Midan Logo - blue

AMC 2021 Top 10 Insights

Midan Marketing

Reading Time: 6 minutes
The “State of Change” theme for AMC 2021 was more than apt, as the meat industry gathered virtually to reflect on a year of incredible upheaval wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, recognize the resilience of stake holders across the meat channel and share hard-won learnings. Not least among those learnings is that industry relationships and a spirit of collaboration were critical to keeping food on America’s tables during the crisis.

As always, Midan was on hand to capture key takeaways. Here are our AMC Top 10 insights:

1. Leverage meat’s superpower: variety

Meat demand was the silver lining of the pandemic for the meat industry. Forty-three percent of shoppers purchase more meat now than before the pandemic, and there is a strong link between variety and meat consumption frequency. Of those with a greater likelihood to buy more meat, 68% buy more variety in types or cuts. Many consumers will keep pandemic purchasing habits going and continue to explore and experiment in the kitchen; focus on offering a variety of cuts and continue to upskill people on appropriate cooking methods. Promote variety to increase volume. (Power of Meat 2021: An In-Depth Look at Meat Through the Shopper’s Eyes, Anne-Marie Roerink, 210 Analytics, sponsored by Cryovac®)

2. Rethink learning to succeed at innovation

Try. Fail. Learn. Repeat. Due to the speed of technology, business now requires resilience (which we are known for), being comfortable with uncertainty (which we got a lot better at in 2020) and the psychological safety to experiment (which is a newer concept for us). Successful growth hinges on finding ways to dramatically lower the cost of failure. We must rethink learning to grow faster and in a scalable way. If our priority is always on “doing it right” and within our existing processes, we impede innovation and are left wondering why we aren’t growing. For the meat industry, this approach offers powerful application opportunities for production automation in areas like portion control. (Business Beyond 2030, Chris Riddell)

3. Be prepared for the next big disruption: transparency

Transparency is shaping up to be the next e-commerce – retailers should prepare now to avoid being caught flatfooted the way some were when COVID-19 upended online grocery shopping. Whether the consumer is in-store or online, the ability to provide more information about a product – where it came from, how long it was on the shelf – will soon be demanded by consumers and require the farm-to-fork supply chain to help deliver. Encouraging producers to accept and adopt new technologies such as blockchain will position them at the forefront of the industry and open doors for new supply opportunities. For early adopters it could be a margin opportunity, but when all consumers start to clamor for transparency, it will become one of the reasons that a supplier thrives. (The New Future of Omnichannel and E-Commerce, David Zucker, Perdue Farms, Inc. and Mike Salguero, ButcherBox)

Claims-based products will likely play a key role in the transparency ramp-up. Get our Top 10 insights about today’s natural and organic meat consumers.

4. Get ready: Sustainability will continue to gain significance…

Consumers are increasingly focused on the implications of choices made across the food system and the urgency of sustainable solutions. Fifty-nine percent of younger consumers (Millennials and Gen Zs) say environmental responsibility is important to eating well, compared to only 41% of older consumers; however, even though consumers are interested in sustainable foods, 6 out of 10 find it hard to know if their food choices are produced sustainably. As the meat industry grapples with how to become more sustainable, a critical component of that response will be consumer education. (The Business Case for Sustainability, Christine McCracken, Rabobank, Eric Mittenthal, North American Meat Institute and Marjorie DePuy, FMI)

… require action…
As the pressure increases to produce more food with fewer resources, how will the animal protein industry meet the “sustainability imperative” challenge? The meat industry must be proactive in addressing sustainability to ensure we are a part of the solution. This will require collaborating across the supply chain, making techonology and innovation a priority, understanding the growing influence of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investors and establishing unified benchmarks in order to meet the demands of potential new regulations and forward-thinking consumers.

Keep the 2021 U.N. Food Systems Pre-Summit to be held July 2021 on your radar and contact your associations to learn how the meat industry plans to participate. The goal of The Summit is “to awaken the world to the fact that we all must work together to transform the way the world produces, consumes and thinks about food.” (The Business Case for Sustainability, Christine McCracken, Rabobank, Eric Mittenthal, North American Meat Institute and Marjorie DePuy, FMI)

… and demand stronger storytelling
The meat industry needs to work harder to share how beef ranchers have been working for years to deliver more with less. In the 1970s it took 130 million head of cattle to produce 25 billion pounds of beef; in 2020, it took only 95 million head to produce 27 billion pounds. (Market Outlook for Meat and Poultry, Paul Aho, PhD, Poultry Perspective, Steve Meyer, Partners for Production Agriculture and Randy Blach, CattleFax, Inc.)

