Here at Midan Marketing, we work hard to stay on top of news and trends in the meat industry. As the year 2017 has wrapped up, I wanted to reflect with you on some of last year’s prominent trends that we believe will impact 2018.

1. The Evolution of Retail:

It has been a big year for retailers — no one can deny that. This year, retailers have moved at a fast-pace to keep up with consumer trends and the demand for convenience. Retail consolidation is a trend that started some time ago and continues to gain momentum. Major retailers like Kroger have purchased smaller specialty grocers — and we can’t forget the $13.7-billion check Amazon wrote to add Whole Foods to its portfolio. These changes in strategic posturing require retailers to pause and give thought to how they will continue to differentiate their businesses. Many are focusing on the areas of consumer convenience: online ordering, curbside delivery and in-home delivery, as well as creating their own meal solutions. Outlook for 2018: Expect more posturing, more niche playing and more convenience for consumers.

2. Keeping REAL Meat on the Menu:

Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger are both alternative (meat) protein products that are working hard to steal meat’s share at the center of the plate. Memphis Meats, meat built inside of a lab, is working hard to do the same. Based on the significant investments these products have received from big-name business moguls and celebrities, it is likely this trend will continue. Non-meat diet trends and concepts like Reducetarian (not eliminating, but reducing one’s intake of meat) are grabbing the attention of consumers. It is our job as an industry to continue to tell our stories, be transparent, educate consumers about what concerns them — whether that be animal welfare or the nutritional value of meat — and defend our position in the center of the plate. Outlook for 2018: The big-bucks-backed push to shift “real” meat off the plate will continue and gain traction.

3. China Opens the Door for U.S. Beef:

After 14 years, China finally re-opened its doors to U.S. beef. This news is exciting for the U.S. meat industry because China is a key export market. There are new rules and export guidelines, and many key players didn’t waste any time getting their beef qualified and shipped to the biggest population on Earth. This is a historical event and a huge economic opportunity for U.S. packers. I applaud those that have stepped up their game to take advantage of it. Outlook for 2018: More consumers getting a taste of U.S. beef means more opportunities … assuming North Korea behaves.

4. A Niche Market Gains Traction:

Grass-fed beef makes up a really small percentage of meat sales but it is a growing trend that doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. This niche market is important to keep an eye on: Consumers are demanding it in both the retail and foodservice channels. It is in the meat industry’s best interest to make sure consumers are aware of the benefits of both grass-fed and grain-fed beef and not insinuate that one is superior to the other. Outlook for 2018: More grass-fed beef will be imported to try to meet demand, while some consolidation of the brands will occur to create steady supplies.

5. Sustainability:

I have to admit, this one has been hard for all of us to get our heads around. Ask 10 people what sustainability is and you will get 10 different answers. This past summer, Michael Uetz and I shared research on the topic at the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (USRSB). Bottom line of the research: Without a standardized industry-wide definition, consumers won’t understand the value of sustainably raised meat and ultimately won’t be willing to pay for it … not to mention the fact that we run the risk of too many different definitions diluting the meaning and value long term. Hats off to USRSB for working to develop a definition for the industry. Now, adoption becomes the key. Outlook for 2018: Consumer concern for sustainability will continue to grow, bringing more attention to the sustainable practices of the meat industry. NP

Editor’s Note: This article was reprinted with permission from the Midan Marketing blog. For more insight and information from Midan Marketing, visit