This year has been a very positive year for the fresh pork category. Pork has been a great value this year, especially compared with other proteins in the meat case that have been experiencing supply issues and higher prices. Thus far in 2015, we have had very positive pork sales and profitability at the retail level. As we move into the fourth quarter, we encourage retailers to promote pork products to consumers, as these will be very attractive options amid rising protein prices.

According to FreshLook Marketing, for the 52 weeks ending July 2, 2015, fresh pork sales increased 6.4 percent in dollar sales and 1.1 percent in volume compared to the same period a year ago. The average price of pork increased 4.9 percent during this time period. 

In terms of pork supply, all reports indicate we will have a good supply of pork in the next year and prices will stabilize. In the second quarter of this year, the average retail price of pork was $2.75 per pound, a 7.9 percent decrease from the same period year ago. (Source: FreshLook data, categorized by the VMMEAT System – 13 weeks ending June 28.) Additionally, we’ve seen an 11 percent increase in pork production so far this year compared to the previous year, and we are on track to have one of the highest pork production years in history. Retailers will have many opportunities to promote both fresh and processed pork, especially as we move into the fourth quarter.

Consumers love the taste of fresh pork and are looking for good sources of natural protein. As we look toward the balance of 2015, overall meat prices are expected to continue to increase, causing more sticker shock for consumers and pinching their wallets. As more pork supply comes into the market, and prices come down, fresh pork will be the ideal product for consumers looking for a delicious center-of-the-plate protein without breaking the bank. We are working hard with our retail partners to promote pork’s versatility, great taste and solid value for consumers.

One of most important things we are doing is working with retailers to educate consumers on how to prepare fresh pork. Consumers have less cooking knowledge than ever before. We need to educate them on the various cuts of pork available to them and the best ways to prepare them. Making sure they have positive eating experiences ensures repeat purchases and long-term loyalty.

Consumer research has consistently shown that Americans have a tendency to overcook common cuts of pork, resulting in a less-than-ideal eating experience. The National Pork Board Retail Marketing Team is working with retailers to get the word out to consumers about grilling pork chops to an internal temperature between 145°F (medium-rare) and 160°F (medium), followed by a three-minute rest. This cooking temperature guideline makes it easier than ever for consumers to create perfectly cooked pork that is moist and delicious. The success of this effort depends on educating consumers that pork, cooked to 145°F to 160°F, is recommended.

Another significant educational opportunity for pork is to merchandise it at retailers using new common names developed in 2013. We are working with retailers across the country to implement these common names for fresh pork cuts and differentiating pork chops by price. By offering cuts that consumers already know how to cook, including ribeye, New York and Porterhouse, pork chops will be seen by consumers as an attractive alternative to other higher-priced items in the meat case. 

This past summer grilling season, we worked with retailers to strengthen the connection between pork and grilling in the consumer mindset. We launched two promotional platforms to get consumers cooking their favorite pork chops all season long. The “Grill Crashers” promotion focused on the great flavor options consumers have when preparing pork chops, featuring recipes for Sugar & Spice New York Pork Chops, Saucy Salsa Ribeye Bone-in Pork Chops and Cider Brined Porterhouse Pork Chops.  The “Pork Grills Like A Steak” promotion featured tempting photography of a Porterhouse chop, T-Bone chop and a New York chop and a guide to cooking temperatures for various doneness levels. Through these promotions, we were able to communicate to consumers the great pork grilling options they had all summer.

We’re looking forward to another great year for the pork industry. Success in the retail channel is a crucial component in our success, and we have developed the tools necessary to stimulate consumer demand for fresh pork. NP

State of the Industry 2015 segments

Industry overview Goes live Oct. 6
Food Safety Oct. 7
Packaging Oct. 8
Beef (NCBA) Oct. 9
Beef (CAB) Oct. 12
Pork Oct. 13
Chicken Oct. 14
Turkey Oct. 15
Veal Oct. 16
Lamb Oct. 19