What did surprise me was that my daughter (MY daughter!) still turned to me for guidance when it was time to pick out fresh meat. And while I was surprised, perhaps I shouldn’t have been – the meat case can be really intimidating for the average consumer. With proteins for a handful of different animals, cuts laid out in a way that isn’t explained and oh so many claims! We ended up picking out a couple steaks that the pair could cook up in the air-fryer (yep, I was paying!) along with some ground beef that could become one of a hundred different meals.
But this interaction got me thinking about our youngest generation of shoppers: What are they looking for when purchasing beef? How should we in the industry evolve to meet their needs? Midan Marketing recently released a new research report looking at all things beef and some of the results, particularly around Gen Z beef consumers, I found really interesting.
One of the first things I noticed was that Gen Z shoppers are the generation most likely to shop for beef online. This could also play into why some of them are intimidated by the meat case – 26% of them purchase beef as part of a meal kit delivery service,1 where all meal ingredients are pre-picked and there’s no need to understand the difference between a strip steak and a sirloin.
Another difference in how they shop for beef? Brands. Nearly half of Gen Z shoppers say that “brand” is one of the top three things they consider when picking out beef. The only attribute that outranked brand for our young shoppers was price – but price was a top factor with all consumer groups.1 Young people tend to gravitate toward brands for a couple of reasons: Brands give them a way to know the values of the company they’re buying from, brands let them make personal connections and brands give them someone to hold accountable for good and bad experiences.
My daughter fits the mold perfectly. Last month we were talking as she navigated the aisles of the same grocery story with list in hand. On the list was more ground beef. After making her selection I asked her what she picked up: Suzy Sirloin® ground beef. When I asked her why, she responded in the typical daughter-to-mother tone: “Mom, I always buy Suzy’s.” Turns out she likes the packaging and trusts Suzy! Brands that consistently deliver will create loyal customers for a lifetime.
Also of note in Midan’s study were the actual on-pack claims. And Gen Z’s priorities already look different than those of our older beef consumers. From our research, the top two claims with the most impact for 18- to 25-year-old beef eaters are1:
• Raised with no added hormones or growth promotants
• High in protein
There are additional claims that round out the list. Which one is most important varies by generation. I am not surprised by the “never ever” claim with Gen Zs; it’s the “high in protein” claim that caught my attention. If you know me, you know protein has been one of my soapboxes for years now – if you walk up and down the aisles of a grocery store, how many products do you see boasting a front-of-pack protein claim? How many do you see in the meat case? Chances are, you saw more protein claims in the bread and cereal aisles than you did in the protein section. This is such a simple addition to our packaging that signals to young shoppers and health-minded consumers that meat is the whole, nutritious protein they’re looking for.
For the most part, our Gen Z consumers only know what we have taught them – as their parents, teachers, mentors or friends. And for a lot of them, that means not knowing how Angus beef is different from non-Angus beef or that “all natural” doesn’t mean a lot in the eyes of the USDA. They know that ground beef is easy to cook and that steaks are for special occasions. And, as much as marketers get tired of hearing we have to educate – it is true. There is always a new crop of kids standing in front of the meat case making decisions. Education can take a lot of different forms, though, from Jess Pryles on TikTok teaching viewers how to cut a tri-tip to a simple “great for grilling” sticker on a pack of ribeye steaks. We can cultivate a whole new generation of beef eaters simply by giving the things they care about the spotlight.