As another rigorous year in grocery comes to an end, it’s hard to ignore the flood of formi- dable headlines around the top industry trend predictions for the coming years, many with a sharpened focus on the rapid rise of plant-based foods and a growing vegan and “flexitarian” consumer base. Is this the beginning of the end for the meat industry? Some analysts seem to think so, citing a growing consumer awareness of nutritional health
and environmental sustainability, and drawing parallels
between the growth of plant-based meat alternatives today
and the start of the now booming dairy-free milk movement about 10 years ago.
Certainly, the Beyond Burger is a concern brewing in
the backs of meat producers’ minds, but with steady and
solid growth, increasing innovation and 98% household
penetration, according to the Food Marketing Institute,
Arlington, Va., the meat industry needn’t worry.
In the story on Page H22, WGB Senior Editor Rebekah
Marcarelli notes, “While keeping up with the chang-
ing market may seem daunting, retailers can look at the
upcoming years as an opportunity for innovation and rein-
vention as long as they stay apprised of the nuances affect-
ing every aspect of the grocery store.”
Despite the rise of plant-based foods, the meat depart-
ment has consistently seen solid and steady growth. In the
52 weeks ending Sept. 9, 2018, meat sales grew 2% from the
year prior, with beef commanding about 50% share of the
department, according to Chicago-based market research
firm IRI. Following a successful summer growing season,
thanks to corroded price points and effective promotions,
beef sales also rose just more than 2%, with premium cuts
such as porterhouses (12%) and T-bones (18%) particularly
As pains from the economic recession continue to fade,
value-added cuts have proven favorable among con-
sumers, who have become increasingly willing to spend
more on premium products. “What we’re seeing is wage
gains across the economy begin to trickle in and it’s being
reflected back in what people buy at grocery, as well as
how they go out to eat,” says Chris DuBois, SVP of strate-
gic accounts, protein vertical, for IRI. “We’re seeing people
spend a little more money on meat inside the grocery store.
Some of that’s the change of choice and cuts.”
This is especially true in the pork category, where val-
ue-add has grown a whole point year over year and con-
tributes 14% share of all fresh pork sales, according to IRI.
As noted in our lead feature on Page H11, consumers are
eating more pork now than ever, due in part to the vigorous
efforts by suppliers and industry partners to offer innova-
tive and approachable value-added cuts and flavorings;
debunk the stigma around proper cooking temperatures
for pork; and adopt common nomenclature for fresh pork
products that mirror the familiar cuts and names the beef
industry has marketed over the years.
At the National Pork Board’s annual Pork Summit in July,
innovation and inspiration thrived as chefs, suppliers and
industry experts gathered to educate and create enticing
dishes from value-added cuts that can easily translate to
retail in convenient hot bar and meal kit applications.
As prepared foods and meal kits continue to grow, the
meat industry must adapt by offering the particular cuts
and portions that are needed for these applications. “You
see a lot of the ingredient manufacturers and the fresh produce manufacturers already offering prepacketed and pre-cut vegetables and spices, but the meat industry has always
still struggled with wanting to sell big pounds of meat,” says
Jonna Parker, principal, Fresh Center of Excellence, for IRI.
As the market evolves, retailers and suppliers that provide versatile, premium, value-added products in conjunction with strong education and promotion are positioned
for growth, leaving plant-based alternatives in the dust.
As pains from the economic recession
continue to fade, value-added cuts have
proven favorable among consumers,
who have become increasingly willing
to spend more on premium products.
Senior Editor, WGB