Food processors and retailers know consumers tend to say one thing and do another. For those tasked with determining what protein products consumers want, the ambiguity can be frustrating and costly. Claims from nutritional, environmental and sustainability initiatives can further dilute the message, creating label fatigue and waffling allegiance when it’s time for consumers to choose between traditional, cell- and plant-based protein options.

Those looking to remain competitive need better ways to differentiate between consumer intent to purchase, based on specific claims, and the purchase of a product with fewer to no claims. Better intel can help determine what meat consumers really want and what they will purchase, independent of claims.

Keeping up with consumers

In 2016, Midan Marketing, with offices in Chicago and Mooresville, North Carolina, started down this path with its first Meat Consumer Segmentation report. The 1.0 Report explored the characteristics of six distinct meat consumer groups who consume protein. Two years later, Midan chose to revamp the segmentation study. The 2.0 Report captures the mainstreaming of red meat claims (grass-fed, no antibiotics, no added hormones), growing awareness of plant- and cell-based meats, rising numbers of consumers observing a flexitarian (semi-vegetarian) diet and larger demographics of ethnically diverse millennials and Gen Z consumers within the US, according to Rick Lowe, senior market research manager, Midan Marketing. “Both millennials and Gen Zs are consuming meat and poultry at the same rate as the general meat eater; however, substitution of vegetable- and plant-based proteins among both groups is becoming more prevalent and will continue to grow,” Lowe says.

The Meat Segmentation 2.0 Report offers an in-depth look at five consumer groups: Convenience Chasers, Family-First Food Lovers, Aging Traditionalists, Protein Progressives and Wellness Divas. Each segment within the report identifies a group who possess unique beliefs, attitudes and behaviors around eating and purchasing protein.

Conducted at the end of 2018, the national sample of 1,200 US adult consumers included those who had eaten meat or poultry (beef, pork, chicken or turkey) in the past three months. Some of the top findings in the survey included grass-fed beef, no antibiotics ever and plant-based alternatives. In the survey, Midan found grass-fed meat eaters, plant-based meat eaters and flexitarians to be the consumer groups currently making the biggest ripples in the meat industry.

Considering segmentation

Rather than creating segments around purchase behavior, Midan Marketing decided to build segments around attitudes and mindset in order to target the consumer segments making the purchases. They grouped consumers with similar preferences and drivers to provide additional information and touchpoints for those tasked with creating customized messaging and promotion around the sale of protein and protein-alternative products.

One of the most interesting insights arising from the 2.0 Report were discrepancies between the claims a segmentation group said they looked for in a product and the products they bought. This prompted a further investigation asking if claims really justified a product’s purchase. Three of the five segments in the research – Protein Progressives, Family-First Food Lovers and Wellness Divas – showed a disparity between seeking products with specific meat claims and purchasing those products with the desired claims.

“Very often, consumers say they are actively searching for products with specific attributes, but then they don’t purchase them when they are available,” says Steve Hixon, strategic and business services director, Midan Marketing. “Case in point, in Midan Marketing’s Meat Consumer Segmentation 2.0 our research found many meat eaters stated they are looking for meat with all-natural, no antibiotics ever or no added hormones claims. However, most are not purchasing products with those claims.”

The five consumer segments identified in the study are:

Convenience Chasers (30 percent) – These consumers are, not surprisingly, in search of quick convenience in the form of conveniently packaged meat to consume on-the-go or to be able to quickly cook. Convenience Chasers are highly price-conscious about the proteins they purchase. With little interest in health claims, use coupons and other promotional products to grab the attention of this group.

Family-First Food Lovers (21 percent) – Making good memories around food is the goal of Family-First Food Lovers. Producing quality food for friends and family demonstrates love. Simple, reliable claims resonate, and this group prefers a nothing-added approach where grass-fed meat is preferable to grain-fed options.

In order to keep this group interested it’s important to supplement family time with the magic of branded storytelling to weave nutrition into time spent around the table together.

Aging Traditionalists (21 percent) – Tried and true, Aging Traditionalists enjoy meat and expect it to remain a center-of-plate offering at meals. Traditionalists are already convinced of the taste and nutritional benefits of meat and have little interest in buying meat with claims or purchasing meat alternatives.

Aging Traditionalists believe meat already deserves a starring role, but don’t forget to remind them meat is not just delicious, it’s also nutritious.

Protein Progressives (16 percent) – These consumers are open to protein experimentation and they enjoy all forms of meat. You won’t find this busy consumer group turning up their nose at trendy plant-based protein alternatives.

Protein progressives seek out products with the claim of “All-Natural Meat.” With so many options available, don’t forget to keep the benefits of traditional meat front and center.

Wellness Divas (12 percent) – This segment consists of consumers who are hyper-focused on the health and wellness profiles of the protein they consume. When indulging in meat, Divas prefer chicken and plant-based proteins.

Wellness Divas do not make protein a primary focus of their diet, but they do want to know about their protein choices. Divas gravitate toward products with claims such as “No Added Hormones” and “No Antibiotics Ever” that promote a desired level of health.

Insights from Midan Marketing’s Meat Segmentation 2.0 Report can help processors and their retail customers with customized messaging around claims and attributes, identify portfolio gaps in the current product line-up and stay in tune with evolving wants and needs of the meat-eating population. To learn more about Midan’s 2.0 report and its insights, visit