CHICAGO—Despite the struggling US economy in recent years, US consumers didn’t forsake retail meat and poultry products, based on information presented during “The Economy and Its Impact on Meat and Poultry Purchase.” This was among the opening sessions presented at the American Meat Institute Meat, Poultry and Seafood Industry Convention and Exposition, which began this morning at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

Michael Uetz, principal of Midan Marketing, Chicago, and Merrill Shugoll, president of Shugoll Research, Bethesda, Md., discussed recent research conducted among 500 adults looking at the time frame of 2007-2010 on this topic.

“Consumers are [now] loosening their purse strings...more are using coupons [for meat and poultry] purchases,” Shugoll said. “They are looking for quality products at reasonable prices.”

As of March 2010, a greater number of survey respondents indicated they were not changing shopping habits by buying less meat and poultry or less expensive cuts; fewer consumers are shopping for cheaper-priced products.

The traditional supermarket continues to be the main venue for purchasing retail meat and poultry followed by mass merchandisers and club stores. Between 2007 and 2010, two-thirds of surveyed consumers indicated they increased or maintained their purchases of retail meat and poultry.

“Retail tends to benefit from a recession,” Uetz told attendees. “Retail sales of fresh meat and poultry continued to increase even in a down economy.” Regarding fresh meat and poultry volume, 10.8 billion lbs. were bought in 2007—12 billion lbs. were purchased in 2010.”

Other highlights from their presentation include:

  • Chicken’s total retail volume has increased steadily—from 3.2 billion lbs. in 2007 to 3.7 billion lbs. in 2010.
  • Beef’s retail volume also remained strong; in 2007 it totaled 4.2 billion lbs. and 4.6 billion lbs. in 2010.
  •  Pork’s retail volume was also strong—2.3 billion lbs. in 2007 vs. 2.5 billion lbs. in 2010.
  • Consumers shifted more to boneless breasts in Q4 2010—which could be due to perceiving more of a value plus satisfying what families like, they said.
  • Chicken parts experienced strong growth in 2010; wings, in particular, grew at foodservice and also at retail.
  • Regular ground beef dominates when consumers serve meals containing beef. Premium ground beef has experienced strong increases through 2010.
  • All steaks saw a decline in volume in 2010.
  • Fewer people reported they prepared boneless pork chops a lot less in 2010 vs. 2009, but boneless pork chop lb. retail volume remained strong in 2010.

In conclusion, they iterated total retail meat and poultry volume grew substantially during the recession. Consumers want good value at the meat case and many use coupons and buy value cuts. But Uetz warned 2011 is going to be a tougher year than last due to escalating input costs and tight supplies. In the face of these challenges, processors, packers and retailers need to find new ways to create consumer loyalty and increase demand for retail meat and poultry products.