The meat department is one of the most important categories for many food retailers. A successful meat department can help a store differentiate itself from the competition and be a significant driver of sales and foot traffic, according to “The 2016 Power of Meat,” a report produced by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), Arlington, Va., and North American Meat Institute (NAMI), Washington, D.C.

There’s a growing consumer desire for transparency in the product, and connecting with Millennials is crucial for traditional formats to retain the meat dollar. In fact, this group has a higher propensity to occasionally shop alternative channels like farmers’ markets and online.

And, 47% of shoppers decide on the meat/poultry purchase before they reach the supermarket, so promotions, convenience and freshness are key to securing the sale, according to the study.

Likewise, meat is making a comeback, both in grocery stores and on restaurant menus. And, for many consumers, choosing a meat and poultry dish at a restaurant revolves around “keeping it real.” That’s because they seek all-natural choices that reflect their desire to keep human intervention they perceive as negative out of the process, according to a study produced by Packaged Facts, Rockville, Md.

The report, “Meat, Poultry and Seafood: Restaurant Trends and Opportunities,” reveals that more than six in 10 (60%) restaurant meat and poultry eaters say that “all-natural” is important when selecting meat/poultry dishes at a restaurant. But, these consumers also weigh whether the dish has no hormones, antibiotics or preservatives.

Animal welfare and sustainability also play a role in consumers’ decisions. Some 45% of restaurant meat and poultry eaters say that “free range” is important, while 47% cite “sustainability” as imperative.

Consumer demand for organic meat and poultry is arguably the most noteworthy trend of all. Roughly 40% of meat eaters cited organic as important, with organic meat and poultry usage tilting toward Hispanics, Generation Xers and higher-income households. 

However, it’s the meat alternatives that are also stealing the show.

New research from Chicago-based Mintel reveals that nearly half of consumers would like to see more chicken burgers (46%) on menus and two in five (42%) are interested in more turkey burgers. Another one-third (34%) of Americans are interested in seeing bison/buffalo as a burger option on more menus.

Mintel’s “The State of the Burger – US – April 2016” report shows that interest in non-beef burger offerings is highest among Millennials, who are the most likely generation to agree that healthy menu items is the most important factor when choosing a restaurant (64%). Indeed, three in five (58%) Millennials would like more chicken burgers and half (52%) would like more turkey options on menus. Overall, Millennials are more interested than any other generation in every non-beef burger Mintel surveyed.

The increase in vegetarianism and flexitarianism has made the meat alternatives market a competitive and lucrative space, according to Packaged Facts.
In the report “Proteins - Classic, Alternative and Exotic Sources: Culinary Trend Tracking Series,” 28% of respondents indicated they are seeking vegetarian sources of protein, which span a healthy range of products such as “fake meat.”

In particular, vegetarian analogs for chicken (sometimes referred to as chik’n or chick’n) have been on menus and retailer shelves for a while, but have received mixed reviews in terms of flavor, texture/composition and heartiness. However, some companies are answering the call for a “better” chicken alternative, so the perceptions and market possibilities are changing.

Likewise, in a report, “Meat and Poultry: U.S. Retail Market Trends and Opportunities,” produced by Packaged Facts, one-fourth of consumers say they have switched to healthier meat and poultry products within the last year, and all signs indicate that share will continue to grow. These consumers are seeking out alternative shopping venues, such as farmers markets and natural food stores, as well as purchasing organic and natural meat and poultry products.


Sustainably sourced and certified, farm-raised, beer-battered and chef-inspired are key terms prompting growth within the seafood market.

According to “The 2015 Food & Health Survey: Consumer Attitudes toward Food Safety, Nutrition & Health,” produced by FoodInsight, Washington, D.C., more than 36% of consumers rated chemicals in food as their most important food safety concern, up from 23% in 2014 and 9% in 2011.

Fresh at the forefront

A study, “Fresh Food in the US,” from Euromonitor International, Chicago, indicates that the global demand for fresh food exceeded 2.2 billion tons in 2015, a 2% growth on 2014. Overall growth was 1% down from previous years, but still in line with a CAGR of 2.5% achieved over the review period of 2010-2015.
Additional takeaways from the report include:

  • China was the world’s largest fresh food market by volume, accounting for 42% of global consumption in 2015.
  • Fresh meat makes 41% of fresh food retail value sales in the United States.
  • Per capita consumption of fish/seafood in Asia Pacific is 275% higher than in North America.
  • Americans consumed approximately 5 kg of fresh fish and seafood per person in 2015, which is 74% less than the global average of 8.7 kg.
  • Foodservice and institutional fresh food volume sales are flat, as retail channels increasingly offer fresh food.
  • Sustainable products are expected to thrive in the future.

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