Meat Cases Tell...The Rest of the Story

US – In 2007, The Beef Checkoff teamed up with Sealed Air’s Cryovac Food Packaging and the National Pork Board to conduct an extensive audit of the nation’s retail meat cases.
calendar icon 15 January 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

Checkoff dollars helped unfold the story in an effort to understand how meat cases are being shaped and answer the age old question: Is the industry responding to consumer desires, or are those desires driving what’s in the meat case? The conclusion: both.


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"Consumer information is vital to help communicate the many benefits of today’s meat products and ultimately improve beef’s demand."
Don Stewart, an importer from Highland Park, Ill., and chair of the beef checkoff’s Joint Retail Committee.

More than 120 retail supermarkets and 10 club stores were audited in 48 metro markets across the country. Detailed information from more than 157,000 packages representing over 281,000 pounds of meat was captured to help further understand the growing transformation seen in the retail meat case over the last five years.

“What checkoff dollars aimed to accomplish through this survey was to help the participating organizations understand what consumers are seeing in the store and what in-stock information is, while identifying trends to help retailers meet consumers’ needs,” says Don Stewart, an importer from Highland Park, Ill., and chair of the beef checkoff’s Joint Retail Committee. “With this knowledge, we can help put more beef in more grocery sacks and as a result, on more dinner tables.”

So what’s at the heart of the meat case story? Fresh meat’s share of the case increased. Growth of branded programs for meat increased while store brands gained predominance. Boneless product interest also grew – with whole muscle beef having the largest overall share. Value-added packages (products with flavorings or ingredients added) continued to grow while enhanced beef saw a decline. While natural and organic packages remained a niche category, their share did grow.

The in-stock condition for case-ready meats was generally better. Retailers also appear to be finding it easier to keep those items in stock. Nutrition labeling increased. The retail trade appears to be doing a better job of reducing costly out-of-stock conditions on some of their better-selling items. In fact, this survey found that only 2% of stores didn’t have stew meat on down to the improvement seen in Boneless Top Sirloin Steak where out-of-stocks were cut in half.

The survey also aimed at identifying emerging retail trends nationally that could be used to aid development of new marketing applications that might drive incremental fresh meat sales growth in the coming years.

“Consumer information is vital to help communicate the many benefits of today’s meat products and ultimately improve beef’s demand. The checkoff recognizes studies such as these as benchmarks on consumer trends then shares the data with retailers in an effort to assist them in moving more beef off the shelves,” adds Stewart. “Along with new technologies that help enhance product packaging and expand shelf life, retailers and producers are actively staying in tune with consumer needs. Not only are we helping to make the consumer buying experience easier, but furthering retailer success and the future of beef demand.”

And that’s the rest of the meat case story.

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