CHICAGO – Many US consumers continue to forge ahead with following perceived healthier eating habits as part of their New Year resolutions. Recent Mintel research shows 90 percent of consumers polled are eating some kind of red meat at least once a month, but 39 percent of beef and other red meat consumers ate less in 2013 than consumed in 2012. In addition, 25 percent of pork consumers claimed to have eaten less pork in 2013 than they did in 2012. But 10 percent of beef and other red-meat eaters are eating more, while 13 percent of pork consumers are eating more.

"Health trends motivating consumers to cut fat and cholesterol intake are by far the most dominant factors affecting the red-meat market," said Patty Johnson, Mintel global food analyst. "While some consumers are turning away from red meat, in favor of healthier alternatives, there are still a staggering amount of Americans who partake on a regular basis. For many of those who are cutting back they are very well trading up to a higher quality meat product."

Sixteen percent of Americans who say they are consuming less red meat are now consuming higher-quality red meat. This creates an opportunity to market higher quality meats to consumers, Johnson said. Packaging may be an area for meat manufacturers ripe for innovation, particularly to appeal to women. Thirty-five percent of women would like to see more resealable packaging, 26 percent say they want individual sized portions and 23 percent would like to see recipe options on the package.

Although health concerns are the No. 1 reason consumers are cutting back on red meat, its price is another matter of contention. Fifty-eight percent of consumers say they have noticed the price of red meat increasing in the past 12 months and 36 percent say it is too expensive to buy as often as they would like.

"The red-meat category is facing a difficult future, as both health trends and price are working to discourage consumer demand for red-meat products. The industry also has done little to innovate since the recession and therefore has offered consumers little to get excited about. This presents an opportunity for the industry to try to invigorate the market with new products, improved quality and improved functionality," Johnson concludes.