AMC 2023: Back Together and Better Than Ever
At this year’s Annual Meat Conference (AMC) in Dallas, Texas, high energy and enthusiasm were evident: Attendees and exhibitors were delighted to convene in person after a three-year absence.
Along with the great vibes from colleagues reconnecting, the conference itself had a fresh new look. FMI, The Food Industry Association (FMI) and the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) worked with Midan to rebrand the conference to reflect a modern, personalized protein experience that supports their members’ goals for innovation and growth. See the video that showcases the newly reimagined AMC brand.
The Midan Team was on hand to listen, learn and be on the lookout for key nuggets that educate and inspire the meat industry. Below are our top 10 AMC 2023 takeaways:
1. Power of Meat 2023: Meat Sales Strong, but Inflation Nipping at Our Heels
In 2022, meat was the star of the show: Meat sales soared +5.7% versus a year ago and almost 87% of all home-prepared dinners featured meat/poultry.1 Additionally, self-described “flexitarians” are on the decline2 and demand has fallen for alternative meat.3
Before we rest on our laurels, we must be hyperaware of the ongoing challenge of inflation: Consumers spent more than 25% more on food last year than in 2019 before the pandemic.4 Market conditions are prompting 76% of Americans to change what groceries they purchase.1 To keep meat in the mix, we must find ways to provide more value to offset rising prices. But value means different things to different consumers. So, look for ways to alleviate consumer stress by providing them with solutions that deliver across a variety of value components:
- Price: Offer more specials more often, especially on household staples like ground beef and chicken breasts.
- Meal Planning Inspiration: Get in front of consumers where they already are – the digital space – with enticing recipe videos.
- Convenience: Provide a constant rotation of affordable, complete meals (fresh meat + sides) packaged together in the meat department, with the total meal price visible.
(Power of Meat 2023: An In-Depth Look at the Meat Department Through the Shoppers’ Eyes, Anne-Marie Roerink, 210 Analytics, LLC, Sponsored by Cryovac®)
2. It’s Time to Step Up Our Sustainability Commitment
The meat industry, in partnership with producers, NGOs, scientists and data analysts, is taking bold steps to address the challenge of sustainability and emissions reduction within the supply chain. There is a new protein consumer on the horizon who is more educated than ever before who cares about the intersection of people, planet and animal. They seek out brands and buy from companies they trust. It is imperative that those of us in the industry foster that trust and nurture shared values throughout the supply chain. How do retailers and meat brands tell a complex transparency story about emissions reduction, net zero and carbon reduction to a consumer who is likely far removed from agriculture?
A few things to keep in mind as you address your sustainability story:
- Keep your messaging simple and meaningful.
- Be radically transparent. Report progress in an honest way, even when you are shy of your goals.
- Back up your sustainability statements with verifiable claims and hard data. (Highlight the specific efforts you are making in waste management, water reduction, emissions reduction, energy reduction, sustainable packaging, etc.)
(Realizing the Business Value of Supply Chain Transparency: Eric Mittenthal, North American Meat Institute (moderator); Randy Huffman, Maple Leaf Foods; Barb Renner, Deloitte; Justin Ransom, Tyson Foods, Inc.)
3. Social Influencers: Do Your Research, Then Let Them Do Their Thing
Social influencers are gaining a bigger piece of the marketing pie: Almost 40% of agencies and brands worldwide devote 10% to 20% of their marketing budgets to influencer marketing, according to a March 2022 Statista survey. Midan’s own Danette Amstein moderated a panel of experts in the influencer space and each offered their unique perspective:
- Do your homework: Melissa Crowe, Vice President of Brand Marketing and Content Strategy at ButcherBox, uses in-depth customer research to inform the company’s content strategy and help guide which influencers to work with. Meeting customers where they are in their journey is key to telling the ButcherBox story and helping their customers become successful.
- Focus on relationships: Jess Pryles, Founder and President, Hardcore® Carnivore – a macro influencer with 665,000 followers – approaches social influencing as a marathon, not a sprint, and believes that building long-term relationships is more important than one-offs. Long-term relationships lead to better engagement, and from her standpoint, better return on investment for her partners.
- Trust the influencer: Ryan Wenstrup-Moore, Social Media Manager at The Kroger Co., says, “Do your research to find an authentic partner, then let the influencer do their thing – that’s their ‘secret sauce.’” Authenticity helps drive positive engagement among customers, and engagement is the “queen bee” of retailer metrics.
(Using Influencer Marketing and Social Media Partnerships to Create Loyalty and Drive Sales: Danette Amstein, Midan (moderator); Jess Pryles, Hardcore® Carnivore; Melissa Crowe, ButcherBox; Ryan Wenstrup-Moore, The Kroger Co.)
4. Mother Nature Continues to Impact the Beef Supply
Drought-related contraction in beef is continuing in 2023 with beef production projected to be down 4.2%; almost 55% of the beef herd is in the regions with the most severe drought.
Retail meat prices will trend higher into the middle of the decade as per capita supply declines. Inflation is still the biggest threat to demand because of its impact on household income.
As beef on dairy cattle becomes more desirable, expect a major long-term shift: 15% to 20% of fed-cattle beef production over the next 5-10 years will be beef on dairy.
Pork is projected to be flat and chicken up 1%.
