DALLAS — At the recent Annual Meat Conference March 6-8, 2023, 210 Analytics LLC Principal Anne-Marie Roerink discussed the current market outlook and trends for meat retail from the perspective of consumers. As Roerink, the writer of The Power of Meat, described, the study gives a snapshot of this department from the shopper’s point of view. Cryovac, a division of Sealed Air, supported the 18th edition of the Power of Meat. Directly after The Power of Meat session at the Annual Meat Conference, Christine McCracken, executive director of Animal Protein at Rabobank, joined Roerink for a “deep dive” into The Power of Meat 2023.

Conducted in December 2022, The Power of Meat 2023 surveyed 1,607 shoppers to gain insights on the current consumer perspective of the meat retail department. The study also includes data from IRI. The below statements are a summary of Roerink’s discussion at the recent AMC.

Meat thrives

The meat department thrived once again in 2022. It was the top department according to shoppers, and was also the top seller in numbers. Beef stayed in a strong position, while chicken had the strongest dollar/pound growth. Bacon sales exceeded $6 billion, and innovation in that category, as well as in sausage, drove that growth.

Inflationary pressures

Inflation is an issue that is affecting consumers and retailers alike, and it is changing the way consumers shop and boosting consumer preference for private label products.

Moving forward, retail is positioned to do well, as inflation encourages consumers to eat out less and cook at home more. Most consumers (93%) think that at-home cooking is both healthier and cheaper, indicating a strong position for meat retail.

During The Power of Meat presentation, Roerink shared a TikTok from a woman who said she was becoming a vegetarian not by choice, but because of inflation. This sentiment reigns true with many consumers, as a third of them are trying to cut down on meat. This desire to decrease meat consumption is not due to dietary or health-related concerns, but rather because of the cost of meat.

Generational similarities and differences

Most meals contain meat, as 4 out of 4.6 (87%) home-prepared dinners feature meat. Interestingly, this number is generally consistent across different generations. There are not many meatless meals, despite consumers adjusting for inflationary pressures. As a result of inflation, though, consumers are spending more time deliberating before going to the store and while at the retailer — Millennials in particular are becoming more intentional with their purchases. This increase in deliberation is inspiring consumers to read labels more thoroughly.

Consumers are now leaning on social media platforms for recipe ideas and inspiration: videos on YouTube and TikTok contain informative guidelines for consumers looking to make at-home meals. Routine is out for meals, and video inspiration is in.

We have seen that different generations generally have differing purchasing preferences, and retailers are catering to younger consumer preferences by stocking ground pork — this is driving more young consumers to pork. Though Gen Z is not as interested in  meat as older generations, Roerink is not very concerned about this — in the past, consumption habits have changed as age increases.

Gen Z likes “easy” cuts like grinds — these younger consumers enjoy eating out and having various experiences, but this preference does not apply to their meat cuts.


The plant-based category has been on the decline due to a lack of success in taste. McCracken says, though, that plant-based companies are aware of this need to improve taste — if they can, McCracken believes the category will gain some share.

Cultivated meat is in a similar category, giving consumers protein without using animals. Still, consumers seem to have mixed reviews on cultivated meat: some are entirely against it, others see the benefits, and some are concerned about the safety of eating cultivated meat.

For their meat products, consumers are also using different appliances, like air fryers, for cooking.

Roerink says that the majority of consumers have a specific store they go to for their meat products. When consumers are looking for a store to buy their meat from, they consider two main points: value, including price and quality, and reputation. They also consider store cleanliness and availability of products. To bring in consumers, retailers should focus on building trust with their consumers as well as establishing a solid reputation.

While supermarkets are still on top for meat, $2.4 billion shifted away from supermarkets. Still, they are strong in terms of secondary pickup.

Inflation is affecting households and their purchasing decisions, but consumers are also concerned about convenience. This emphasizes the opportunities for value-added and pre-cooked meat options. Engagement and sales for value-added are on a trajectory of years-long growth. For value-added products, beef sold the most, and grinds, patties and whole-muscle meat are drivers for the value-added category.

Consumers have mixed perspectives on the meat case, but overall, most consumers find it to be a valuable resource. Usage at the meat counter is primarily focused on premium and special product purchases, though. Still, there is an opportunity to increase traffic at the counter, as there is an increasing interest in assistance at the meat case.

Despite the generally positive perceptions of the meat case, case-ready favorability is on the rise, pushed forward by younger shoppers who have growing meat dollars. In fact, many consumers think that case-ready is able to compete with the meat case.

When consumers are looking for meats to buy again, they consider two factors: quality and taste.


Transparency is important among consumers, and a good way to cater to this desire for transparency is through QR codes — Roerink says that these are now much more accepted across generations.

Regarding food safety, Roerink says that social media gives plenty of opportunities to educate consumers on the subject.

Over 20% of consumers have negative opinions regarding the meat industry and animal welfare, but there is room for education and transparency here. Grocery stores have the opportunity to inform consumers alongside brands. Consumer definitions of animal welfare vary, so it is important to understand how consumers view it.

Animal welfare is not a solitary subject — worker welfare is on the rise, and in the mind of the consumer, welfare for animals, workers and the planet are intertwined.

McCracken discussed how animal disease is mounting in difficultly around the world, begging the question: how do producers adjust moving forward? McCracken says that the industry needs a resilient supply chain. Since HPAI is spread by wild birds, it is hard to control.

Proposition 12 (Prop 12) also seems to be a great concern across the industry, and McCracken says a decision should be made by June 2023 at the latest. Many producers are already moving in the direction of open pens, though. If California is successful in Prop 12, McCracken says that other states will likely follow in those footsteps.

For producers, sustainability practices are ramping up as regenerative agriculture and carbon footprints are of growing concern and popularity.

Opportunities moving forward

Looking forward, Roerink says that she is optimistic for 2023 and is not expecting the meat department to drop below 2019 levels. As inflation mounts, consumers are on tight budgets, pulling back to familiar foods. Roerink says that, to increase consumers in the meat department, there is potential to bring meat into other areas of the store instead of staying exclusively in the meat department.

The “flexitarian” diet is something the meat department should keep an eye on — Roerink describes these consumers as “swing voters” and emphasizes the importance of keeping these consumers in the meat department.

Looking at meat promotions, Roerink says that there are plenty of opportunities in promotional creativity and consumer education. Consumers like discounted promotions, but there are not as many of these as there were pre-pandemic. Companies can experiment with timing and encourage buying pre-portioned packages, or “stocking up” in bulk with freezer-ready.

There is now more of a need in the meat category to cater to nutritional value, focusing on wellness and health — Roerink says that this need is no longer just about physical health, but now includes emotional well-being.

Click here to view the top 10 highlights from The Power of Meat 2023.