Easier, Better… and Faster!
By Allison Bardic
America’s steadfast fixation with quick, hassle-free foods overwhelmingly dictates meat and poultry processors’ product development efforts.
Food trends are influenced by any number of big issues: a rise in ethnic populations, increased awareness of health and well-being, and a heightened emphasis on food safety, to name a few. But consumers’ demand for convenience continues to lead the way, inspiring meat and poultry processors to churn out a wide array of pre-marinated, fully-cooked, ready-to-assemble, hand-held, and hot-to-go products – the easier, the better.
“The face of the meat case is changing and being led by an increase in processed, heat-and-serve, and value-added meat,” notes Alan Hess, chairman of the beef industry’s Joint Retail Committee and a producer from Alma, KS. “As this shift continues, it’s imperative we provide our industry partners with insight into these emerging trends in order to help them adapt.”
The National Meat Case Study 2004, funded in part by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and managed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Pork Board, and Cryovac/Sealed AIR, affirmed that the allocation of meatcase space is shifting, with fresh meat and poultry’s share of linear feet decreasing by 6 percent since 2002. Products most benefiting from this shift include processed meats (sausage, ham, and other processed) and heat-and-serve products – both up 2 percent, with ready-to-cook, value-added products, and self-serve seafood up 1 percent.
“With families being on the move, both parents working, and children going to all sorts of activities, it’s hard for them to find time for dinner at home,” veal packer Michael Mosner notes, adding that the veal industry, traditionally associated with white tablecloth restaurants and Italian-style menus, in recent years has made significant strides in boosting its image with sophisticated marketing efforts and convenient, consumer-friendly products.
Even inherently easy-to-handle products like pre-sliced lunchmeats are getting a leg up convenience. Sara Lee’s Hillshire Farm Ultra-Thin Deli Select line, which pairs “shaved” slice-style whole-muscle lean meats with reusable Gladware containers, recently advanced to new level of user-friendliness by combining ultra-thin meats and cheese together in one package, for example.
But beyond the prerequisite convenience of today’s meat and poultry products, trends such as a growing emphasis on nutrition also are gaining momentum. Chicken and turkey processor Foster Farms has initiated a “Get Fit with Foster Farms” program and Web site to highlight low-fat recipes, nutrition information, “get fit” tips, and expert advice, while Pilgrim's Pride this spring combined taste and convenience with wellness in a new product line called EatWellStayHealthyTM to simplify the process of finding and enjoying healthy poultry products. “As a country, we are exercising more and becoming more aware of what we eat. There is, in fact, a growing body of medical evidence in support of healthy eating's impact on wellness,” stresses Bo Pilgrim, chairman and founder of Pilgrim's Pride Corp.
Meanwhile, increased product branding is breathing new life into today’s meat cases. Notably, discount retail giant Target Corp. recently launched its case-ready Sutton & Dodge premium steak line at SuperTarget stores across the United States.
And that’s just a taste of what’s happening in meat departments across the country. The following category-by-category report further examines these products and countless others to uncover the trends and opportunities driving the meat and poultry industry’s product development efforts. NP