NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The biggest enemy to growth in retail meat purchases is routine, Anne-Marie Roerink, principal at San Antonio, Texas-based 210 Analytics, said during thePower of Meatpresentation that closed the 2018 Meat Conference held Feb. 25-27 in Nashville, Tennessee.

"Eighty-three percent of shoppers only buy a handful of cuts despite all that we have out there," Roerink explained. "On our own end, we are so focused on driving volume and minimizing shrink and minimizing markdowns that we tend to also focus on the things that people buy."

Retailers also tend to focus on the "one" meat buyer. But while price continues to drive purchase intent, the "one" meat shopper no longer exists, and the meat case isn't the "one" channel available to reach out to consumers, Roerink explained.

"When you start to look at some of the different subgroups, you see very different things starting to emerge, and that's what we have to keep in mind as we go to market," she said.

"Young millennials look at package costs a lot more, they're interested in value-added and special attributes. Then, if you look at the boomers, they're all about appearance – they look at the cut and decide if they want to buy it or not. They are focused on price-per-pound not total package costs."

Additionally, high-income earners are more interested in nutrition and finding ways to save time.

"If you think about it," Roerink added, "conventional unprepared raw meat is still the big bulk of all sales. Figure out a way to take this one-size-fits-all kind of item and also give it a one-size-fits-me spin."

That "new spin" could include a curated assortment of products such as grass-fed beef, pre-formed patties, case-ready and value-added items. Additionally, changing consumer demographics are driving demand for package size variety.

The upside of 'upskill'

The Power of Meat study found that 71 percent of meat purchases are self-selected from the meat case, so unassisted shoppers represent a missed opportunity for engagement.

"We have to interrupt their routine," Roerink said, "not disrupt their routine, but interrupt their routine in some way if possible."

A full-service meat counter or department staffed with available, friendly and knowledgeable team members can drive higher awareness of meat cut and preparation methods. Engaged retailers help shoppers raise their culinary game which in turn can drive sales. Roerink said consumers may choose products at a lower price point if they lack the skills to prepare a cut of meat they aren't accustomed to. "There's so much to be gained by driving this knowledge – that's why I didn't call it education; I called it ‘upskill.’"

"If we as an industry can figure out a way to drive the base knowledge and skills – the affinity for meat – we can get them to buy a greater variety and cook with meat more often. This benefits the entire industry through higher spending, more trips and store loyalty."