Could 2012 be the year we truly begin redefining the meat department, moving it from a cold, dull and intimidating part of the grocery store to a warm, inviting and helpful destination for meal planning? Why not? Isn’t it about time we took action rather than just giving lip service to change?
meat consumers

It seems like the meat industry has been studying consumer behavior and talking about the same issues and the opportunities they provide for years. However, as an industry we have been slow to make any significant changes that respond to these shifts, as Midan Marketing’s ongoing consumer research shows that consumers are still confused at the meat case.

Today we have an even bigger challenge — keeping up with consumers that are changing faster than ever. With new technologies, faster communication and the ability to share anything, anywhere, at lightning speed, it is critical not just to look at what consumers are doing today, but also to get one step ahead and look at the emerging shopper attitudes and behaviors that will guide purchases in the future.

With this mindset, Midan Marketing recently launched a new research platform, The Consumers’ Case. Designed to keep an eye on constantly evolving consumer attitudes and behaviors and work with the industry to develop innovative solutions that capitalize on shifts in the marketplace, this new platform will include ongoing research studies on topics such as branding at the meat case, packaging, new technologies, merchandising strategies and nutrition management. A variety of qualitative and quantitative research methods will be used to get regular updates on key issues and opportunities for the meat department.

The first report to be released under this new research platform is The Consumers’ Case 2012 Trends Report: “Breaking the Pattern,” a big-picture look at major changes in our customers — from their household makeup to changes in preferences and behaviors — that we must recognize and respond to if we want to keep up with the shoppers of tomorrow.

The trends identified in “Breaking the Pattern” are not current fads, but large shifts that are permanently changing the way consumers plan, purchase products and consume them. In many ways, consumers are the complete opposite of what they were five years ago, and are essentially breaking the pattern in four major ways.

First, we are seeing consumers’ household makeups changing dramatically. We have also seen an increase in outside influences and higher causes impacting purchasing decisions, and products are no longer being purchased just to serve functional needs. Consumers also expect everything in their lives to come to them instantaneously, with minimal effort on their part. Lastly, we’ve seen a dynamic shift in consumers taking control of their purchases by paying more attention to the source of products as well as changing the way they save and splurge in their spending. These four breaks in consumers are the drivers of the following trends included in “Breaking the Pattern.”

Use the trends to understand your future customers and modify the way you communicate to reach them most effectively.

Non-existent “average” consumer

In today’s changing world, there is no such thing as an “average” or “typical” consumer. With more single parents, same-sex couples, single households and divorced families, the once idealistic image of a white-picket fence household with 2.1 children is not as relevant today as it once was.

With all major household demographics in such flux, there is no way to say what the “average” consumer looks like today. There is no one planogram or meat case format that meets the needs of all shoppers. As demographics continue to become more fragmented, we need to spend more time understanding our customers’ household makeups, and look at their attitudes and behaviors as well so we are prepared to market to them differently based on their individual needs. Collaboration from retailers to suppliers will be critical to ensure product offerings fit the needs of targeted customers.

New “man-fluence”

Another shift in consumer behavior is evident in the increasing “man-fluence” seen in the marketplace. As women have more of a presence in the workforce, there are more men sharing household responsibilities for families, including meal planning, grocery shopping and meal preparation.

Today’s generation of dads also long for a more active role in their households, and many of yesterday’s breadwinners are today’s “Chief Household Officers.” Men will continue to take over many of what traditionally had been their wives’ responsibilities, presenting a great opportunity for meat marketers to help this group of shoppers feel more confident and empowered while shopping the meat case.

Bottom line: health management

In the past, consumers watched their diets due to a variety of reasons, including watching their weight, avoiding illness and vanity. During the recession, the loss of health insurance caused as much strain as the loss of income, and many Americans learned the true cost of being sick. Today, there’s a monetary influence that is a new driver of healthy eating.

Consumers are proactively managing their health by shifting from what they should do to what they must do to avoid the financial liability of health care in the future.

As an industry, we need to own the protein category as well as other nutrients including B vitamins and iron, and call these out on packages and other point-of-sale materials. Talk to your customers about the nutritional value of fresh meats, and tout the benefits of serving fresh meat to their families. Help them make healthier decisions by putting the cost of healthier foods into context.

Those who educate their customers on making healthy decisions will reap the benefits later.

Waste less

In addition to managing their health, consumers are also striving to be less wasteful. Many consumers are active in recycling, but they can only do so much. As a result, they are looking to companies to take on some of the responsibility by decreasing the amount of excessive packaging they use, switching to more eco-friendly packaging and offering less glutinous amounts in a package.

The growing concern to decrease waste presents a great opportunity for meat processors as well as packaging companies. We need to develop programs that help our customers recycle, and also tout eco-friendliness of the products from the full-service counter. Industry leaders must determine how to have zero waste through innovations in meat-case lighting, cooling and packaging materials, so our customers will feel better about the products they are purchasing.

Instant info osmosis

Today’s rapidly advancing technology makes it easy for consumers to access information instantaneously. Today’s shoppers are able to find anything they want, anywhere, from their mobile devices, laptops and tablet devices. However, that is not enough.

Consumers are now faced with a tech-induced attention deficit disorder that has left them impatient. They not only want information instantly, but they want to be able to understand what they are looking at in a matter of seconds. Industry leaders must adjust their messages so their audience can find, access and process it quickly and easily.
This can be done in a variety of ways, including using quick-response codes (QR codes), as well as icon systems and color-coding. Companies that provide quick and easy access to the most important information about their products will be the big winners.

Security through disclosure

With consumers’ ongoing distrust of government, institutions and big business, they continue to question what is in the food they eat and where it comes from. Consumers don’t necessarily need a long explanation. They are just looking for simple reassurance that the companies they buy from care and are willing to reveal a little of what’s behind the curtain.

As the meat industry is looked at with close scrutiny, this will become a more important part of consumer communication. Traceability is an important issue for many consumers and inevitable for the meat industry. Showcasing local and traceable fresh meat, and giving customers a small amount of information about the products they are purchasing will help them feel more comfortable about their purchases as well as increase long term trust and loyalty.

Slow spending

During the economic recession, consumers put a halt on their spending and started paying down debt and saving their dollars. Yet, they longed for the satisfaction they used to feel from impulse purchases of the past.

After a few years of fiscal responsibility, consumers are ready to resume spending, albeit slowly, in order to regain some feeling of gratification. Although shoppers will be looking to splurge occasionally, they will still be looking for sales and discounts to help them save.

Industry leaders can help customers by offering special deals though social media and specific deal sites. They can also reward their customers through loyalty programs or offer layaway payment plans for large purchases.

Not paying full price has become the new normal. Offering customers real savings or working to more specifically highlight the true value in products offered will build sales and loyalty in the long run.

Consumers are changing and evolving faster than ever. And the meat industry must make some major changes to break the pattern. Be more proactive and reach out to customers like you never have before.

For more information on the consumer trends presented in the Consumers’ Case 2012 Trends Report: Breaking the Pattern and how to capitalize on them, visit www.MidanMarketing.comor call us at (773) 276-9712.