Starting more than four decades ago, the “Have It Your Way” concept has anchored securely into the U.S. in so many aspects of our culture. U.S. consumers have become very specific about their dietary needs, including the sourcing of the food they consume. This self-centeredness has caused multiple enterprises to cater to the individual.

According to, in 2014 six out of 10 households in the U.S. had someone on a specialized or restricted diet. Flash forward to 2018, and one out of three people in the U.S. are on a specialized diet or eating plan, according to the 13th Annual Food and Health Survey. Keto, gluten-free, organic, vegetarian, locally sourced and many more demands affect the food industry, from the way proteins are raised and crops grown to consumer purchases and menu changes at restaurants. Even the menus now have icons indicating what their dishes offer to patrons. Added to this is that fact more people are eating alone and not as the family unit, allowing for their specific dietary preference to be maintained.

Millennials continue to dominate the consumption narrative. They demand smaller portions, shop more frequently and are very concerned about ingredients and health issues. GMO-free, raised without antibiotics, cage-free and a number of other issues are important to them. Locally grown is a hot topic. Organic product demands continue to increase but locally grown seems to be much more important to this demographic group.

So what does this mean for our industry?



As a career meat person, I foresee plant-based protein sales will continue to grow and gain popularity. The New York Post published late 2018 that 33 percent of those in the U.S. consider themselves flexitarian, alternating between vegetarian meals and meals with traditional proteins. With another 30 percent of citizens being active vegetarians, restaurants and grocery stores alike will offer new protein items from alternative sources than the traditional meat, poultry and fish. The traditional protein industry, however, is still very much needed both domestically and globally.


Feed ingredients

Feed ingredients should be affected by what will be a very weak crop yield for both corn and soybeans in 2019. The trade battle with China has moderated coarse grain demand, but the large carry over that we’ve experienced the last two years will be gone after this year.


Global outlook

This has been a wacky year, and while every year is unusual, this one is very strange. The trade war with China continues, and it appears the Asian nation is threatening to take this past the 2020 election in the U.S. Everyone in the protein industry knows the African swine flu is a very significant event that will affect Chinese pork production for three to five years. China consumes about 50 percent of the world’s pork. Currently, China is sourcing product from all around the world and trying to shut out the U.S. on pork, chicken, beef and coarse grains. In the short term, this has continued the painful cycle that hurts the export-dependent pork industry. It has also hurt leg chicken exports and other commodities such as corn and soybeans. It appears the Chinese are crunching numbers and understand Trump’s ability to get re-elected is dependent on farmers and rural communities that have been historically very supportive of his presidency.

China is also rightfully paranoid that its people are losing patience with them, and a regime change is not out of the question. Even though up until now they’ve been able to source pork and soy protein from around the world, their people are unhappy because they’re forced to sacrifice by paying higher prices for product quality that has suffered. Now that Chinese citizens have disposable income, they want higher quality protein. The long-term effect could be that they change their consumption patterns and eat more chicken — a pattern change that could be permanent.

2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
(million lb.)
104,624 106,479 100,169 104,624 106,479
Per capita disappearance
(retail lb.)*
221.7 222.7 216.8 221.7 222.7

Forecasts are in bold. * Per capita meat disappearance data are calculated using the Resident Population Plus Armed Forces Overseas series from the Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce. All data as of Aug. 15,2019. Source: World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates and Supporting Materials. For further information, contact: Mildred M. Haley,



Grocery shopping frequency hasn’t changed much from last year, but some trends may result in people shopping more frequently in the future. Examples include the desire for locally grown foods, lack of planning, urbanization, desire for freshness, a migration to online shopping, curbside delivery, increased reliance on foodservice and more. All these combine to make us think that we will increase our shopping frequency in the future.

Meal kit services are trending, both home delivery and customized packages set up in grocery stores. The 2019 Grocery Shopper Trends reports one out of 10 consumers have indulged in meal kits the past 12 months. Additionally, 33 percent of consumers are shopping online for groceries at least occasionally, up from 28 percent in 2018 and 16 percent in 2015.

Locations for shopping vary by the generations, with the younger generations (Millennials and Gen Z) placing more value on labeling, customer service experience, convenience and quality products, and selection of locally grown or organic products. Consumers of all ages seek transparency of ingredients of the products and ask for clear labeling. Self-checkout stations have been or are being implemented in many stores and are used regularly.



