background about the meat being displayed in the case, and sharing information at point-of-sale is becoming more critical in capturing these consumers.

  1. It isn’t only about “local”

The desire for fresh, along with assurance that the animals the meat came from were well-cared-for, is huge for farmers’ market meat purchasers. These shoppers gravitate to the farmers’ market because they want to “feel good” about their purchases. But this desire to “feel good” can also be addressed in a large supermarket with meat from national packer/processors. While the buy local” movement is big in this country, shoppers know that growing cattle, pigs and chickens can’t always happen locally.

We in the industry know that the majority of animals are well-cared-for by the farmers/ranchers raising them. But consumers generally don’t see those messages of happy animals; rather, they see the vivid videos provided by activist organizations that want to defile animal agriculture.

Packer/processors, here is a great opportunity to work with your retail customers to share the positive story of all that is done to ensure a great-tasting, safe food supply from well-cared-for animals. It will help you and your customer instill confidence in those shoppers who care and expect you to care as well.

Want to learn more about farmers’ market shoppers? Check out this infographic.

4 Ways to Get High-Priced Meat in the Cart

A recent headline stated, “At a time when prices are usually low, meat prices are rising faster than any other food group.” Not what you want to hear before grilling season, right?

I cringe at the thought of what those high prices will mean for my clients. But as a consumer, I just shift things around to keep meat on the dinner table.

Based on qualitative research I have conducted over the past few years, it seems that while consumers are cognizant of rising prices, they adjust to accommodate the higher prices because they love meat and can’t walk away completely. Just a few years ago the average price per pound for a boneless sirloin steak was $5.83 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – Consumer Price Index). According to Oklahoma State University’s April Food Demand Survey, people say they are willing to pay up to $6.87 per pound for steaks, a 4.25% increase since March.

The 2014 Power of Meat study showed that while price is the number one consideration in the meat and poultry purchasing decision process, other factors are tiptoeing closer.  The importance of nutritional content, preparation knowledge and preparation time has increased.

For many consumers, saving time and effort is just as important as price.  I am one of those shoppers who is willing to pay more for easy meal solutions.  Here are four ideas that add the kind of value that helps consumers like me keep beef and pork in my shopping cart. (Kudos to Chicago-area grocery stores for starting to offer a lot of these, which has led to a drastic decline in my drive-thru runs!)

1. Remind me of all the delicious prepared foods that are now available at grocery stores. I feel better when dinner comes from the grocery store instead of a take-out or drive-thru bag. Unfortunately, grocery stores are not top of mind for last-minute dinner options. Only 13% of shoppers say they “very often” visit the grocery store to purchase ready-to-eat or heat-and-eat items rather than buying from a fast-food place or restaurant. (Power of Meat, 2014)

2. Have it somewhat ready for me. Don’t make me think after a long day at work! I am so happy to see more meat departments doing more with marinades and fresh grinds and offering innovative value-added products like shish kebabs. These types of products are particularly appealing to young adults and men. Nearly a fifth of men (19%) that buy beef tend to buy products that have been partially prepared, such as hamburger patties or kabobs, while 18-24 year olds are twice as likely (32%) as the average consumer to buy beef and pork products that have been partially prepared. (Mintel 2013 Red Meat Report)

3. Give me another option beyond rotisserie chickens. I know they are easy to prepare in store and they hold really well, but what about a pork loin roast or a beef pot roast? Take advantage of ovenable packaging to offer fresh options that make dinner more exciting.

4. Can I place an order for pick up? How great would it be if I call you at 2:00 pm to order a nice fully-cooked beef or pork roast and pick it up at 6:00 pm while I’m grabbing milk and eggs? Jump on the “grocerant trend” and be more restaurant-like. This kind of service would really help me get the kind of healthy meal on the table I feel good about serving my family.

What are your ideas for adding value to meat department purchases?

As Midan’s Account Planner as well as the mother of two small children, Julie Murphy has a unique perspective on shopping at the meat case.