Stop me if you’ve heard this — and I know you have, because I say it all the time to anyone listening: As a meat processor, your biggest concern is NOT other meat producers. In fact, they could be your best allies in a shared struggle to combat the biggest threats currently facing the meat industry.
Yet so many of us continue to spend time and effort struggling to differentiate and elevate one brand over another or one animal protein over another, while our share of the voice, our market share and our consumers continue to get lured away by other hazards we should be paying closer attention to.
Three Meat Industry Threats
Let’s take a look at three of the imminent threats facing today’s meat industry:
- Plant- and cell-based meat alternatives
- Supply chain disruption
- The automated e-commerce loop
While these threats — and the tactics to overcome them — may be different, how you handle them remains the same: Keep a close eye on them to ensure you understand how they can impact your business.
Plant- and Cell-Based Meat Alternatives
It’s not a secret that alternative meat companies have poured a lot of money into advertising. You don’t have to outspend plant- and cell-based meat producers — and given the deep pockets of their activist-backers, it’s not a good idea to try. But the dollars you DO spend need to get you in front of the right sets of eyes and remind them why the real deal is so much better. Our future lies in the hands (and taste buds) of Flexitarians and Gen Zs, who are always on the hunt for their next culinary adventure. Both consumer segments love to experiment with new eating experiences, so consider developing exciting new products, flavor profiles and varieties to appeal to their trendsetting tastes.
And remember — retailers will only be able to do so much to help because they feel compelled to allocate space in the meat case for plant-based alternatives because of market pressures.
So, how do you get the retailers in your corner?
- Take control of your own brand’s marketing efforts
- Engage with your target consumers directly
- Generate greater consumer demand and pull-through — that’s something retailers WILL pay attention to!
Also on the horizon are the cell-based alternatives, which share some of the same anti-meat environmental positioning as plant-based proteins. When they get to a scale where they’re ready to come to market, it will create additional disruption. The best defense is a good offense, so the work we do to offset plant-based messaging now will help us fend off the cell-based alternatives too.
Supply Chain Issues
The current challenges facing the supply chain are painfully familiar to all of us in the meat industry:
- Fewer cattle in the supply chain
- Shortages of skilled labor in the store, on ranches and farms and in delivery trucks
- Limited packaging inventory
- Higher costs throughout the entire supply chain
So, how can you position yourself more competitively for success? Stake your claim on leveraging individual aspects of the supply chain:
- Create long-term partnerships with producers. Work directly with producers to raise, process and deliver products to your specifications so they can continue to grow with you.
- Take control of your brands all the way to case ready. Branding your products enables you to maintain control of your own quality and safety specifications, packaging and presence in the meat case and on the menu. It also helps you build brand equity with consumers, an investment that has gotten too valuable to just give away.
The Automated E-Commerce Loop
The meat industry enjoyed a huge sales boost as e-commerce proliferated during the pandemic: 57% of meat consumers purchased meat and chicken online in March of 2021 alone.1
But don’t be lulled into the ease of the e-commerce loop. There’s a huge downside to the simplicity of automated ordering online when consumers just “buy again” versus trying other products. In traditional brick-and-mortar grocery stores, visual merchandising and impulse buying give shoppers the opportunity to discover exciting new choices in the meat case. But the automated loop of online shopping can eliminate the chance for incremental sales.
So, how can you disrupt the automated e-commerce loop in your favor?
- Use digital ads, social media, influencers and e-blasts to get into shoppers’ feeds.
- When introducing new products, flavors and varieties, be sure to entice new trial and develop new buying habits both in-store and online.
- Target your production innovations and messaging campaigns to attract the new shoppers you need to grow your sales and your brand — especially flexitarians and Gen Zs — giving them the sense of adventure and discovery they crave.
Face These Threats With Your Eyes Wide Open
When you’re planning your strategy for keeping your eye on these threats, consider this quote from Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
So, look up from the daily swirl of moving your piece of the business along to ensure that you know what is happening with each of these threats. Because the threat isn’t always the other brands in the meat case — it’s the big challenges like alt-meat or the small challenges like changing consumer e-commerce behavior that can impact how we evolve. Anticipating and reacting quickly to these business threats will give us the competitive edge needed to keep meat on consumers’ minds and at the center of their plates.
1 Midan Marketing, e-Commerce Meat Customer, March 2021 (March 17-19, 2021)
This content originally appeared in Meatingplace.