How the meat industry can meet the needs of consumers looking for smaller serving sizes
Bigger is always better, right? Larger portions, larger packages, more of everything — keep the customer happy by giving them as much as possible. Is that really the best strategy, though?
I’ve seen a steakhouse commercial on television lately that shows a steak so large that it practically fills the entire plate. I love a good steak as much as anyone else, but a portion that large seems… overkill. I can’t eat that much food at once, and leftovers never, ever taste as good as the original meal. These days, my appetite is geared more toward a perfectly prepared 6-ounce cut than a massive slab of beef that I can’t possibly finish in one sitting.
I apologize if anyone reading this considers that heresy, but I don’t think I’m alone in wanting smaller portions. I think consumers are scaling back their serving sizes for a few reasons. One is the obesity epidemic that’s prevalent in the United States. It’s not fair or accurate to blame meat and poultry for the excess weight the population carries, but consumers who are worried about their waistline may look for more reasonable portions.
A second reason is food waste, which is a problem that is gaining recognition. The amount of food that gets thrown out on a daily basis is staggering; the United Nations reports that one-third of all food produced in the world for human consumption is wasted. Fruits and vegetables result in the most waste — 45 percent of products produced are never consumed — but 20 percent of meat processed in the world is lost or wasted. That is the equivalent of 75 million cows.
How can the meat industry meet the needs of consumers looking for a little less? Cutting down on the portion size is one way. Chicken in particular can benefit from this. Chicken breasts have grown so large that it’s increasingly difficult to consume one in a single sitting. Smaller chicken cuts, or a smaller, tastier bird, would meet that need in the marketplace. Additionally, I am seeing more companies offering smaller package sizes, such as a single serving of deli meats or a 2-pack of sausages. Those items are the perfect size for an older couple, a younger couple with no children, or a single consumer.
Improved packaging can also help. As a consumer, I hate having to stuff packaged food items in plastic bags to keep them from spoiling in my refrigerator. Resealable packages can be used with everything from jerky to hot dogs to extend shelf life. A bag of individually packaged chicken breasts allow us to thaw out only what we need while keeping the rest in the freezer. The same packaging could be utilized for pork chops or ham steaks or turkey legs, too.
Smaller servings fill a niche market, to be sure. There are plenty of consumers who still want the most bang for their buck. Still, for a smaller company looking to meet a need, it may be time to think a little smaller.