5. Seize big opportunities in animal welfare education

Forty percent of shoppers don’t know if the meat/poultry they purchase comes from humanely raised animals, signaling a huge opportunity to educate meat consumers. As alt-protein big-budget marketing continues to hammer away at our animal welfare practices, the traditional meat industry can drive permission and favorability by educating consumers and removing doubt to keep meat at the center of the plate. (Power of Meat 2021: An In-Depth Look at Meat Through the Shopper’s Eyes, Anne-Marie Roerink, 210 Analytics, sponsored by Cryovac®)

6. Brands still matter

The pandemic seemed to strengthen consumer’s preference for manufacturer brands, rising 3 percentage points from 2019 to 28%. Private label brand preference for fresh meat and poultry for the same period held steady at 24%, while brand neutrality dipped to an all-time low of 48%. These three figures together show the need for retailers to focus on both manufacturer and private label brands in their case to convey trust in better quality, better taste and safe and consistent offerings. (Power of Meat 2021: An In-Depth Look at Meat Through the Shopper’s Eyes, Anne-Marie Roerink, 210 Analytics, sponsored by Cryovac®)

7. Keep flexitarians in the fold: Understand what they value…

The number of self-designated meat eaters has dropped 14 percentage points since 2019 (from 85% to 71%) while flexitarians have grown 9 percentage points (from 10% to 19%). Three-quarters (78%) of shoppers feel meat belongs in a healthy, balanced diet, but only 67% of flexitarians agree. With fewer people who consider themselves “meat eaters” and more people phasing out meat and substituting protein alternatives, the meat industry is slowly losing its core consumers. We must tune into what flexitarians value to keep meat and poultry as a preferred protein for this critical (and growing) group: Health, Planet, Animal Welfare – plus social responsibility due to the pandemic. (Power of Meat 2021: An In-Depth Look at Meat Through the Shopper’s Eyes, Anne-Marie Roerink, 210 Analytics, sponsored by Cryovac®)

… and welcome them with open arms
To reach flexitarians, think “plant-forward” versus fully “plant-based” with recommendations for blended foods, protein bowls and meal solutions where both meat and plant-based foods are featured. Equip meat department staff with knowledge to promote meat’s nutritional profile to encourage “guilt free” eating of animal proteins. (Using Health and Well-Being to Seize the Opportunity for Loyal Meat Customers, Krystal Register, FMI, Melanie Jatsek, Heinen’s Grocery Stores and Amy Peterson, Coburns Inc.)

Learn more about today’s flexitarian consumers.

8. D2C and brick-and-mortar: It’s an “and” (not an “or”)

D2C and traditional retail need each other to both thrive. The type of data secured from e-commerce is next-level to what a traditional retailer has access to; however, smart retailers will figure out how to create an in-store experience that allows them to gather that quality of data from on-site customers. Because 70% of people won’t ever buy groceries online, D2C companies, like ButcherBox, who are building their brand want to make inroads into retail as well. Other traditional processors, like Perdue Farms, Inc., are dipping their toe into D2C to test products, then take those online learnings to sell additional products into retail. Focus on creating an integrated omnichannel strategy that best incorporates your products, services and platforms. (The New Future of Omnichannel and E-Commerce, David Zucker, Perdue Farms, Inc., and Mike Salguero, ButcherBox)

9. Take advantage of more at-home eating occasions

Since COVID-19 forced many Americans to work from home, 33 million lunch and breakfast occasions are now taking place at home. In a workforce of 155 million people, only 63% are slated to return to a regular in-person work schedule while 18% will work from home much more often. This opens the door to developing innovative protein options for non-dinner occasions for a very large, captive audience. (Consumer Purchase Behaviors: How Did They Change and What is Here to Stay, Chris DuBois, IRI and Larry Levin, IRI)

10. Digital is where it’s at for meat content engagement

Digital platforms are exploding and influencers are the new superheroes. The video-sharing platform TikTok, today’s most downloaded app with 800 million users, helps educate consumers about food and creates intense fan engagement. (Check out the uber-successful Wiener Wednesday campaign sponsored by NAMI.) The meat industry must act fast to harness the power of hot-right-now digital platforms and influencers to reach today’s consumers where they turn to learn about and engage with food: online. (Engaging Food Influencers on TikTok, Christina Brennan, The Food Renegades, Marco Sanchez, The Food Renegades and Matt Groark, The Food Renegades)

Bonus Takeaway

11. And finally, the past year helped bring the human element of the meat industry into sharper focus:

The business case for diversity continues to strengthen
A 10-year span of research shows that companies that are ethnically and gender diverse outperform their peers, and there appears to be a causal connection between investments in diversity and expanding financial performance. (Key Actions for Advancement in Diversity and Inclusion, Kevin Dolan, McKinsey & Company and Miriam Owens, McKinsey & Company)

Take care of your team
Expect to see a pro-employee agenda with the Biden administration. Employers should work to get their house in order now: Audit employee handbooks and policies, ensure you’re in compliance with labor laws and take steps to minimize risk. Positive employee relations and regular communication are key to building trust within the workforce. (What’s Next in Labor and Employment Law, Frederick Miner, Littler and John Linker, Akerman LLP)

COVID-19 put farmers and industry workers in the spotlight
For the first time in 2020, among consumers who are seeking “better for” meat/poultry, “better for the farmer/worker” consideration topped “better for the animal” consideration (29% vs. 27%). Me/my family still tops the list at 72% and the planet comes in a distant second at 34%. (Power of Meat 2021: An In-Depth Look at Meat Through the Shopper’s Eyes, Anne-Marie Roerink, 210 Analytics, sponsored by Cryovac®)

AMC 2021 Top Takeaways Video

See Midan team members share their firsthand takeaways from AMC 2021.