By all accounts, the restaurant industry should be more prosperous than it is in this seemingly robust economy. Approximately 48 percent of the protein dollars and 42 percent of all pounds go to the foodservice industry, and people on both sides, producers and buyers, are affected tremendously by this industry.

Industry experts will tell you that a decline in men eating out, the market being overbuilt, too much competition and too many great choices for the consumers have led to tenuously tight margins.

Business dining represents $100 billion in annual U.S. restaurant sales and encompasses travel meals, private dining events and catering. According to research conducted last year by the Global Business Travel Association and Dinova, Millennials choose quick-service restaurants (51 percent) and fast-casual concepts (63 percent) for on-the-road business meals, far exceeding the preferences of their Baby Boomer and Gen X counterparts for business travel meals in the quick-service arena. With Millennials projected to make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, quick-service restaurants in particular should ensure they’re taking the necessary steps to attract this population.

Brand Dollar Sales Dollar Sales % Chg YAgo Unit Sales Unit Sales % Chg YAgo
Private Label $4,071,390,018 10.0% 616,621,621 10.8%
Hormel Always Tender $87,752,348 -0.7% 13,749,269 0.7%
Smithfield $78,066,837 2.5% 12,737,418 4.4%
IBP $56,705,526 -0.9% 19,414,429 13.6%
Laura's Lean Beef $52,684,131 -28.8% 7,529,163 -28.8%
Total Refrigerated Uncooked Meats $5,269,405,802 4.0% 800,618,686 5.4%


Brand Dollar Sales Dollar Sales % Chg YAgo Unit Sales Unit Sales % Chg YAgo
Private Label $756,353,718 4.1% 81,719,266 7.1%
Bubba Burger $133,414,158 -1.0% 10,171,070 -1.6%
Cooked Perfect $90,096,467 1.5% 15,434,849 -0.3%
Steak Umm $56,395,891 2.3% 9,354,144 -3.9%
Philly Gourmet $35,628,808 -5.3% 4,302,295 -9.0%
Total Frozen Meat (no poultry) $1,668,074,133 1.6% 214,150,615 1.7%


Brand Dollar Sales Dollar Sales % Chg YAgo Unit Sales Unit Sales % Chg YAgo
Morningstar Farms $237,060,978 1.5% 52,856,728 3.9%
Gardein $55,408,825 -2.5% 12,399,938 -3.0%
Beyond Meat The Beyond Burger $39,371,507 225.5% 6,841,374 221.7%
Morningstar Farms Grillers $37,318,407 -4.8% 9,455,286 -3.6%
Field Roast $29,010,376 26.7% 5,246,878 25.7%
Total RFG/FZ Meat Substitutes $601,296,602 8.6% 136,760,205 6.6%

Source: IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm (@iriworldwide). Total US Multi-Outlet w/ C-Store (Grocery, Drug, Mass Market, Convenience, Military and Select Club & Dollar Retailers), latest 52 weeks ending Aug. 11, 2019.
Note: Rankings of top brands are NOT totaled brand listings (e.g. all UPCs or brand extensions rolled up into a single figure, such as Total Crest Toothpaste), but are rather individual brand listings.


Mergers and acquisitions

It has been a busy 2018-19 year in regards to mergers and acquisitions. Consolidation among all categories will continue. Specifically, ConAgra Brands, General Mills, Campbell Soup and other big-name CPG companies have been part of multibillion-dollar deals. Additionally, food and beverage companies have been attempting to upgrade their images to better food profiles through acquisitions of complimentary companies.



From packaging to environmental concerns, many U.S. consumers have actively sought sustainable options in all their lifestyle choices for many years now. Studies show that consumers are willing to pay a premium for products that practice Earth-friendly, sustainable and even natural packaging. Many businesses now contain sustainability efforts as part of their business model. Walmart, for example, has made sustainability its issue and locally grown addresses that with the minimum carbon footprint. As we move forward, our industry should look toward the good of the planet as well as the welfare of our consumers.



We live in a global mindset and things can change quickly depending on circumstances throughout the world. Great taste, eco-friendly packaging, clean labeling and healthy options are an absolute prerequisite to any product going to market successfully. While it is clear that much of our industry is dictated by personal dietary choices for medical reasons or trendiness, we need to stay strong and offer our consumers the best we can give them. Stay abreast of the consumer trends and adapt accordingly. Many of you are already providing what consumers want, but you need to be sure to market your livelihood in terms that appeal to them. NP