As the summer months are fast approaching, consumers, retailers, and foodservice operators alike need to know what to expect for this year’s summer grilling trends. Circana, 210 Analytics, BUBBA burger, Verde Farms, Hickory Nut Gap, and Tyson Fresh Meats all share their takes on 2023 summer grilling trends and innovations.
Anne-Marie Roerink, principal at 210 Analytics, said that those in the meat industry have seen consumers invest in grilling – the meat industry is capitalizing on that investment.
As consumers realize the benefits of at-home cooking, Roerink said that “the evolution of premium burgers continues in a variety of ways, including added ingredients, such as vegetables, mushrooms, cheese, bacon, etc. It also includes making burgers from different cuts, such as ribeye or brisket. These are often sold in two’s or four’s and are ideally positioned to be the ‘pub food’ restaurant replacement.”
Hickory Nut Gap is participating in this evolution with its new Vital Blend.
“That's mostly a ground beef product, but it's got some heart and liver blended into it,” said Jamie Ager, founder, farmer, and CEO at Hickory Nut Gap. “It's appealing to the customer out there who really wants to be more health-focused around micronutrients and all the benefits that organ meats provide from a health standpoint but making them more approachable.”
Roerink said packaging innovations for sausages and brats include oven-ready sausages, as well as sausages that are individually wrapped. Roerink said that seafood is also getting popular in summer grilling, as grilling is extending beyond just the meat department and becoming more of a full-store occasion.
For whole-muscle meats, Roerink said consumers are understanding the value of at-home meals.
“Here we see the popularity of kebabs, value-added/pre-marinated meats, as well as the continued popularity of ribs, brisket, etc.,” Roerink said.
BUBBA burger is catering to this consumer appreciation, as Elizabeth Rice, brand manager for BUBBA burger, said they are launching the Angus Swiss BUBBA burger this spring.
Tyson Fresh Meats is also getting in on summer grilling innovation with the launch of its Chairman's Reserve Prime Pork Tomahawk Chop, said Brittany Banuelos, senior brand manager at Tyson.
“It has the rib meat on there as well as that pork chop,” she said. “You'll see influencers really popping up and showing Pork Tomahawk Chops, and then some restaurants are featuring it on their menus. We're launching it in the case-ready format at Albertsons, Portland.” She said the product is scheduled to launch in April.
Given the expansion of grilling beyond the meat department, Roerink said retailers are capitalizing on that by increasing marketing.
“Understand the occasion and you can drive a much bigger ring,” she said.
“For instance, Meijer had a promotion offering dollars of meat when purchasing beer,” Roerink said. Roerink also says that she has seen educational signs in the meat department that offer seafood grilling tips.
Tyson Fresh Meats has pitmasters and influencer partners to promote grilling, Banuelos said. She said that for Chairman’s Reserve, Tysons has primarily focused on Instagram.
“But we are also on Facebook and then dabbling a little bit in (TikTok). That is something that we are looking to incorporate more into the future,” she said.
Amanda Evans, consultant, Client Insights at Circana, said that promotions’ effectiveness can depend on the age of the consumer.
“When retailers and manufacturers are looking at prioritizing promotions during the summer it will be very important to select the promotion based on their desired consumer target,” Evans said.
BUBBA burger is launching a digital media campaign to promote its summer grilling products, Rice said.
“We also work closely with influencers and lead a brand ambassadors program to showcase BUBBA burger grilling tips and recipes,” she said, adding that that research suggest consumers look to social media platforms for their cooking inspirations.
Inflation is hitting heavy with consumers, and Roerink said there is growing demand for smaller and larger packages.
“The increased demand for value or family packs is supported by higher income consumers who have the means to invest in price for savings over time,” she says.
Roerink cites research for AFFI, which found that consumer have been growing their freezer storage since the pandemic began.
“That means consumers have an opportunity to take advantage of the BOGOs and value packs,” she said. “But this comes with an opportunity to better serve consumers as well through freezer-ready packaging, selling pre-proportioned items within a larger value pack or mix and match discounts.”
Roerink said consumers are also trying to find the best value in their meat products.
Banuelos says Tyson Fresh Meats is aiming to cater to this consumer need for value.
“Chairman's Reserve is well positioned to provide that restaurant eating experience, but it's more economical because consumers can cook it at home,” she said.
Circana’s Amanda Evans says that consumers purchased slightly bigger sizes of fresh meat, except for fresh beef, to combat inflationary pressures.
“Households also use these tactics to fight inflation: shopping value channels, trading down essentials, purchasing more private label, and reducing leftover waste,” Evans said.
Verde Farms CEO Dana Ehrlich provides a different angle for consumers to save money.
“As inflation raises the cost of the family meal, a great way to save money is converting a tough, inexpensive piece of beef like a chuck roast into a delicious, tender, and juicy meal that adults and kids alike will love,” Ehrlich said.
Roerink said flavor innovation in the store is coming in limited-time-offers, appealing to the popularity of new flavors.
“For years, my research has found that the segment of the population with a high interest in value-added it is also a segment with above-average interest for production attributes, such as organic and grass fed,” Roerink said. “The innovation in value-added, organic chicken, for instance, has driven above average growth for the segment.”
Roerink said consumer purchasing of value-added meats demonstrates the strength of value-added and is likely an indicator of a continued path of growth.
Evans said consumers want easy meals during the summer months and that the top summer grower for protein value-added products is pork.
“Other areas with volume growth are turkey wings, beef (round, flank, ribeye), and chicken (thighs, legs, wings),” Evans said. “Top growth from value-added segments for the summer of ’23 will … be the segments that simplify the grilling or smoking to offer consumers a delicious ready-to-go meal.”
BUBBA burger is appealing to this consumer demand for convenience.
“Value-added meat offers premium quality but also convenience, which is where BUBBA burger fits right in,” Rice said. “Each BUBBA burger can be prepared from box to bun in less than 15 minutes, and busy families can keep them in their freezers to always have on hand.”
Flavors and formulations
For flavor trends, Roerink said more variety is entering the store, including more regional and international flavors. This is due to younger consumers’ preferences.
“Across categories … Millennials are more adventurous and they see value-added meat as a way to skip a few steps, try something new and not having to buy a wide variety of spices but buying the solution all in one swoop,” Roerink said.
Roerink also sees a demand for blends that create different flavors.
Circana says that growth for summertime flavors vary by protein.
“Top growing flavors in beef are citrus, herb, garlic, bourbon, and teriyaki, whereas in pork apple wood, honey, hot, fruit, chipotle, cheese, garlic, and bacon,” Evans said. “In poultry there are less flavors growing, chicken growing flavors are apple wood, Cajun and fruit.”
“In summer top over indexing segments are frankfurters, pork ribs, pork dinner sausage, and beef loin,” Evans said.
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