(2023 Market Outlook for Meat and Poultry: Steve Meyer, Partners for Production Agriculture; Paul Aho, Poultry Perspective; Randy Blach, CattleFax)
5. New Proposed “Product of USA” Label Ruling to Alleviate Consumer Confusion, Possibly Cause Tariffs
This week the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) released a proposed rule defining standards for voluntary claims of “Product of the USA” to give consumers more clarity about the origin of meat products. Only products made with meat from animals that were born, raised, slaughtered and processed in the U.S. will be able to make this claim. (These standards will also apply to processed meats.) This ruling will impact marketing claims on packages and could initiate $1B in tariffs from trade partners Canada and Mexico. The proposed rule will be open for public comment for 60 days after publishing in the Federal Register. Public comments can be submitted at www.regulations.gov. NAMI will continue to provide feedback about the ruling.
(Regulatory and Policy Update: Andrew Harig, FMI, The Food Industry Association; Casey Gallimore, North American Meat Institute)
6. Lead with Spark: Create a Culture Where Everyone Matters
Keynote speaker Simon T. Bailey reminded us that people are at the heart of every business. How do we activate a culture that puts people first, both employees and customers? Businesses create the culture, employees live the culture, customers experience the culture. Every interaction with a fellow teammate or a customer is an opportunity to “brand the moment” for those we serve.
His take on the “Golden Rule” in the workplace: Love and respect have no color. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) has become a business imperative, because what is measured, gets addressed.
Simon also highlighted the importance of self-care to ensure you show up as your best self with his advice to “Take Your MEDS”: Meditate, Exercise, Diet, Sleep.
(Leading with Spark: Create a Culture Where Everyone Matters, Simon T. Bailey, Simon T. Bailey International)
7. Women in Meat Retail Networking Lunch: Meat Marketing, Where Women Rule
AMC kicked off in style with more than 250 women and men attending a luncheon sponsored by the Women’s Meat Industry Network (WMIN). The number of women attending the conference is growing and WMIN is gaining momentum – just one year after its inception, the group is already celebrating more than 1,000 members. A panel of female marketing leaders shared their industry experiences, highlighting how important it is to create opportunities to keep the pipeline open for diverse female talent. The panelists also discussed ways for men to be allies to women in the workplace, encouraging women to speak up and ask for support from male colleagues.
(Women in Meat Retail Networking Lunch: Meat Marketing, Where Women Rule: Jennifer Dibbern, American Foods Group, LLC (moderator): Meredith Healan, FPL Food; Alexa Langona, Own Brands, Albertsons Companies; Charity Bradley, Meyer Natural Foods)
8. Case Ready: A Powerhouse at Meat Case
Case ready continues to rise across all proteins and now represents 83%5 of packages in the meat case. Because it checks multiple boxes for consumers — convenience, flavor, easy prep – case ready helps retailers solve the dinner dilemma. For retailers who want to implement a case ready program, packer/processors can be an ally in this mission by identifying the best path forward.
A few tips to keep in mind when transitioning to case ready:
- Start with products consumers are already accustomed to seeing in the meat case to ensure a smoother transition.
- Educate consumers on the benefits of case ready: longer shelf life, freezer ready, leakproof packaging, etc.
- Be prepared to pivot such as changing lighting or updating your specs to ensure the best presentation.
(Case Ready Meat: Lee Bonecutter, Cargill (moderator); Stacey Couch, Sealed Air, Inc.; Jamie Dik, Cargill; Catie Cantrell, Heinen’s Grocery Stores)
9. Labor to Remain a Key Challenge Across Industries
During the next year, dramatic labor shortages will continue in the United States. Eleven million non-farm jobs are predicted to remain unfilled in 2023. This creates a challenge to not only the meat industry, but all U.S. service and production industries. Product and service innovation will be imperative to merge the gap created by these labor shortages. Companies will also need to be more creative with the methods they use to retain employees. Investing in employees by offering incentives, conducting “stay” interviews and creating referral programs are a few ways employers can retain current personnel. In the upcoming year, creating additional value through innovative product development and investing in current employees can help ease the pressures of labor shortages and economic volatility.
(Economic Trends, Global Trade, Labor and What’s Ahead: John Manzella, Manzella Trade Communications, Inc.)
10. Technology Advancements Are Critical to Address Retail Headwinds
Key headwinds facing today’s retail meat industry include: the current global economic situation, changing consumer buying patterns and labor shortages. Fortunately, technology and automation advancements are positioned as potential solutions to help address each of these challenges. For example, perpetual inventory management systems that are driven by artificial intelligence allow for more efficient and consistent product buying, assortment management, online order fulfillment and labor scheduling.
(Retail Innovations in Meat: Rick Stein, FMI (moderator), The Food Industry Association; Tom Sinnen, The Stores Consulting Group, LLC; John Kelly, Sealed Air Corporation)
AMC 2023 highlighted the challenges facing the retail meat industry in the coming year, but also reminded us of the many opportunities to innovate and collaborate to better serve all our stakeholders throughout the supply chain. See you next year in Nashville!
Look for Midan’s AMC 2023 Top Takeaways video to be released shortly!
2 210 Analytics, CPG Client Research, Grocery Shopping Perceptions and Realities, 2015-2023, n=5,000
3 IRI, Integrated Fresh, Total US, MULO, 52 weeks ending 1/1/2023
4 IRI, Integrated Fresh, 52 w.e. 12/25/2022, including fixed weight and random weight
5 National Meat Case Study 2022, Cryovac®