Without a doubt, consumers have tightened their belts in the face of the ongoing recession, but consumers’ attitudes toward meat and poultry over the past year have remained strong, and the sales volume data from the same period supports that position.

Merrill Shugoll, president of Shugoll Research, and Michael Uetz, principal at Midan Marketing, presented a bushel of information during their Thursday morning session, “An In-depth Look at Meat Through the Shopper’s Eyes,” at Worldwide Food Expo at McCormick Place in Chicago.

Approximately two-thirds of consumers polled say they’ve changed their shopping habits within the last year; more consumers are looking for bargains, using more coupons and eating out less. But Shugoll says that the survey data, collected in January 2009 and again in September 2009, shows a stabilization of those trends.

Consumers are purchasing fewer convenience products, Shugoll notes, but only 2 percent of consumers said in September 2009 that they were purchasing meat and poultry products less frequently than they were one year ago. In January 2009, 5 percent made the same claim, showing a potential swing toward a positive outlook for meat and poultry processors and retailers.

Data gathered by Midan Marketing from FreshLook Marketing and Meat Solutions, showed significant evidence that consumers did not shy away from purchasing meat and poultry products. Total pound volume of fresh meat and poultry increased 12.1 percent in the third quarter of 2009 versus one year ago, to nearly 2.7 billion pounds. Uetz believes the increase came from a volume share shift across channels, from consumers eating out to purchasing more proteins for home-cooking purposes.

Consumer responses to the survey questions backed up Uetz’s suggestion, with 53 percent of those surveyed stating that they were eating out less often. However, even that trend has softened, as 58 percent claimed the same shift in their habits in January 2009.