Rick McCarty, NCBA vice president of issue analysis and strategy, and John Lundeen, NCBA senior executive director of market research, summarized some megatrends that will affect the beef industry in coming years.

New, sometimes smaller packaging: “Households composed of 1 to 2 persons now represent 62% of total households. In addition, some families are now eating more à la carte meals,” the duo says. “Retailers are going to need several merchandising options as they reach out to these consumers.”

Checkoff-funded research indicates strong consumer interest in packages of small, 4-5-oz., expertly trimmed steaks in the meat case, as well as on the restaurant menu.

Market research also indicates that beef’s subpar performance in the microwave is a limiter to beef consumption.

Ethnic shifts change the landscape: “Not only will tastes shift, but the beef industry must be able to satisfy increasingly diverse consumer palates,” McCarty and Lundeen say. “This will create an explosion of taste options to enjoy, particularly for millennials, who embrace ethnic flavors to a much greater degree than older segments of the population.”

Technology aids decision-making: According to McCarty and Lundeen, research indicates millennials are much more likely than other consumers to use a “shopping app” at the supermarket — an app that tells them, for example, what’s on sale and where to find certain foods in the store, and provides recipes and suggest ingredients.

More product, consumer targeting: “The beef industry has come up with several new beef cuts [Denver Cut, Flat Iron Steak, etc.] that have helped make steak-eating more affordable, and increased the value of the carcass to the beef industry,” Lundeen and McCarty say. “Today, half of U.S. households are low- to moderate-income households, and these consumers are typically higher-frequency beef eaters. Innovation is needed to find affordable beef options for all income levels…”

More convenient beef products: “Nearly one-third of consumers believe that 40 minutes is too long to wait for their meals, from start to table, and 70% say an hour is too long. Add to that the fact that 70% of women now are working — it’s easy to see that convenience is critical,” McCarty and Lundeen explain.

“While ground beef has been the fallback product for the time-conscious, more convenient whole-muscle cuts, including microwaveable roasts, could boost demand. So, too, could easy beef options that quickly assemble into one-pot meals, an increasingly popular choice,” they add.

“Trust me” is more than a slogan: “Wall Street scandals, political scandals, product recalls, pyramid schemes, economic meltdowns, corporate layoffs … it’s no wonder consumers today have become cynical,” McCarty and Lundeen say. “How does the industry develop a trusting dialogue with those who are pessimistic but love our product? Connecting with consumers involves creating trust in how beef is produced, and assurance that beef is a safe, wholesome, and sustainable food. Consumers, indeed all stakeholders, are demanding more transparency regarding how food is produced.” 


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