Another year brings new opportunities to capitalize upon the ever-changing consumer trends. Once more, it is the small processor that is able to adapt to changes quickly and give the consumers exactly what they want. This advantage will be especially important when it comes to new product development.
“The smaller processor is a lot more nimble and can be a lot more innovative,” says Chris Cornyn, founder of DINE, one of the country’s leading food and beverage marketing agencies and a judge on Lifetime’s “Supermarket Superstar.”
Cornyn argues that supermarkets are looking for new product offerings that are going to attract consumers and keep them coming back.
“I think traditionally, meat processors thought they just provide meat, but now there is a huge opportunity to leverage more than just meat,” he says.
Consumers are looking for help to prepare their meals, but they are not looking for a frozen meal they can just throw in a microwave. They want to be offered meal-ready components that can be easily and conveniently assembled into a meal, such as a package that pairs fish with a sauce or meat with a particular rub.
“A lot of the industry is looking at these issues, but people who get to market first and find unique ways to help consumers prepare meals are going to be able to continue to grow in 2014,” Cornyn says.
Consumers are also changing the way they eat meat, notes Brent Cator, president of Cardinal Meat Specialists. The Brampton, Ontario, processor has long been a leader in new product innovation, and Cator says that cost-effective meal solutions will be an important consumer trend.
“I think you’re going to see meat as an ingredient as opposed to the center of the plate,” he adds. “I don’t care if it’s the home consumer or the restaurant, they’re looking for meat as part of the meal and not the meal.”
The key word for a successful processor in 2014 is “flexibility,” he says.
“I think the days of, ‘The meat industry has this, so you should buy it,’ are gone,” Cator says.
Tell your story
Cornyn points out that consumers are looking to fulfill their emotional needs when they go grocery shopping as well as their nutritional and functional needs. Food companies can satisfy those needs in several ways. Functional needs can be solved by offering convenient packaging, and nutritional needs can be fulfilled with healthy products or added nutritional value. Emotional needs are a little trickier, but it comes down to transparency. Smaller processors in particular can address transparency issues more than larger brands, which is a further advantage in connecting with consumers.
“It’s a big toolbox, and processors have to figure out what’s best for them — what they can deliver on and truly be transparent about,” he says. “For one processor, it might be local. For another, it might be grass-fed or a lower impact on the environment. It might be about the story of your brand.”
Cornyn adds that local foods are particularly popular, as consumers want something with a link to their community. Not everything can be considered “local,” of course, so eco-friendly or health-conscious attributes are important as well. He cautions that those terms can’t be just buzzwords, though.
“They have to be words that actually have meaning, and as a meat processor you can back up,” he says. “If yon can’t, don’t fake it, and just be who you are and provide great product to consumers.”