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.

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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. 

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

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.

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