NEW YORK, NY – Processors of center-plate protein – poultry, beef, pork and seafood – at the retail level have been getting a sales boost from American consumers who are economizing by cooking and eating more at home. This trend is also growing stronger by those consumers who perceive homemade meals are healthier than restaurant food.

As a result, sales of dinner center-plate proteins slowly increased from 2006 to 2010, according to market research publisher Packaged Facts in What's For Dinner 2011: Trends in Center of Plate. Sales of dinner center-plate proteins surpassed $5 billion in 2010, the publisher estimates. Sales were also strongest in 2010, when they increased 4%, a little higher than the 3% compound annual growth rate registered during the period. Through 2015, modest but steady growth is forecast even as consumers begin to gradually dine out more.

"We expect sales growth to continue at 4% annually for the next three years, benefiting from the strengthening economy but facing increased restaurant competition as that channel also reaps the rewards of US consumers loosening their purse strings," said Don Montuori, publisher of “Packaged Facts.” "By 2014, sales will begin to moderate, with 3.5% annual growth in 2014 and 2015 bringing US retail sales to slightly more than $6 billion."

Leading each of the meat, poultry and seafood categories are private-label products sold at supermarket butcher counters or pre-wrapped in the meat case. Private-label protein products have been used by grocers to attract customers and create differentiation in a crowded retail marketplace. Since consumers have flocked to private-label offerings more than they have to those marketed as "upscale", this further signifies the economy remains “tentative.” Consumers want value and they are not as easily wooed by fanciness, Montuori said.

Private-label sales of center-plate meat captured a 43% market share, more than triple the 12% category share maintained by Cargill, the leading national brand, the study relays. With $571 million in 2010 sales, private-label fresh and frozen chicken controlled 28% of the center-plate poultry market, more than double the level of sales enjoyed by the category's top marketer Jennie-O Turkey Store, a Hormel Foods business.